Summer@Eastman 2020: All Things Cello: Eastman Cello Institute, Season 4

February 17, 2020

Eastman Cello Institute dress rehearsal. Photo credit: Gerry Szymanski.


by Dr. Cora Swenson Lee

Dr. Cora Swenson Lee is Director of the Eastman Cello Institute and Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Bucknell University.

It’s hard to believe that the Eastman Cello Institute is heading into its fourth summer!

In 2016, Professor Alan Harris invited me to collaborate with him in starting this program. I was very excited about what a cello program at Eastman could offer. When we began designing the program, Professor Harris asked me to reflect on my own experiences in high school and college, and to envision what my ideal “cello bootcamp” would have been. That was the starting point for planning the first Eastman Cello Institute, and the program has continued to grow and evolve from there.

The mission of the Eastman Cello Institute (ECI) is to offer a holistic cello education, centered around personalized instruction for each student. We incorporate and balance work on technical skills and musical creativity, and provide exposure to a wide variety of repertoire that all cellists should know. Each summer our full-time and guest faculty offer lessons and presentations focusing on their unique specialties. In addition to lessons with multiple faculty members, students have daily technique classes with myself and daily performance masterclasses with Professor Alan Harris. They also work with our resident orchestra guru, Kathleen Murphy Kemp (Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra), in classes focused on preparing orchestral excerpts. We continue to offer yearly workshops on staying healthy at the instrument, and on proper cello maintenance, among other topics. One change in 2020 will be a concert of cello chamber music- a variation from the large cello ensembles of previous years.

The most exciting news this summer is that we are welcoming a new faculty member! Lisa Caravan (Eastman School of Music, department of Music Teaching and Learning) will be coaching chamber ensembles and working one-on-one with students to help them to develop customized practice plans and strategies. This addition to the curriculum will assist students in making the most of their time at Eastman and beyond.

Group class led by Dr. Cora Swenson Lee. Photo credit: Gerry Szymanski.


The ECI is truly a passion project for all of us on the faculty: each of us has benefited from the caring and supportive mentorship of another cellist, and we are paying it forward to our students at the Cello Institute. We aim to cultivate a supportive and creative environment and encourage students to freely explore many facets of cello playing. We value the art of teaching as highly as the art of cello playing; our work with students is focused on each cellist as an individual. Because our technical and musical philosophies are so closely aligned, we offer a streamlined approach to developing well-rounded cellists.

Each summer we have the privilege to witness the growth in confidence and musical maturity in our students throughout their three weeks at Eastman. It is also a joy to see how close the students become as colleagues and as friends. To me, this reflects the warm and welcoming atmosphere that is so central to Eastman as a whole.

This program is everything I could wish high school cellists to experience. It’s busy and packed full from start to finish, but our hope is that every student who spends their summer at ECI leaves with new-found knowledge and ideas which they can continue to explore and build upon for years. We can’t wait for another group of fantastic cellists to share this experience with us in 2020!

ECI students after a Cello Ensemble performance. Photo credit: Sylvie Beaudette.


The Eastman Cello Institute runs June 28-July 17, 2020. Admission is by audition only; see website for details and audition requirements. All auditions must be received by April 1, 2020.