When I was a little girl, my younger sister Myanna took violin lessons from Estelle Kerner. Mrs. Kerner exuded all of the old-world glamour of the music world that I was craving. She had a hair net and wore clothes that looked right out of Tsarist Russia. Lots of makeup and copious quantities of white face powder completed her look.
Her soft calm voice had steel running through it and I was both scared and enthralled. Myanna was five years old and as she stood in countless hour-long lessons for the next thirteen years, Mrs. Kerner helped her fall in love with music and the violin. It was only many years after that that I realized how much Mrs. Kerner had changed my life as well.
You see, Mrs. Kerner taught with Schradieck and Sevcik (multiple volumes), with Wohlfahrt and Mazas and Kreutzer, with Flesch and Galamian and with a slow but extremely methodical march through Rieding and Kuchler and Vivaldi and Bach Violin Concertos, all the way up through Bruch and Brahms and Paganini.
Schradieck's School Of Violin Technics
I looked at Myanna's pages of Schradieck and Sevcik finger exercises with envy and tried in vain to play them on the cello. I realized almost immediately that the notes wouldn't work on cello, even an octave lower. I needed to know the ideas behind the notes and transfer those ideas to the cello. And I knew that I didn't have the knowledge to figure out those ideas yet.
My fingers didn't work well; they felt slow and plodding compared to Myanna's. My teacher gave me just two measures of a Feuillard page and five measures of Sevcik Op. 8 shifting each week. When I asked her for more pages of Feuillard and more lines of Sevcik, she said "Oh sweetie, you don't need those!"
My mother was horrified.
She saw Myanna getting better steadily and at the same time, she saw me struggling technically. So she did what any good mother might: she took me to the sheet music store and (even though money was really tight), she told me to pick out what I needed. I still have the Werner method and some of the other books I bought and devoured back then.
With Mrs. Kerner's teaching an ever-present influence, I began to give myself the best technical foundation that I could paste together from the method and exercise books I bought. All through my teens, with other teachers and harder music, I kept searching for and buying exercises until I hit a wall. There just wasn't a Schradieck for the cello. Klengel, with his Daily Exercises, came the closest. But his book started in half position and got complicated too soon and my students were struggling. I needed more shifting exercises than I could find. I desperately needed more work up and down the A string as I was playing Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations...
So I started writing my own exercises.
It was a heady feeling, realizing that I would never run out of exercises again. The first book I published was Serial Shifting; Exercises for the Cello: a different take on the Sevcik Op. 8 concept of moving through the positions:
And the second book I published was my very own book of Finger Exercises for the Cello so I could have faster fingers, at last.
So this blog is written for
everyone out there trying to play their instrument better. For teachers looking for their own version of Schradieck. For everyone who has had a technical weakness and hasn't known where to start to overcome it. For everyone who has had a sister (or a stand partner) with faster fingers.
And this blog is dedicated to three women:
Estelle Kerner, who showed me what teaching could accomplish and how to craft a solid foundation for a student.
Judith Harvey, who herself fell in love with violin exercises and who taught her 9-year-old daughter to go looking for books that might help solve her problems.
and my teacher at the time, who showed me the limits of teaching without enough exercises. And who, by withholding more studies, made me desperate to find and then write them. All three of these women helped a 9-year-old girl fall deeply in love with exercises as a means of learning and teaching a stringed instrument.
Cassia Harvey can't ever find or play enough exercises. She searches for rare and out-of-print studies and etudes in her free time. If you know of any, please let her know. Seriously; it's an obsession.