Robert Battey


I cannot imagine a life in music that doesn't include teaching; I have had private students of one instrument or another since I was twelve years old. When I've been fortunate enough to work with a gifted or highly intelligent student, those lessons have been among the most stimulating experiences of my life. But the more ordinary talents are learning opportunities for me as well. A gifted student can play well standing on her head; the proof of one's ideas is in the pudding of the average students. It is through them, their struggles, and their occasional scepticism that a teaching idea or a technical principle must stand the test of time. Also, as I refine my theories about music-making and cello-playing, I realize that more than half the battle is in presenting the information so that it can be clearly understood. Thus, each student is like a new piece of music; one must unlock their secrets slowly and carefully, applying sound general principles, but seeking out what is different and special in each one.

Students of mine have played in the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Omaha Symphonies, and are successful teachers at the university and high school levels. One even went on to conduct the Boston Symphony. Of one student's performance of the Lalo Concerto, the Kansas City Star wrote that she "led the way to a richly flavored and thoroughly romantic interpretation . . . it was a model of stability and far-sighted musicianship." Nothing gives me more professional satisfaction than seeing a student do well, be it in an audition, competition, or concert. The rewards of teaching well far exceed those of playing well. To paraphrase my own teacher, Janos Starker, a standing ovation is very nice, but eventually they sit back down; when you do a good job with a student, however, you have permanently changed a life and added to the overall quality of your profession.

My major teachers were John Martin, Ernst Silberstein, Robert Newkirk, Bernard Greenhouse, and Janos Starker; I also had some lessons with, and/or played in masterclasses for, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonard Rose, Paul Tortelier, Zara Nelsova, Raya Garbusova, Lawrence Lesser, Claus Adam, Timothy Eddy, and Eleanor Schoenfeld.

I have also attended classes or lessons given by Pablo Casals, Pierre Fournier, Yo-Yo Ma, Anner Bylsma, David Soyer, Harvey Shapiro, Joel Krosnick, and Margaret Rowell, have read all the major pedagogical works (Bunting, Pleeth, Mantel, Tortelier, Alexanian, Eisenberg, Kenneson, etc.), and even watched five hours of Fritz Magg videotapes. In short, I've been around the block. I teach from my own "Technique Handbook" which I hope to publish privately soon.

Formal education: B.M., Cleveland Institute of Music; M.M., State University of New York-Stony Brook; some doctoral work at Indiana University. Summer studies at Yale (Norfolk Festival), USC (Piatigorsky Seminar), Meadowmount School of Music, and American University.

I was Associate Professor of Cello at the University of Missouri-Kansas City for 12 years, and have also held faculty positions at the State University of New York-Potsdam, the Virginia School of the Arts, the Levine School of Music (Washington, D.C.), and the Gettysburg Chamber Music Workshop. College-level courses I have taught (besides cello) include string pedagogy, symphonic literature, theory, chamber music literature, and form and analysis. I currently have a small private studio in Maryland.

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