Ida Mercer - ESTA Summer School

Ida Mercer Lower Strings

Daily from Tuesday 9 August to Sunday 14 August


Ida Mercer is a cello instructor at the Cleveland Institute of Music/Case Western Reserve University. A founding member of the Cleveland Cello Society, she currently serves as its Executive Director. In that capacity she has collaborated with, among others, jazz legend Dave Brubeck, and Polaris Prize-winning Canadian composer, Owen Pallett, presenting world premieres of their compositions for cello ensemble. From 1998-2021, she was a member of the cello faculty and cellist of the Almeda Trio, ensemble-in-residence at The Music Settlement.

Ida is a cellist in the Cleveland Pops, was a cellist and founding board member of Red {an orchestra}from 2001- 2008 and was Assistant Principal Cellist of the of the Cleveland Opera Orchestra) from 1982 to 2009. She held the same position in the Ohio Chamber Orchestra from 1982 to 2000. Since 1990, Dr. Mercer has been a cellist in the Britt Classical Festival, a summer festival held annually in Jacksonville, Oregon. She is a 2010 Creative Workforce Fellow, a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, generously funded by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. In June 2009, Dr. Mercer received the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award from her alma mater, Belleville High School West in Belleville, Illinois for her contributions to arts and culture. In 2002, the Ohio String Teacher’s Association named her “Studio Teacher of the Year” for Ohio. Dr. Mercer taught cello and music theory from 1980 to 1982 at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. She holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Illinois, a Master of Music from the Yale University School of Music and her Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Cleveland Institute of Music/Case Western Reserve University.  Her principal cello teachers have been Gabor Magyar, Aldo Parisot, Alan Harris, and Janos Starker. Previously having taught at CIM from 1987-1991, she was reappointed to the CIM faculty in 2006.

Dr. Mercer is a fully certified teacher in Paul Rolland String Pedagogy. First introduced to The Teaching of Action in String Playing in 1976, during her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois, Paul Rolland’s string pedagogy class was a revelation to her.  His approach of relating basic stance, left hand, and bow arm techniques to simple movements of daily life brought welcome clarity and new understanding to her cello technique. Behind every beautiful resonating tone on a stringed instrument is input from a freely moving, balanced body and Mr. Rolland’s “actions” clearly explained how to attain that balance. Throughout her teaching career, Dr. Mercer has found these actions bring rigor and focus in both private lesson and group class settings. They are an immensely powerful tool for string teachers.


Paul Rolland String Pedagogy

Ida will present Rolland’s pedagogical ideas from the basics of motion to specifics of left- and right-hand technique, from beginner pedagogy to advanced remedial strategies. Morning and afternoon sessions will each be unique topics, with the two clinicians collaborating together as well as doing individual sessions. There will be additional special sessions for those interested in attaining a Level 1 Endorsement in Paul Rolland Pedagogy.
The Paul Rolland String Pedagogy Society has developed a 4-Level Certification for teachers. The 2022 ESTA Summer School course, when completed in full (including special sessions that will take place over the lunchtime), will provide participants with a Level 1 Endorsement.


S1. Tuesday 9th August: 17:00 – 18:00 (Co-presentation with Joanne May) Principles of Movement in String Playing

• Understanding the physiology of movements that are free from excessive tension
• Balance, leverage, repetitious movements, beginnings and endings of bow strokes, ballistic movements, string crossings, comfort and ease of expressive sounds
• Bilateral and Unilateral bowing/body movements

S2. Wednesday 10th August: 09:30 – 11:00 (Co-presentation with Joanne May) Rhythm Training

• The importance of understanding the pulse
• Acting on rests
• Multi-tasking: pulse and rhythm together
• Rhythmic movements in string playing
• Bowing connection to rhythm

S3. Wednesday 10th August: 15:00 – 16:30 Co-presentation with Joanne May, then split into separate upper string/lower string presentations
Establishing the Instrument Hold

• Placing the instrument & shaping the left hand
• Securing the instrument without excessive tension
• Instrument position games
• Seated position

S4. Thursday 11th August: 09:30 – 11:00 (Co-presentation with Joanne May) Establishing the Bow Hold

• Silent preparation, early bow hold
• Regular bow hold – how and when
• Bow calisthenics and balance

S5. Friday 12th August: 09:30 – 11:00 (Co-presentation with Joanne May) Playing Short Strokes at the Middle

• First bow strokes
• Short détaché and slurred strokes
• Refining the tone

S6. Friday 12th August: 15:00 – 16:30 Co-presentation with Joanne May, then split into separate upper string/lower string presentations
Principles of Left Hand and Finger Action

• Silent preparation
• Placing fingers, octave game
• Balance, elevation of hand, thumb placement
• Percussion play, finger pops

S7. Saturday 13th August: 09:30 – 11:00 (Co-presentation with Joanne May) Shifting

• Short shifts & long shifts from the beginning stages
• Shuttle
• Harmonics
• Winding up
• Stepwise shifts in melody fragments

S8. Saturday 13th August: 15:00 – 16:30 Co-presentation with Joanne May, then split into separate upper string/lower string presentations
Extending the Bow Stroke & Bouncing the Bow

• Flying pizzicato, wandering
• Rebound, silent bow transfer
• Silent bounces, glancing the bow
• Ricochet

S9. Sunday 14th August: 09:30 – 11:00 (Co-presentation with Joanne May) Teaching Vibrato

• Waving & tapping
• Left arm balance
• Tap & hold
• Developing flexibility
• Speed and amplitude of vibrato

Additional topics during lunch sessions:
Bowings: Martelé, Staccato, Sustained and Détaché Bowings Wellness for String Players
Remedial Teaching
Rolland History
Upper and Lower Instrument Specific Sessions, Q&A

Instruction for these sessions is based on the following materials:

• Rolland, Paul. 1974. Teaching of Action in String Playing book and films. Urbana, IL. University of Illinois Research Associates (book updated 2007 by Peter Rolland)
• Fletcher, Stanley. 1971. New Tunes for Strings, Bk. 1 & 2. Boosey & Hawkes. NY
• May, Joanne. 2021. String Technique Development. Unpublished.
• May, Joanne. Joanne May Violin & Viola Videos on YouTube: