Sviatoslav Stravinsky on Deep Musical Study

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!

“It’s as if the work at hand suddenly became as deep as the sea.” 

Sviatoslav Stravinsky (Igor’s son, of studying with Nadia Boulanger)

In mid-century Paris lived one of the greatest music teachers of recent history. Nadia Boulanger attracted some of the world’s best composers, players, and teachers as students.

Aaron Copland, Phillip Glass, Astor Piazzola, Quincy Jones, Leonard Berstein, and many others flocked to her. Her living room is the stuff of legend. Long lessons, weekly lectures, and masterclasses.

What made these lessons so good? What did these already-great musicians find there?

She was highly skilled. She drove people hard and demanded a deep work ethic. And she was sincerely interested in the musical growth of each student.

For example, it’s said that each week, as ongoing homework, students would learn a Bach cantata. This is a small, four-part work for choir, and Bach wrote loads of them.

Students would analyze it. They would play one line and sing another, by memory. A new one each week. And she may not even ask them to present it in a lesson. But if she asked and it wasn’t ready, she would not be happy.

What kept people coming back, however, was beyond simple hard work. It was something richer. Something more personally rewarding.

Nadia Boulanger was able to point the way to a deeper understanding of music. Even for some of the best musicians in the world, she opened new doors and pointed toward further vistas.

As they worked through pieces together, students found new ways of seeing and hearing. They learned to notice connections and perspectives that were previously invisible to them.

While lesser musicians may grow arrogant and lose the wonder of musical exploration, her students found endless depths of discovery. They learned to keep looking, in order to keep finding.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

Allen Mathews was recommended to me as somebody who could help me expand my guitar vocabulary.  Allen started me on a really fun cycle of lessons and practice.  He is a very good,and very enthusiastic teacher, and I feel that I'm on the road to learning.  I couldn't be more pleased with my experience.


~ Peter Buck (r.e.m.)

-Peter Buck (r.e.m.)

Hi Allen,
First public performance ever! I am up to Level 1E in The Woodshed program. It is certainly mega helpful.


~ Peter Graham

-Peter Graham

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