Interview with cellist and teacher Elena Bertani

About the Author: Stefan Joubert

Stefan Joubert is the director of the Paris Music Institute. He is passionate about music education for adults and believes that it is never too late to start learning a musical instrument.

Stefan Joubert : Elena, could you tell me a little bit about yourself, what inspired you to learn the cello and how you got into music?

Elena Bertani : My brother played the violin and I regularly accompanied him to the conservatory for his lessons. I liked the shape of the violin, but it seemed uncomfortable to play. So I asked his teacher if there was an instrument with the same shape, but which did not stand on the shoulders. That's how I found out about the cello. I started studying the cello at the age of 9 at the Conservatory of Modena in Italy.

Stefan Joubert : Could you talk about first five years of learning the cello? Did you encounter any difficulties at the beginning?

Elena Bertani : I have also encountered difficulties along the way, of course! The first years are the most difficult because it is not easy to produce a beautiful sound and it is difficult to coordinate your hands on the instrument.

Stefan Joubert : When did you feel you were finally making good progress?

Elena Bertani : From the third or fourth year onwards, I began to realise that I had made a lot of progress. However, it should be said that I had always practice lots so I made good progress from the beginning.

Stefan Joubert : How can you help an adult beginner learn the instrument? How can you inspire a an adult learner?

Elena Bertani : Anyone can learn to play the cello at any age. On the one hand, being an adult is advantageous. An adult can understand how to hold the bow properly, the value of the notes and how to create the right note. However, one should not be too self-critical; it is difficult to produce a beautiful sound immediately on the instrument. You have to be patient, but after a few months you can already have excellent results.

Stefan Joubert : Thank you!

Stefan Joubert : How do you keep adult cello students motivated and engaged in their learning process?

Elena Bertani : In addition to the classical reference method for learning to play the cello, I always add a piece chosen by the student (strictly rearranged for his/her level). This piece will be played in parallel to the method and will represent the objective of the semester/year.

Stefan Joubert : What kind of practice routine do you recommend for adult cello students?

Elena Bertani : It depends a bit on the level of the students. If you are a beginner, I recommend that you spend at least 45 minutes practicing the instrument every day. As you progress, you should increase the time to 1h/1h30/2h.

Stefan Joubert : Thank you!

Stefan Joubert : What advice would you give to adult cello students looking to improve their intonation?

Elena Bertani : My advice is to check the tuning of the notes with the open strings, to record and listen to yourself, and to play by looking at yourself in the mirror to check that the fingers of the left hand are correctly positioned, without having to change the whole position of your back and neck.

Stefan Joubert : Thank you!

Stefan Joubert : How do you balance technical instruction with creative expression in cello lessons for adult students?

Elena Bertani : Technical instruction and creative expression go hand in hand. From the very first lessons, I suggest improvising on the instrument, even if you only know how to play the open strings. It is very important to remember that the cello is an instrument of expression, and that it is important to be able to explore it, guided by one's own musical tastes and identity.

Stefan Joubert : Thank you for your time Elena. One last question.

Stefan Joubert : How can adult cello students maintain good physical health and prevent injuries while playing?

Elena Bertani : It is very important to try to play in a relaxed way. It is important to have a good understanding of the position of the instrument from the first lesson. If there is any pain or doubt about the position, it is a good idea to discuss this with the teacher. Students can also try playing in front of a mirror to visually check their position on the instrument.

About Elena Bertani
Elena Bertani is a cellist and music educator hailing from Italy. She began playing the cello at the age of 9 and studied at the Conservatory of Music in Parma. She has performed with various orchestras and teaches students of all ages and levels. Elena is passionate about sharing her love for music and helping her students develop their skills and creativity. Currently, she teaches at the Music Institute of Paris in addition to her work as a musician and music educator.

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