Those Who Can’t: Why the Best Teachers Aren’t Always “Talented”

By Miranda Wilson

There’s an old saying, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Teachers love to hate this expression.

It’s obviously insultingly reductive, but sometimes I wonder if there’s something in it. Even if, like Shinichi Suzuki, you believe that talent is not inborn and that anyone can develop their ability, the fact remains that some people play music better than others. Even if you account for the quality of their teachers, instruments, and practice habits, there are people who simply pick up physical concepts more quickly than others.

You might say those people have a special kind of physical intelligence. The same kind that makes you physically coordinated, or good at sports.

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Cello Thought For the Day: It’s OK To Take a Day Off From Practice Sometimes

By Miranda Wilson

My husband and I took our instruments on our honeymoon. Yes, it’s a good thing we found each other, because I’m not sure anyone else would tolerate us.

I was that undergraduate playing scales in the practice room at two in the morning.

I was the high school student who got up at five to play the cello for two hours before school, then hurried home after school for another two.

My name is Miranda, and I’m a workaholic.

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Holiday Gifts for the Cellist in Your Life

By Miranda Wilson

This is going to be the strangest festive season ever, but nothing is going to stop us doing our holiday shopping, right? Just for a moment, let’s take our minds off pandemic gloom and think about something fun instead: gift-giving! If you’ve been wondering what to get for your cello-fanatic kid, your awesome cellist friend, your school orchestra director, or someone you know who loves classical music and the cello, look no further!

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Cello Thought For The Day: Little And Often

By Miranda Wilson

We all know that practice is the only way to improve. And yet, how many times have you had an avalanche of work to do and not known where to start? Maybe you simply don’t have time for that four-hour practice schedule your professor in undergrad told you was essential to career success. Maybe you’re juggling work, life, and fifty other things and finding it hard to carve out time for yourself. Maybe you feel so overwhelmed you end up not doing any of it.

It’s easy to deal with a massive to-do list when you’re having a good day, but what about all the other days when you feel sluggish, resentful, cross, sleepy, and grouchy?

That’s where “little and often” is useful.

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Cello Thought For the Day: Your Best Tempo

Once, when I was a student, I brought a piece by Brahms into my lesson. It was in patchy shape because I hadn’t achieved mastery, but was trying to pretend I had. I hashed through the entire movement at breakneck speed even though there were parts I simply couldn’t play yet. (In one of those ironies I haven’t quite figured out yet, a lot of people rush in the hardest spots of a fast piece, and I’m no exception.)

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Cello Thought for the Day: Your Best Sound

Sometimes it’s tempting, especially when learning a new piece, to decide to “just play” it and worry about all those big, messy emotions of interpretative expression later.

The problem is, this two-step method is ineffective because you then have to unlearn mechanical habits in order to find your voice.

Why not let the emotion — your most passionate voice — dictate how you’re going to move your fingers from note to note and your bow from string to string? Emotion is the wellspring of meaning, not a bunch of random bowings and fingerings.

Even when you don’t have all the notes or all the bowings, you can still play with your absolute best sound. It will drive you to places your second-best sound can’t.

Books To Read In A Pandemic

If heaven isn’t like this, I’m not going.

Last year I wrote about my resolution to make time for reading for pleasure, little imagining that very soon I would have a great deal of time for it.

The one good thing about being at home a lot (besides not having to drive anywhere) is that there seems to be more time for reading. What’s more, who doesn’t need a bit of escapism right now? In that spirit, I thought I’d write another post about what I’ve been reading.

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Zoom Updates for Musicians

What it looks like

I’ve written a lot about remote teaching and Zoom, a modality I enjoy. Today I learned that the latest update includes some goodies especially for those of us who teach and learn music via Zoom. Here’s what you do:

1. Go to the Zoom website and download/install the most recent update, 5.2.2.

2. Open the Zoom app and start a new meeting. (A meeting for one, that is.)

3. Go to Audio Settings -> Advanced -> and select “High fidelity music mode.”

I’ve already noticed a big improvement. How have your experiences been?