This week I am sitting next to a member of the Cleveland Orchestra who is leading our cello section for this project. Perhaps more so than any other orchestra in the world, Cleveland is the one that has effected my orchestral playing most directly. I remember studying with members of the orchestra, one summer, and playing with students from the Cleveland Conservatory, who were heavily influenced by the standards and practice of the orchestra. I was always impressed with their sense of time and rhythm (likely something they acquired from the benefit of several years of required eurhythmics classes), and also by their sense of ensemble, of being keenly aware of one another's playing.
As I sit next to him, I am aware of his awareness, and also aware of how much I may potentially be missing in my own awareness. Articulation, bow speed, bow placement, and calculated fingerings are just parts of the technical mastery that he brings to the part. Through these he is acutely aware of his sound, of the execution of the phrase. There is a level of control I don't think I ever imagined to be possible; such a palette of colors and textures, all so seemingly accessible as he chooses to use them. It seems to be a new level of listening, of perceiving and reacting.
I think he is teaching me in the way that he plays, gently demonstrative and very consistent. There is a lot I can learn just by sitting next to him. To absorb the way of another. If only there were a way to keep it with me, but likely the only way to do so is to let it go, and find it in myself.
He mentioned that he studied with Lynn Harrell and I can see it and hear it in his playing. I took a masterclass once with Mr.Harrell and had the pleasure to accompany him on two different occasions. I can see how much Mr. Thornton learned from him. And yet, I wonder how often he felt the same way, of wanting to harness the magic of his lessons. Perhaps this is the way it is when one is eager to learn from another. It's never enough. They bring out the need of the inner teacher to rise to the occasion.
It is nice to have this connection with teaching and learning. To be close to a model that influenced me in my musical upbringing and to have the exchange of musical information. Always good to have another reach out and to reach back.