Featured Article, September 2019

Workshop Chronicles

Like a well-oiled machine, the 2019 Cellospeak workshops took place at Bryn Mawr College from July 21 until August 3. Artistic director Bomin Collins and Executive Director Susanna Mendlow delivered another sterling two weeks of cello instruction, ensemble playing and musical delights with the help of the dedicated faculty and Gary Fitzgerald. This year’s workshops were somewhat saddened by the passing of Cellospeak’s founder, Dorothy Amarandos, on June 22, 2019. Nineteen years ago, Dorothy started the workshops to give adult cello students and players an opportunity to share their passion with, and learn from, a community of dedicated cello teachers and other fellow cello players. This year, 26 new participants joined the ranks of the seasoned Cellospeakers for Skill Builder Week (55 total) and Ensemble Week (47 total). This year we did not have the use of the Rhoads dormitory but were instead housed in the New Dorm, conveniently located next to the dining hall; the morning breakfast commute, as indeed all the other meals, was thereby greatly simplified!

On the musical front, it is proof of the dedication shown and progress achieved by the Cellospeakers that this year’s workshops, and particularly the ensemble week, were the best ever! Every night the faculty and volunteer participants performed selected pieces accompanied on piano by Gary Fitzgerald to the delight of workshop attendees. The final concert in the grand (albeit somewhat crumbling) Thomas Hall was a beautiful and emotional tribute to the life and contributions of Dorothy Amarandos.

During the workshops, each morning was devoted to sectional work and practice, focusing on special technique topics (Skill Builder Week) and the pieces or parts assigned to each relevant section (Ensemble Week).

Every morning of Ensemble Week all the sections congregated for choir rehearsal under the baton of Gary Fitzgerald. Afternoons were reserved for individual lessons during the first week and quartet work in the second. Faculty also presented optional classes on varied topics; for example, Lynne Beiler gave her talk on the care of the cello, Nancy Baun and Irina Tikhonova gave a very moving demonstration of emotional connection to your fellow player and to the D minor Suite of J.S. Bach, and Devree Lewis provided a hands-on workshop on playing tangos and milongas. Cellospeak is a community of cello players, where whether you are a beginner or a seasoned player you will find shared passion, support and camaraderie in the practice of this wonderful instrument.

The words of one of this year’s participants summarize beautifully what the workshops are all about:

I want to share my experience at a most remarkable workshop, held this past July/August at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. The organization is “Cellospeak.” You can read about the history of the organization and its remarkable founder, Dorothy Amarandos, elsewhere online. Assembled, were cellists from all over the USA divided into 5 groups by ability. Music was sent weeks before the event. The workshop lasted two weeks. One could choose to attend either week or both, Skill Builder or Ensemble, respectively. The world class faculty studied at the finest institutions all over the world. In the United States, for example, Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman, and The New England Conservatory were represented. Many of the participants were adults who began to study cello later in their lives. I will tell you that never in my life had I been exposed to such teachers and artists of such great ability who with patient and highly informed attention treated EVERYONE, as though they too were students at the finest conservatories all over the world. Unwavering in their dedication, imagination, practical and musical knowledge, all these teachers allowed even the most elementary beginner to enter into the rarified realm of musical expression and technique. And most of them could be in the cast of Saturday Night as well! I highly recommend CELLOSPEAK. It was a Holy experience.”

To this I can only say: Amen!

Jean-Daniel Chablais
Cellospeak Board Member

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