The Music School of Brasília (Escola de Música de Brasília - EMB), is a unique place in Brazil. It's the only public music school in the country, and quite a good one, compared with the private ones. Nearly all instruments are available to be studied there for free, or for a token contribution of less than $20 a month.

This is where I began studying the cello, and where I still am today. When I started in 1993, there were only two cello teachers: Ataíde de Mattos and Pachá Gallina. Nearly all the students were taken by Ataide de Mattos, as Pachá Gallina was (and is) quite involved in chamber music with his Trio Artesanal. To say all cello students at that time was to mean ten, maybe fifteen cellists-to-be, of which at most five had their own instruments, the rest of us relying on the school's cellos. Nobody played much, and the highest goal was to reach Duport's studies, and maybe the Saint-Sa´┐Żns Concerto.

That was the picture then. So what happened next? The year 1993 marked the beginning of an incredibly successful change in the approach to the cello at EMB, starting with teaching techniques. Ataíde de Mattos had developed and was starting to use a new way of teaching the cello, based on movement and position perception, through "recordings" and "reinforcements" of those movements and positions. All your basic cello knowledge/technique is generated from the inside, by comparison with patterns you've "recorded" once. The results are amazing. Were we delivered from lengthy studies? Certainly not, but big leaps were possible in the early steps. I was able to play a four-octave scale within three months, and many have done the same since, or have done better. By that time, Ataíde de Mattos was also making his own cellos so his students could have their own instruments at affordable prices, not needing the horrible school instruments anymore. Naturally, this brought new life to the cello class. And the picture now is somewhat different.

We now have seven cello teachers (including Pachá Gallina, who still teaches), two of which follow Ataíde's methods. We have over 40 cello students, including children, a new addition to our class. Lots of music is being performed by the students, including all six Bach Suites. Bachianas No. 1 has been performed three or four times, Bachianas No. 5 twice with a soprano and once with a clarinet (and we're planning on calling a flute ensemble next year), and there are lots of easy pieces with beginners' cello ensembles. We are now playing Grützmacher, Piatti, and Popper etudes as well.

A great deal of this improvement happened because of "Cello Weeks." In the first semester of 1994 (that's Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, Fall for us), Ataíde de Mattos organized a whole week of concerts and recitals performed by cello students. Everybody played something, from Dotzauer duets to my incredibly out of tune First Suite, and a nice Brahms E minor first movement by a more advanced student. That was the first Cello Week, and every cellist in the School loved it, though no one else in town heard about it. But we did it again the following semester, with more people watching and, of course, more students playing. The "snowball" was thus formed.

Later, Korean cellos arrived in Brazil, so even more students could afford their own instruments. Now, advanced and advancing students set new standards for the incoming beginners, and the new ones advance even more quickly. There's a student with less than a year and a half of cello lessons who reads Duport 11! Some start the cello as a second instrument, but soon make it their main concern. And we have received cellists from the University (such as Guerra Vicente, Ataíde de Mattos' teacher, and a former student of Navarra's) as special guests in the Cello Weeks. Thanks to their participation, some world premieres were made at EMB during the 9th and 10th Cello Weeks.

So this is where we stand now, full of energy, aiming our cellos at the next century!

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