An interview with William Bruce, Head of Strings at Junior Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Speaking about his experiences as a professional cellist.
William Bruce is delivering the Strings & Piano UK International Summer School this year and has gathered a fabulous array of exquisite teachers to join him on the journey. As well as being a fantastic teacher, William's career includes an impressive list of achievements, performances, publications, visiting professorships and a seat in the orchestra of the English National Opera. The team at LPO spent some time speaking to William about his experiences as a professional cellist and what we can expect from the summer school.
How did your life as a cellist begin?
In the queue at school for a violin! When I reached the front the music teacher showed me a big beautiful cello instead. And it chose me - like a puppy dog! My parents were rather surprised when I turned up with it that evening.
Did you always know you wanted to be a musician?
Always. Never any doubt. I tell my students to only follow a musical career if absolutely nothing else in life will do. You need that persistent, single-minded dedication to make it work. And your vocation is constantly tested.
Does life as a professional string player live up to your expectations?
Oh yes! I feel hugely privileged. Every day is full of wonderful surprises. And constant personal development on life's journey. So much variety. I feel I have been blessed with enough experiences for three lifetimes.
What is the highlight of your career so far?
Well, I could include playing a concerto before Princess Diana, my Carnegie Hall debut, taking an orchestra to play Mozart's Figaro in the theatre at the Palace of Versailles where Mozart himself conducted, meeting and working with the musical geniuses Yehudi Menuhin, and Jacqueline du Pre... But the real golden moments, those special buzzing highlights, are the breakthroughs with my students. Every teacher will tell you the same.
Can you describe an average week?
There is no average. First thought of the day - 'Where am I?'. This week it is Soweto in South Africa working with the most joyous African children. Then on to two specialist cello courses in England, straight on to a masterclass tour of China, developing two music schools in deepest Transylvania followed by an examining trip to Singapore. All tightly fitting around Junior Guildhall in the London Barbican and my private students. I also keep in touch with my students from anywhere in the world by Skype lessons so they don't miss out.
Do you have a favourite piece to play?
Each piece has its own challenges and rewards. But I love playing the Bach solo suites, a never-ending journey revisiting with deeper insights. And Schubert Quartets, operas by Wagner, Mozart Anne Handel... the list goes on. Like choosing chocolates out of a box.
If you could give yourself any advice as a student, what would it be?
Ahh. Wouldn't that be nice? Lots to say. I would certainly tell myself to ask my teachers more questions. I was lucky enough to work with some truly remarkable people and never felt I had plumbed the depths of their knowledge enough.
What are you most excited about for the Strings & Piano UK International Summer School 2018?
Oh Yes! I've assembled the most wonderful inspiring distinguished teachers I've ever met and can't wait to let them loose on the students - and watch the results!
Come and join us for this unique course. For more information and to apply, visit the Strings & Piano webpage HERE.