Equally at home on the Baroque and “Modern” cello, the knowledge and insight gained from her research and performance spills over into Nona Pyron’s teaching as well - both in private instruction and in master classes. Of primary importance in all periods of music, she feels, are the bowing techniques developed in the 17th and 18th centuries and the ways in which they evolved to adapt to the later musical styles of the 19th and 20th centuries. It is the great variety of bowing strokes inherited from the Baroque and Classical eras which enables performers to express more completely the musical line and nuances inherent in the music of any period.
She also sees the use of the left hand, particularly in the controlled use of vibrato, as a valuable carry-over from these earlier periods. When asked about her thoughts on teaching, she would respond that there are no two students alike - and even with the same student each lesson is unique. Because of this philosophy, she tries to deal with each student where he or she is - technically, mentally, physically and spiritually - on any given day. In the early stages of playing it is necessary for the teacher to establish certain habits and attitudes toward bowing and fingering. But as students grow, the teacher should encourage them to work out these techniques on their own so that in time they will no longer be dependent on the teacher’s suggestions.
To this end, it is important quite early on to discuss with a student the logic - musical and technical - behind a given bowing or fingering and to encourage students to experiment on their own with their ideas, and then evaluate them together with the teacher in their lesson. Acquiring the physical means of playing the cello (“technique”) is essential - how else is it possible to produce meaningful music? But at the same time students should be encouraged to develop the historical knowledge and musical insight that will enable them to discover the musical intent of a piece and learn how to use their technical and musical abilities to achieve that end.
The over-riding principle in Nona’s teaching is to instill a reverence for the music and to help students acquire the necessary skills and insights to produce what the composer intended.
Some thoughts on bowing…
The bow is to string players what the breath is to singers and wind players. The teacher should encourage students to develop a sense of where the line of the music goes and learn how to use the bow to bring out that line. One shouldn’t allow the bow - out of convenience or for any other reason - to contradict the line of the music.
On the proper use of the left hand. The left hand should be alive with a sense of the flow of the music. This can only be achieved with a relaxed left hand which works in tandem with the ear and the musical imagination and responds intuitively to the promptings of both.