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Rex Westen






Cello Lessons

Education and Experience

I started piano lessons at age five, and switched to cello lessons at eight after hearing a string quartet play at my elementary school. I continued lessons until age fifteen, and played until age eighteen. After a long hiatus I began to relearn the cello from Dr. Charles Lee, and studied four years with him. In that time I completely changed my technique – I had blamed my instrument, but Dr. Lee made it sound beautiful. That was the beginning of an infatuation with cello sound, and exploring the cello's capabilities. Since then I have experimented with many genres of music, and how they are articulated on the cello: not only classical but blues, jazz, hard rock, Brazilian, and pop music. I love teaching. I began teaching cello twelve years ago, and have taught in local music studios and in workshops in the area for the past five years.

My Approach to Teaching Cello Lessons

If you ask any teacher a student's most important attribute, the answer is motivation. 'Talent' is basically a short-hand term for prior music experience. A motivated student will surpass any obstacle. My challenge is always to pass my passion for cello along, so that students can know the joys and pleasures I have. Everything I do is aimed at motivating the students.

  • Lessons and practicing should be fun
  • I tell the students if they are bored while they are practicing, they have to stop immediately and figure out a way to practice that isn't boring. I teach them ways to do this.
  • Students select the music they want to play, and I transcribe and arrange it as a cello duet. They love it.
  • It is great to play with somebody else, another reason for the duets. I have a book of simple, and not so simple, duets I have written to play with students
  • Noticing and improving the student's efforts and accomplishments. This is very powerful.
  • Proceeding at a learning pace that the student finds comfortable and not threatening.
  • Taking time for variety and fun in the lesson. Learning music is a very complex path, and though we organize it, the path is not really linear. It is not about grinding toward a goal, but exploration. There is a reason it is called playing an instrument. 'Play' is the exploration of possibilities.

Favorite Artists

  • Classical – Bach, especially played by Pablo Casals
  • Rock and Blues– Jimi Hendrix
  • Funk – Stevie Wonder
  • Metal – Cello band Apocalyptica
  • Brazilian – Joao Gilberto
  • Jazz – Miles Davis
  • Pop – Bruno Mars

Favorite Quotations

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill
“Make the impossible possible, the difficult easy, and the easy, elegant.” -Robert Sussuma

My Passion

While I love playing classical music, my biggest joy has been exploring non-classical cello. I began attending the New Directions Cello Festival, a festival for non-classical cello music fourteen years ago. It was a revelation – I really didn't know I could have that much fun at my age. The days at the festival are full of workshops, followed by dinners with fellow musicians, concerts by cellist in the evening, followed by jams until dawn. And repeat. I had no idea that I could do with so little sleep. What was most exciting was that the performers were all playing their own music, and all of it was completely individual. Nobody was in competition with anybody, because the music was so distinct. Most cellists are brought up in the classical mode, playing music written by others. The opportunity to create one's own music opens up new vistas, and requires a broader set of skills. In Bach's day a musician played, and improvised, and composed. My goals for my students are to reach this level again.

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Cello Lessons

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