Benjamin Swartz, cello, viola da gamba, erhu

Benjamin Swartz

cello, viola da gamba, erhu

Teaching Artist Statement
In a lesson one morning with Anner Bylsma in his sunlit library in Amsterdam, I remember him telling me, “I learned in school that one should practice as much as possible, but I think that the real knack is to practice as little as possible.”  In our busy & overscheduled lives, how do we make the most efficient use of our time during cello practice, of our bodies during playing, or of our resources in all situations?  My holistic approach concentrates on preparing the young apprentice to ask him/herself these questions, to constantly problematize matters of technique & resource management.  The accumulated knowledge of efficient and effortless technique has about it a moral intelligence, which means that it has been arrived at from generations of tried experience, handed down from the great masters to you and me.  Any excess tension in the body blocks the natural vibrations of the instrument and thereby impedes the mind’s vision by the body’s execution.

In studying music, we investigate the properties of sound and its myriad methods of production, using music as a mirror to our perception of the world.  As composer Ben Johnston writes, “To me music expresses what is most fascinating and basically interesting about being alive. It does this through sound vibrations. . . . Music, ideally, ought to teach us what it is to put the vibration structure of life into some sort of order.”  The seasons, the tides, planetary orbits, tonal hierarchy, fluctuations in air pressure perceived as tone - these all correspond to periodic phenomena analogous in their systems of proportionality.

My assignments vary from student to student, and draw freely from scales, etudes, concert pieces, chamber & orchestral excerpts, composition, improvisation, music theory, sight reading, journal & book readings, concert attendance, and recording projects.

Teaching Biography
Benjamin Swartz, LRAM MMus MA, was appointed to the faculty at the Community Music Center of Boston in 2015, and to South Shore Conservatory in 2017, where he teaches cello, viola da gamba, erhu, and chamber music.  He also teaches a large private studio in Ipswich, MA, and coaches chamber music with the Northern Massachusetts Youth Orchestras (NMYO).  During the summers Ben is artist-faculty at the Killington Music Festival in Rutland, Vermont.  A much sought-after teacher & clinician, he has given masterclasses & workshops at Harvard University, Dartmouth College, Temple University, Berklee College of Music, and in 2016 was invited as artist in residence to the University of Trinidad & Tobago’s National Academy for the Performing Arts.  Ben teaches from the Suzuki method for beginning students, and from a method book of his own authorship, The Essential Technology of the Cello: A Textbook of the Efficient Cellist (2016), for intermediate & advanced students.  He completed his pedagogy training at the Peabody Preparatory and at the Royal Academy of Music, and his own primary teachers were Anner Bylsma & Pieter Wispelwey in Amsterdam, Mats Lidström & Jonathan Manson in London, and Alison Wells & John Moran in Baltimore.

Performance Biography
Cellist Benjamin Swartz hails from Richmond, VA, and has concertized extensively in the United States and Europe with a particular emphasis on historically-informed performance, electroacoustic collaboration, and avant-garde contemporary performance practice.  Equally at home on cello, Baroque cello, and viola da gamba, he has gained increasing recognition for multi-instrumental virtuosity spanning the Ars Subtilior to the present day.  Currently a resident of Jamaica Plain, he performs as cellist with Sound Energy, a string trio dedicated to exploring the energy of sound through the commission & performance of contemporary works by living American composers.  He also performs with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, as violist da gamba with Les Enfants d'Orphée, and with various ensembles throughout New England.  An active studio artist, he has two dozen film & video game soundtrack credits to his name, and has recorded albums with Bent Knee, the Ben Levin Group, and Tredici Bacci.  During the summer he is artist-faculty at the Killington Music Festival in Rutland, Vermont, and performs at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland.  He is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music (MMus), Peabody Conservatory (BMus), Johns Hopkins University (BA/MA, American history), and was a DAAD Scholar to Germany as well as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow to Amsterdam.  He started with South Shore Conservatory in 2017.

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