UNI TED CONSERVATORY N E W S A N D NO T E S
STARTING FROM SCRATCH Building UCM 1 Lesson at a Time
I can count the number of teachers whose studios I’ve practiced in on one hand, and I’ve admired all of them. Pearl Winter was my first music teacher, and by the time she taught me, she had been teaching cello for nearly 60 years. Her experience teaching must have built up her patience like a muscle because by the time I studied with her, she was abnormally good at putting up with the nonsense of a young cello player like me. When I was studying with Mrs. Winter, and actually throughout my youth, I found practicing singularly unenjoyable. Mom cajoled, yelled, compelled, and bargained with me pretty strenuously to get me to practice. It wasn’t until I was older and started to play music with my friends that I really fell in love with the cello. Still, I didn’t think I would become a music teacher until I was well into my music degree. I would probably be considered a nontraditional student in my mid 30s. I definitely had a much better clue to why I was playing cello. I certainly worked harder and practiced more. My undergraduate degree was in history, and because of that, I stretched a degree that should have taken only two years into seven! It was perhaps most effective because I studied with a wonderful profession, Thomas Loewenheim, now a well-known (at least in the classical music community) Fresno Character and Legend. Dr. Loewenheim is the kind of man who will burn a candle at both ends — and also in the middle. During my seven years of study with him, he had a lot of people interested in having him as their instructor. He played a huge role in helping start the United Conservatory of Music because in the beginning, many of them were referred to me by Dr. Loewenheim. I started out teaching cello lessons in my house, but when I saw there was a demand for oboe, violin, and clarinet teachers, too, I opened my up home as a teaching space. At its height, I had something in the neighborhood of 80–100 people coming and going from my home each week, most of whom were not my personal students (needless to say, I didn’t go swimming that much at home.) I met the United Conservatory of Music’s director, Chris Scherer, years ago through a woman I was engaged to. Chris was the graduate assistant in my then-fiancée’s studio. She asked if we needed another violin teacher. The answer is – we always do!
So, Chris arranged to have his stuff shipped to my house. But in the amount of time that passed between agreeing to have Chris move in and his arrival, I broke up with my fiancée. Now, instead of having a wife, I have Chris Scherer, and we still live together.
He’s okay if you like that sort of thing; the dishwasher has been a sore spot for the last five years. He has
broken a lot of my dishes and glassware… but he is still a good friend. Chris focuses more on the business andmarketing aspects of the school, and
I focus more on teaching. Interacting with andmentoring young people has always been important tome, and I think my background as a youth pastor —and, even further back, as a chaplain when I was in the military—preparedme well for teaching. I love doing for students what my teachers did for me. Sometimes I get to keep the same students for six, seven, or even eight years. For those students, my instruction becomes about so much more than playing the cello. In the last year and a half or so, the music school I started inmy home while I was a graduate student has grownmore than 200%. And even though I have been teaching cello for 12 years now, I amback to teaching students inmy house again because we simply don’t have enough rooms at the school to teach everybody there. I look forward to seeing where the next year of growth will take the United Conservatory of Music, and I anticipate another year of teaching, playing the cello, and paying forward the lessons my teachers taught me.
559-869-8263 • 1 –Leo Kimunitedconservatory.org
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