2017 Workshop Chronicles

We’ve all gone our disparate ways now, but it wasn’t long ago when we were immersed in the pursuit of music-making on our cellos at the Cellospeak workshops in Bryn Mawr College. This year, our 17th, was one of our most successful with over 40 new participants and a hundred participants in total. New Artistic Director Bomin Collins and Executive Director Susanna Mendlow led the summer’s activities. Their strong, yet encouraging, leadership guided us through our sometimes precipitous ups and downs and created a rewarding learning experience for all. Also many thanks to our tireless faculty and dogged board members for the magic they do!

As always, the student and faculty recitals continue to be a favorite part of the day. This year many of the pieces selected by the wonderful faculty to perform had a Spanish connection. Others were new and unfamiliar works, even unfamiliar genres, and many were the pieces that made us all fall in love with the cello in the first place. Most rewarding, though, were the participants’ performances. With excitement and anxiety running a bit high, participants drew on their solid preparation and personal courage to share their music with all of us. We shared many special moments of hugs, kisses, and sincere affection.

In Skill Builder Week, Dr. Robert Jesselson treated us to a survey of several important concepts and techniques of cello playing. His organized and thorough approach helped us tackle many of the challenges of the instrument.

Kris Gilbert and Marion Baker led sessions in which they broke down many of the issues of rhythm, with a focus on improving sight-reading and ensemble playing. In the afternoons we had lessons and practice-time, so participants could get individual instruction on their immediate challenges. During both weeks, faculty member Lynne Beiler taught us how to take better care of our instruments. Our luthier, Michael Weller, and bowmaker, Greg Pinney, solved many of our problems and mysteries of our instruments.

Every morning of Ensemble Week began with faculty members rotating to different choir sections and imparting the secret sauce of their individual daily warm-ups. From there, each section and their assigned coaches worked together to learn and refine choir parts. Then we all gathered as a single cello choir to work with our beloved accompanist, arranger, and conductor Gary Fitzgerald. After lunch, we devoted our efforts to coached cello quartets, a favorite activity of many. One afternoon Susanna Mendlow led a workshop on improvisatio and another afternoon the faculty publicly sight-read pieces either composed by or brought by participants. This week also brought the resources and advice of Louis Roberts from Potter Violins.


All of our work culminated in a public concert on Friday, August 4th, at Bryn Mawr’s Thomas Great Hall, an event that was supported by our Cellospeak benefactor, Brobst Violins. The music-making was rewarding and challenging, especially Mark Stephenson’s “Cellospeak Capriccioso,” which he wrote for our founder, Dorothy Amarandos, in celebration of her 80thbirthday. What better way to end the two weeks than to see Dorothy and have the chance to thank her for creating Cellospeak, which we all so enjoy!

Oh yes! We did have a bit of fun along the way, both participants and faculty alike. Among the many jovial moments were a mid-performance switch of instruments between pianist Gary Fitzgerald and new faculty cellist Jihea Choi, a brass lamp used as a recurring hobbyhorse (you had to be there), and a ghoulish performance of Danse Macabre by some of our more inspired participants!

To see additional pictures from both weeks, please click HERE. Special thanks to our fantastic photographer, Paul Scharff!

Thank you to everyone for these two enriching weeks!

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