Judith Mitchell cellist

CV: Performing and Teaching

3. Teaching career - some personal reflections.


Teaching, to me, means helping individuals discover for themselves how to understand, respect and respond to music, how to bring that music to life, how to create music even, and how to move towards performing with ease and pleasure.

All of us explore in our own way and our discoveries are often different too, so each lesson can bring something new to teacher as well as pupil. Teaching is absorbing, challenging, sometimes revelatory, and always utterly fascinating in its variety. This is why, in one form or another, it has always been an equal, reciprocal, and often integrated, partner with my performance activities.

Since 1968 I have given individual tuition, cello ensembles and cello orchestra days, group coaching, orchestral coaching, university and conservatoire teaching, lecture demonstrations, workshops and masterclasses encompassing a very wide range of subject and repertoire. My private teaching has encompassed cellists whose ages range from 4 yrs to 83 yrs and whose musical interests and aspirations are equally diverse.

Currently my focus is on adults (including 16-18 yr olds on occasion), with a multitude of musical backgrounds and standard. I continue to be delighted to work together with professional cellists, those cellists who have a different day-job, string players, composers and musicians generally. We study many aspects of cello playing and the cello repertoire throughout history. According to individual preference we can play on modern and period instruments and we can make detailed studies of contemporary music at all standards of musical and technical development.

I teach mainly one to one lessons, as well as small, carefully selected occasional groups, demonstration sessions and very interactive workshops. See Teaching section for more details of my current teaching.

UCNW, Bangor 1970-1975

As resident cellist at UCNW, Bangor, I taught cello to students of every standard and coached the student chamber orchestras. I helped student composition classes with the development of basic and advanced string compositional techniques and repertoire, as well as giving students a practical knowledge of the sounds and techniques of historically informed period instrument performance, to add perspective to their academic studies.

The start of a life-long love of teaching adult amateur musicians began here, with training the strings of the college's Adult Extra-Mural Department orchestra, conducting the string works in their concerts. This experience also confirmed that I didn't want to diversify into conducting generally, my enthusiasm getting the better of my conducting style!

Norwich 1975-1987

While based in Norwich I gave annual workshops in improvisation and contemporary techniques at Keswick College of Education, Norwich, and taught a wide range of students at the University of East Anglia.

I coached cellists at the Ernest Read Music Association Junior Orchestral Course for ten years and was cello tutor for the Brighton Youth Orchestra until 1987.

As well as a large private teaching practice for pupils of all ages I also instigated Cello Days for cellists of all standards and ability, children as well as adults. The Days were based round my own arrangements for cello ensemble and cello orchestra, which include music from the twelfth century to the present. The intention behind this is that the 'sound of the history of western music' is unfolded and experienced in all its (cello!) glory. Everyone also encounters some music that is new to them and learns something new about playing it.

London 1987-present

Every community and area contains its own special circumstances and London is no exception to this, not least because much of the UK is within easy reach. There is so much scope for all kinds of projects, but the ones in which I have always been happiest are those where there is scope for personal contact, individual support and small groups working closely together.

Work within the wider community has included projects with a strongly interactive element on tuning, microtonality, string techniques and many other topics. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with groups as diverse as North Hampshire Association of Church Organists, A. level students at Norwich City College, composition students at Goldsmiths College, London and Trinity College, London, as well as string teachers, composers, conductors in various parts of the country. These projects are often centred round recitals and commissions specially designed as a starting point for musicians just beginning to explore contemporary music for themselves.

As Associate Director of the Centre for Microtonal Music, London, I organised projects in Harrow secondary schools and school for children with special needs, in partnership with Sonic Arts Network. The resulting compositions were given highly successful performances by the pupils involved, as an integral part of the CMM's festival Soundspace at the South Bank Centre.

Two flourishing classes for adults at Morley College for a number of years, from beginner to (eventually!) intermediate standards made good use of the Cello Day music and ensured the creation of large quantities of technical material as well as more arrangements for cello solo and ensemble!

In 1997 I also became a mentor for the CTABRSM open access professional development courses for instrumental teachers, leaving in 2011 to develop my input into this area in different ways.

At the moment, I teach mainly adult players in great variety! Whatever your standard (problems welcomed!) and musical aims, see the Teaching section for practical details about my teaching and about how you can organise your lessons very flexibly, as well as what workshops and demonstrations are on the go at the moment. I thrive on interesting challenges and I have lots of friendly enthusiasm, so don't be diffident about contacting me.