Teaching is a vital part of my life as a musician. I learn about what I do and how I do it, by articulating these things to others. I keep my standards high and current by representing them to my students. I continually evaluate and re-evaluate my cellistic and musical convictions in the process and debate of teaching. I try to impart my passion for the cello and its expressive musical possibilities to my students and inspire a curiosity in them to search for their own voice and message.
In pursuit of these aims I place strong emphasis on two interdependent streams of development: the cellistic and the musical. In our cellistic goals we seek to expand technical horizons and instrumental control through the study of scales, etudes and where appropriate, technical concertos. I use a comprehensive system of scales ultimately designed to cover all keys in all formats in four octaves and etudes of Dotzauer, Duport and Popper. You can examine and download the scale system here. (You'll need Acrobat Reader, and it might take a couple of minutes depending on the speed of your connection.) Musically we investigate repertoire of an appropriate level of difficulty attempting to cover an ever-expanding cross section of the standard repertoire but adding less familiar works when possible (I particularly encourage an interest in the music of today's Canadian composers). Normally at least two works will be studied at any given time one being a major concerto or sonata the other perhaps a virtuoso concert piece. The Bach Solo Suites are always important and a regular feature of studied repertoire: I use my own edition as a starting point but encourage students to find convincing alternatives should they desire.
If I adhere to any kind of pedagogical school it would be that of the "generalist specialist". A musician should be capable of bringing appropriate life to the works of a composer using a language akin to that which a composer would be familiar with in his or her own time (whether that be 300 years ago or yesterday). The period performance practice movement is of immense importance and promotes the ability of the artist to apply a great deal more to their music-making than a thick layer of their own personality.
I generally teach students who have a certain maturity which is usually a result of years. This means the age range tends to be 14 or over with the majority being high school to University age although I have taken students younger than this (11/12) because the particular individuals demonstrate qualities that interest and excite me. I have often accepted students who appear to have talent but have not been challenged to use it productively or have been technically mis-advised to the point where they have become unable to use it. I find it most rewarding to watch a student released from the bonds of restrictive technique into a real playing arena. I do not take beginners. Setting young people off on the road to cello playing is a skill I feel lies with others: I prefer to accept them after a commitment to the instrument has been made and a desire for in depth knowledge realised.
I encourage all my students to join collaborative music-making experiences (such as a youth orchestra and/or chamber music program) in an effort to provide a musical experience of integrity and variety. The student whose sole exposure to music-making is through private practise and one-on-one instruction is missing a great deal: it is vital to experience the social value of music.
My students attend Canadian summer programs at the Banff Centre, Domaine Forget, Music Bridge, Orford Arts Centre, the PSQ's QuartetFest, National Arts Centre Young Artists' Program, the Southern Ontario Chamber Music Institute, Winnipeg Cello Institute and Tuckamore Festival. Internationally they have been invited to London (UK) Cello Masterclasses, Casalmaggiore International Summer Academy, ARIA, Stanford University String Quartet Festival, Interlochen, Killington, Tanglewood and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. In these situations and others during the regular school year they perform in Master Classes for such artists as Roman Borys, Denis Brott, Timothy Eddy, Norman Fischer, Desmond Hoebig, Paul Katz, Ralph Kirshbaum, Ron Leonard, Lawrence Lesser, Antonio Lysy, Aldo Parisot, Shauna Rolston and Janos Starker to name but a few. A number of them have been successful in local, national, and international festivals and competitions and I encourage students to take RCM graded examinations at appropriate and carefully chosen times (I prefer a balanced approach to these projects and resist a dependency on exam results on the part of students) - all who have undertaken this have done well up to and including the ARCT level.
Besides the above I have coached many young and established professionals in their preparation for orchestral auditions both on an ad hoc basis and through a personal seminar entitled "So What Now?" designed for recent school leavers. As a regular Mentor for the National Academy Orchestra I sought to inform and inspire new entrants to the profession both through playing together and through seminars on such topics as "Musicians for Tomorrow". One season as a new venture for the National Academy Orchestra I spent a week with the participants in the program as the first 'Mentor in Residence', allowing an intensive study of particular aspects of the profession
There is a distinct discipline to learning a musical instrument and I try to reflect this discipline in the structure of lessons. Lessons will (with rare and unavoidable exceptions) be regular and weekly although often the start-time will vary due to my schedule. Normally each lesson begins with examination of the week's technical work (an aspect of the scale and/or an etude) and proceeds to repertoire. While my playing schedule is intense I arrange sessions with students at such times that they do not feel as if they are crammed in between other priorities of my life
I currently maintain teaching studios at the Regina Conservatory and the University of Regina and each summer run the Prairie Cello Institute in Regina.