concepts

The Rules — by Brant Taylor

A while back, I accepted an invitation from my good friend Pansy Chang to teach her cello students.  Pansy teaches cello at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  She was taking a sabbatical for a semester and wanted to make arrangements for her students to receive lessons from different teachers in her absence.  I had a very enjoyable time meeting and working with the cellists in Oxford. It is always enlightening—and sometimes highly entertaining—to observe the various posters, photos, educational degrees, cartoons, and other items which adorn the walls of teaching studios around the world.  Among many other things hanging on the the walls of Pansy's studio, I noticed a piece of paper which I immediately knew could occupy a prominent place in my studio as well.  Titled simply "The Rules," [...]

Finesse — by Brant Taylor

Any musician who has interests outside the realm of music has probably discovered ideas and concepts important to other disciplines which are directly applicable to the study and performance of music.  The lessons we can learn about greatness from outside our own field are often very powerful because the underlying principles tend to be universal and not confined to any single discipline.  For the famed American chef Thomas Keller, there is one word he uses to describe his entire philosophy of approaching his craft at the highest level: finesse.  Chef Keller apparently doesn't want anyone who works for him to forget it—the word and its dictionary definition are emblazoned directly on the tiles above the entrance to the kitchen at Per Se, his high-end (and delicious) New York City restaurant: [...]

I Found my “Dream Quartet” in an Unexpected Industry — by Margo Drakos

My love for string quartets drew me to the cello, or rather, it motivated me to practice. It isn’t just the repertoire—I was hooked by the music the first time I ever heard the early Guarneri recording of the Cavatina and Grosse Fuge.  I love the idealist concept of a quartet, and the feeling of playing an individual voice that joins together with three other voices to form a single interdependent expression.   I also love the cellist’s role in a quartet, as it requires a multitude of skills.  At once the quartet cellist is the anchor, sometimes quietly without notice, sometimes with declarative strength, sometimes a supportive counterpart, yet at other times is the prominent, docile melody.  I have taken great pride in seeking the seemingly unattainable perfection of [...]