In a small room on the second floor of the Sette LaVerghetta Center for the Performing Arts, Sophie Till picks up her violin, tunes it and begins to play a song. Till—who is an associate professor of violin in Marywood's music, theater, and dance department—is preparing for a series of lectures and master classes she will be giving at Princeton University in July.
"You deal with students on a totally different intellectual level," she says. "The demand to be articulate is higher than at any other time."
Along with her duties at Marywood, Till is also an associate faculty member at the New York City-based Golandsky Institute, established in 1976, where she directs the violin program. The institute's International Summer Program attracts professional musicians and students from across the globe. Till spends weeks preparing her lessons and lectures.
Till's approach to music can be summed up in one word: physicality. When asked what makes her teaching style unique, she explains her emphasis on coordination and movement.
"As a performer, we function at the convergence of an internal physical landscape and the music," she says. "That is what enables us to play. So, if I don't understand how that physicality functions in the service of the music, then I can't perform."
Till uses the "Taubman Approach": a musical technique developed for piano players to "prevent and cure fatigue, pain, and other playing-related injuries." Interestingly, Till modified this approach for violinists—her specialty—and it has gained momentum. Musicians develop injuries from misuse of their bodies over time while playing, and Till says that applying the Taubman Approach to violinists has never been done before.
"[This approach] saves people's careers," she explains. "My profession is riddled with injured people, and it enables them to recover from an injury more quickly."
Back in her office, Till finishes playing and carefully places her violin on a nearby table. The conversation changes and she begins to talk about her students. This year, several students will join the violin professor at the Princeton symposium.
"The students are blown away by the level of musicianship," she says. "It is great for them because it really exposes them to world class players. The level of teaching and performing is incredible. This is the real deal."
Professor Sophie Till will be in Princeton, New Jersey, from July 7–15.
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