Richard Aaron: Cellist and Teacher

By Eric Shumsky Created: April 11, 2011 Last Updated: April 11, 2011
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Richard Aaron (Courtesy of Richard Aaron)

Richard Aaron (Courtesy of Richard Aaron)

About Richard Aaron
Richard Aaron has traveled extensively, giving master classes in Madrid, Spain, Manheim, Germany, Seoul, Korea, Matsumoto, Japan, and Paris, France.

He has presented master classes in the U.S. at many leading schools, including Rice, Eastman, Michigan and Oberlin. During summers, he has taught at the Aspen Music Festival, Indiana University String Academy, Calgary Music Bridge, Aria, Innsbruck, the Chautauqua Festival and Idyllwild.

Mr. Aaron's students have won numerous national and international competitions and have performed as soloists with prestigious orchestras, including the Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Seattle Symphonies. Award-winning quartets, including the Biava, Fry Street and American, include his students.

He is a member of the Elysian Trio, in residence at Baldwin-Wallace College.

Mr. Aaron served on the faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music and ENCORE School for Strings faculties for fourteen years prior to his appointment at the University of Michigan in 2006. In 2007, he joined the Juilliard faculty.

  About Frederick Matthias Alexander

 FREDERICK MATTHIAS ALEXANDER: Alexander and his dog, a photo taken by M. L Barstow in 1932. (Courtesy of Robert Rickover)

 Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) was an Australian actor who lost his voice while acting. He later discovered excess tensions in his body were the root of the problem. After years of research and careful exploration, he developed a technique to release these tensions. His friends and doctors were so impressed by his recovery that they urged Alexander to teach others the results of his method.

Richard Aaron is without question one of the finest and most sought after cello teachers in the country—as the many students who flock to him will attest.

I first met cellist Richard Aaron back in Basel, Switzerland in the 1980s. Though American born, Richard had played for some time in the Jerusalem Symphony in Israel.

When I first met him, he launched off into some stories about great musicians he heard play with the Jerusalem Symphony and told of working with the great conductor Igor Markeevich. Then he conducted while singing the orchestral part to show me the manner in which Markeevich conducted. I realized this fellow was convincing in what it is he had learned.

Richard Aaron is a charismatic person and also a natural salesman—but talk is one thing and an ability is another. He has a natural talent on the cello. In fact, he is a very smart fellow, who could excel in many different fields.

Proponent of the Alexander Technique

Musicians would all like to adhere to natural principles when we play, but we easily get caught up in the tensions of expression.

Back in the ’80s Aaron spoke to me about studying the Alexander Technique while in Israel. The Alexander Technique economizes motion and gets rid of tensions.

Since I remain skeptical until a technique or concept is proven viable, I asked Richard many times about his findings from the Alexander Technique. I knew that neck tension is often the source of immediate problems in string-playing. If the muscles are too constricted for a period, it is possible to have the circulation constricted, thereby causing cramped muscles.

Some teachers demand complete relaxation, but this is nonsense since there must be tension balanced with relaxation. Balance is key and tensions need to be kept in moderation.

Other teachers talk about relaxation, but when they put their bows on the string their talk makes no sense. To hear and see poor playing is to be dissuaded from believing even the most ardent supporter of any theory.

Richard Aaron does not have this problem because he convinces by virtue of the fact that he can really play. When he picked up his bow and cello in hand he always seemed very relaxed and focused.

One of Richard’s key themes in his own playing and in his teaching is the natural and good use of the body for the goal of producing music.

A decade after first meeting Richard in the 1980s I again bumped into him in Seattle, Wash. where we both worked. At that time he was gaining a reputation as an excellent cellist and teacher. Since the ’90s his ascent to notoriety has been nothing short of remarkable.

Presently he lives with his wife and two children in Michigan and is professor at the University of Michigan He flies in every few weeks to teach at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

Eric Shumsky is a concert voilist. For more information, see



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