Kirsty Hugill

Kirsty is the founder of Exeter Young Strings, teaches the cello and coaches small chamber groups.

My thoughts about teaching music

I have been teaching cello for 20 years and still get that buzz of excitement when a new pupil starts lessons with me. I teach all ages and standards from beginners to grade 8+, from 3 year olds to adult beginners in their 70’s!

I really enjoy teaching this range of ages and abilities and will take anyone provided they are willing to do their best. It should go without saying that setting up a sound technique from the start is crucial. Without it a cellist will really struggle to fulfil their potential.

There is a wonderful quote “Those things not taught and learned properly in the early stages take their revenge on a musician later”. This is so true of all aspects of music and I firmly believe that strong musicianship skills are just as crucial as sound technique and therefore my lessons always include work on developing rhythm, pitch and co-ordination. The more developed these all these skills are the more the player is free to really enjoy music making which is after all why we do it!

I really do encourage all my pupils to take part in our chamber groups. Making music on your own can be so lonely, but in a group you are able to play one part, while playing with others of a similar age and ability is incredibly fulfilling and just fun!

Musical Experience

In a way I started playing the cello by accident!!

One day the music teacher came into our classroom and asked us to put up our hand if we would like to learn to play an instrument. I put up my hand immediately. She then read out a list of instruments. I put up my hand for violin, as it was the only instrument that I knew of on the list. Unfortunately there were only a few spaces and I wasn’t chosen.

A few days later the head master contacted my parents and asked if I would like to learn the cello. I remember being very excited by the idea, but didn’t know what a cello was. My first lesson was in the head masters room with two other children. I still clearly remember this first lesson and many of my other early lessons.

The bit I found hard at this early stage was the practising. Being in a room on my own having to put into practise reading music for the first time, the co-ordination involved and having to listen that what I was playing was correct were all very daunting. I was lucky that my father was very helpful and took part in many of my early practise sessions, making sure the cello was in tune and singing along. I really wish I had the opportunity to have some Kodaly based training before I started as it would have make these early days much easier.

Having said that I went on to do a music degree at Kingston Polytechnic (now University) with cello as my main instrument and have since studied Kodaly musicianship in various forms, particurlary with Agnes Kory whose mother was one of the original teachers to work with Kodaly in Hungary. I have found this form of musicianship training to be of enormous benefit, both as a cellist and as musician generally.

It has been this experience that has lead to the setting up of Exeter Young Strings, and I now find I can’t work or teach without it! I really believe that in setting up Exeter Young Strings I am giving something to children of all ages and abilities that will better enable them to fulfil their potential; hence our statement “aiming for a greater understanding and enjoyment of music” which always appears under our title.

Tel. 01392 460444