Robert Jesselson

Robert Jesselson

About Robert Jesselson

Robert Jesselson is a Carolina Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches cello and plays in the American Arts Trio and the Jesselson/Fugo Duo. In 2013 he was named as the Governor’s Professor of the Year by Governor Haley and the SC Commission on Higher Education.

Dr. Jesselson has performed in recital and with orchestras in Europe, Asia, South America, and the United States, and has participated in the Music Festivals at Nice (France), Granada (Spain), Santiago (Spain), Aspen (CO), Spoleto (SC), the Grand Tetons (WY), and the Festival Inverno (Brazil). His performance degrees are from the Staatliche Hochschule fuer Musik in Freiburg, West Germany, from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Paul Katz, and the DMA from Rutgers where he studied with cellist Bernard Greenhouse. He has been principal cello of the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Orquesta-Sinfonica de Las Palmas, Spain. In 1983 Dr. Jesselson was in China for a six-month residency, one of the first Western cellists to visit that country. During that time he performed as soloist, gave master classes, and taught at several conservatories (including Beijing, Shanghai, and Canton). In December, 2001 he led a delegation of string players and teachers to Cuba to begin professional contact with Cuban musicians. He has also taught at Sookmyung University in Korea, Sun Yat Sen University in Taiwan, University of Auckland in New Zealand, at the Royal College of Music in London and recently in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. His recent CD of new music for cello and piano is called “Carolina Cellobration” and is available on CD Baby and Cellos2Go.

Dr. Jesselson was the national President of ASTA, the American String Teachers Association, from 2000-2002. During his tenure as president he initiated the National Studio Teachers Forums (2000 and 2002), started the National String Project Consortium (with sites now at 44 universities and grants of $3.1 million), and began the planning for the first stand-alone ASTA national convention in 2003. He was the founding Executive Director of the National String Project Consortium, and is currently on the NSPC Board.

Dr. Jesselson is former conductor of the USC University Orchestra and the Columbia Youth Orchestra, and he was the cello teacher at the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts for 17 years. For 15 years he was the director of the USC String Project, building the program into one of the largest and most prominent string education programs in the country. His pioneering work on this program was recognized in an article in the New York Times in December, 2003. ASTA awarded him the “Marvin Rabin Community Service” Award in 2009 for his work with the NSPC and teacher training. He is the recipient of the 2015 USC Trustees Professorship and the 2010 Mungo Distinguished Professor of the Year, the highest teaching awards given by USC. He has also been awarded the 2002 Cantey Award for Outstanding Faculty, the 1992 Verner Award, the 1989 S.C. Arts Commission Artist Fellowship, the 1995 Mungo Teaching Award, and the first SC ASTA Studio Teacher Award in 2005. Next summer Dr. Jesselson will be teaching cello at the Green Mountain Music Festival in Vermont and at the Cellospeak Festival. He plays a 1716 Jacques Boquay cello.

Robert Jesselson website: http://in.music.sc.edu/fs/jesselson/index.html
Articles by Jesselson: http://in.music.sc.edu/fs/jesselson/articles.html

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 13 – Feuillard No. 33 – Variations #4-9)

In today's blog we will continue Feuillard No. 33 with the Variations #4-9, dealing with legato playing, staccato strokes, and bow distribution. Variation #4 and #5: Notice in the video that Iestyn knows the tempo of these variations when I asked him, because he has written in the tempos that he thinks are good as he works on them at home:   It is important for the students to be able to imagine their tempos before playing them in the lesson. Having practiced them well at home, they should be able to predict the tempos pretty closely. If they can't then it is a sign that they are not using the metronome in their practicing. Although rhythm is one of the most basic music elements, teachers often forget to stress [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 12 – Feuillard No. 33 – Theme and Variations #1-3)

Part 12 -  Feuillard No. 33 - Theme and Variations #1-3 The theme of Feuillard No. 32 was all in first position. With this week's blog we will start looking at the next page, Feuillard No. 33, which has a scalar theme that goes up to fourth position. As a result of the shorter string length in the higher positions, there are some new playing issues that involve the contact point. The rule that was mentioned in an earlier blog is: "the shorter the string length, the lower the contact point". And since the contact point is lower (closer to the bridge), we must also adjust the weight accordingly ("the closer to the bridge, the more weight"). This page is a good example of how Feuillard presents the bowing material in [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 11 – Feuillard No. 32 – Variations #27-30)

Part 11 -  Feuillard No. 32 - Variations #27-30 Today's blog will focus on circular motions, ballistics, and strokes at the frog that combine the upper arm and wrist.   Variation #27:   For this variation, I ask the students to use the full bow at a fairly fast tempo, rather than just playing at the frog as indicated. I am interested in seeing whether they can play with the bow remaining parallel to the bridge at a relatively fast bow speed, while using left/right motion.  This is similar to the very first variation, although it is with all down-bows and a much faster bow speed. If the bow skits up or down the string, then the bow angle is not correct. I also use this variation to introduce the vital [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 10 – Feuillard No. 32 – Variations #22-26)

Part 10 -  Feuillard No. 32 - Variations #22-26 With the next several variations we are getting into some specialized strokes that are used for virtuosic playing: the hooked staccato and sautillé . By working on these strokes at this point in their development the students are laying the groundwork for having the ability to use these bowings in pieces in the future . But I feel that they are really important for reasons other than the virtuosic nature of the strokes. Variations #22-24: There are four different names for the stroke that is used in Variations #22-24: "up-bow staccato", "down-bow staccato", "hooked staccato" and "slurred staccato". Different people use different terms, and the students should be familiar with all of them.  As I explain to the students, these variations are [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 9 – Feuillard No. 32 – Variations #18-21)

Part 9 -  Feuillard No. 32 - Variations #18-21 Today's blog is devoted entirely to dotted rhythms, building on the elements of Variation #8 that we had encountered earlier on the page in Feuillard No. 32. As I mentioned in that earlier discussion, dotted rhythms are notoriously difficult for string players. We tend to play triplets instead of the correct dotted rhythm. This is an example of how logically and well organized Mr. Feuillard's exercises are presented. The one dotted rhythm example earlier in No. 32 helped Caroline to become familiar with the basic issues involved in playing this rhythm. Now that the fundamentals are more secure, a few weeks later, Feuillard adds complexity. There will be more dotted rhythms coming up in No. 33, which will again add to [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 8 – Feuillard No. 32, Variations #12-17)

Part 8 -  Feuillard No. 32 - Variations #12-17 We will continue this week with Feuillard No.32 Variations #12-17, which introduces the essential detaché stroke, sometimes colloquially called a "scrub" stroke. Detaché is perhaps our most important basic stroke, but it is difficult to execute well. Detaché means "detached" but the bow changes are connected in a somewhat legato fashion. So it should not sound "pumped" or disconnected like a staccato stroke. This means keeping the weight in the string constant, but at the same time trying to find a good "ring" in the sound. Variation #12: It is vital that a student recognizes how to produce a good detaché in different parts of the bow, and with different parts of the arm. This variation works on the detaché in the middle of [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 7 – Feuillard #32, Variations 8-11)

Part 7 -  Feuillard #32 - Variations 8-11 In watching these videos, you will have noticed that I am continually asking Caroline questions. This is part of the so-called Socratic or Talmudic method of teaching, in which we ask questions rather than just telling the student what to do. The student is encouraged to consider the problem and verbalize a response. I think that this is a really important approach to teaching because we are constantly challenging the students to analyze and talk about what they are thinking. If the students can verbalize something they will understand it better, and it will be lodged deeper in their psyches. And instead of just spoon-feeding information we are helping them to figure out the answers. When students understand how important that is, [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 6 – Feuillard #32, Variations #4-7)

Part 6 -  Feuillard #32 - Variations 4-7 Before working on the next few variations, I like to help refine the student's understanding of intonation. In Part 5 we talked about the basic concepts of using the perfect intervals to check the intonation with the open strings. We also helped to organize the left hand in first position by checking the first and fourth fingers with the open strings, thus creating a clear "structure" for the left hand (for most people the tendency is for the first finger to be sharp and the fourth finger to be flat in first position). I usually like to give the students at least a week to sort this all out, so that they can play the theme with more stable intonation, especially regarding [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 5 – Feuillard #32 – Theme and Variations 1-3)

Part 5 -  Feuillard #32 - Theme and Variations 1-3 Now we are ready to start working on the Feuillard bowing exercises themselves. I usually begin explaining  how to approach the Theme and Variations in the very first lesson. But since most of the time in the first lesson is taken with all the necessary "preliminary" information about the bow (as discussed in Blogs 3 and 4), and with basic information about the scale/arpeggio system and etudes, there will be just a brief introduction to the Feuillard project in that initial lesson. First I explain to the students how these Feuillard exercises are organized, with a theme and then a set of variations. Theme of No. 32: Theme from Lesson 1: https://videopress.com/v/6vwb5UKn Then I explain to them how we check for [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 4 – Preliminaries: The Second Lesson)

Part 4 -  Preliminaries: The Second Lesson Part 3  presented preliminary concepts which are necessary before starting the bowing exercises in Feuillard. These include the "core" sound, the "block of sound",  playing with a "straight" bow, and a basic kinesthetic  understanding of how the bow arm works (the correct movement of the upper and lower arm, and the elbow). These are all issues which should be addressed in the very first lesson with a new student. I spend a lot of time working with the bow arm first, because if a student can't get a good sound with the bow it won't matter how beautifully the left hand works. Basic sound production comes before addressing the myriad number of left hand issues involved in playing the cello (intonation, vibrato, shifting, [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 3 – Preliminaries: The First Lesson)

Part 3 -  Preliminaries: The First Lesson As I mentioned in the Introductory Part 1, I am assuming for this series that I am working with an intermediate level student, building or re-building his or her right hand technique. This may be because this student has a poor basic sound, is playing with too much tension, or doesn’t understand the mechanics of how the body works in playing the cello. With more advanced students it may be because they have never really analyzed or thought about various aspects of bow technique, and as a result they are deficient in executing different strokes or rhythms or styles. The first step, starting in the very first lesson, is to make sure that the student understands the basic principles of the bow arm. [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 2 – The Sequential Method)

Part 2 – The Sequential Method I believe that it is important for an applied cello teacher to have an organized and logical pedagogical system in order to ensure that intermediate level students are exposed to all the technical and musical information that they need. Just as a math teacher or an English teacher uses a syllabus to create a logical succession of tasks for a young student, the applied studio string teacher should have a clear methodology to insure that all the requisite material is covered and that the student builds a secure technique based on a solid foundation. Very often I hear cellists play who clearly have "holes" in their technique or in their understanding of how the body works. They may never have analyzed how string crossings [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 1 – Introduction)

Part 1 – Introduction I started playing the cello seriously in 1971 when I was 22 years old. I had played somewhat earlier, but had very few lessons and was certainly not even considering music as a career. When I went to college I thought I was going to be a doctor, and I majored in anthropology and linguistics. It was only when I finally recognized that I really didn't want to pursue those career goals that I decided to “try” this music thing. When I went to Freiburg, I played for cellist Marçal Cervera, who ultimately became my teacher. He heard me play, and told me that there was “no way” that I could be accepted into the Conservatory. I just didn’t have the technique or background to make [...]

Travels with Ima – by Robert Jesselson

This year my cello is celebrating its 300th birthday. Made in 1716 by Jacques Boquay, I call her Ima, as in “I’m a Cello” because whenever I fly with her I book the ticket as Ima Cello. That way I collect the frequent flyer miles and get a free meal! When I was younger it was a lot easier to travel with a cello—in fact when I lived in Germany, I used to fly with Swiss Air and they usually just let me take Ima on the plane without paying for a seat. Later I bought a big Kolstein travel case—it is huge and bulky, but it has an inflatable “balloon” that surrounds the cello inside the case and is made out of Kevlar so you can shoot a gun at it and it won’t pierce the [...]

By |2018-08-05T06:32:03+00:00March 9th, 2017|Categories: Luthiers|Tags: , , , |

The Greenhouse Effect — by Robert Jesselson

I feel like I have known Bernard Greenhouse for all of my life. Growing up in New York in the 1950's and 1960's, I heard him perform countless times with the Beaux Arts Trio and the Bach Aria Group. I can remember his warm sound and elegant appearance from my earliest days. It is probably because of hearing Mr. Greenhouse that I even wanted to play the cello. Then in 1971, when I was studying in Freiburg, Germany I got the first chance to actually meet him in person. It was backstage after an awe-inspiring performance of the Beethoven Triple by the Beaux Arts Trio. I told him that I hoped to have the opportunity to study with him someday—and he generously responded by giving me his personal telephone number and address, saying to contact him when I was ready. [...]