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Violinist Alexander Kerr Discusses Whether Performers Should Also Learn to Teach

"Should performing musicians learn to teach?" We threw the question over to Dallas Symphony Orchestra concertmaster, Alexander Kerr.

As performers, we are called to be our best teachers. The ability to become fluent in constructive evaluation encourages musicians to lead a multi-faceted career that involves both performance and teaching. VC reader Robert wanted to learn more about why it is necessary for performing musicians to learn to teach.

Do you think performers should also learn to teach? Please leave a comment below, we are keen to know your thoughts.

Alexander Kerr violinist


Violinist Alexander Kerr Shares Why it is Necessary for Performing Musicians to Learn to Teach

Dear Robert,

Should performing musicians learn to teach?

Without a doubt, performing musicians should learn to teach!

I truly love teaching. It is a basic part of who I am and I can honestly say that it has been every bit as fulfilling as my performing career. That being said, in today’s increasingly competitive environment, musicians MUST be fluent in every facet of our endeavor. Young people must be more well-rounded and even more entrepreneurial than my generation was twenty years ago; ready for any opportunity that comes their way, whether orchestral, soloistic or pedagogical. People who succeed in our field are sometimes considered “lucky” but in my opinion, luck is merely opportunity coupled with preparedness!

Teaching also helps the teacher. Throughout my career, working with others has helped solidify my own violin playing. By putting my technical ideas into a succinct, coherent and verbal form, I have been able to better outline and simplify my approach, allowing me to be less occupied with mechanical thoughts on stage. I can therefore concentrate more on relaxing my body and communicating my musical ideas to my audience.

Einstein once said that “if you can’t describe something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

By being forced to explain my process in the simplest terms to others, I have gained a deeper understanding of the inner workings of violin technique.

Lastly, teaching keeps me young! Being in constant contact with the next generations of up and coming artists makes it easier for me to relate to them in professional situations and it inspires me not only to sustain the level of my playing but continuously search for new ways of improving it.

I am so lucky to have had such a diverse career as a musician. I can’t even imagine my life without teaching as an integral part of that mix, so I strongly encourage every young musician to, at the very least, take a pedagogy class as part of their college education. It will only help make one an even better and more complete artist.

– Alex

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American violinist Alexander Kerr has established himself as one of the most accomplished and versatile violinists on the international music scene today. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, at the age of 26, Mr. Kerr was appointed as the concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He currently serves as Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and holds a distinguished teaching position at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

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