The German violinist on the art of teaching and the importance of authenticity


Photo: Kaupo Kikkas

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Something all my teachers had in common was the ability to suggest the right pieces at the right time. For me, a good teacher is someone who realises that there is not just one way to do things, but that every student is unique. My first teacher, when I was four, was Christa Uhlstein. She taught me to love music. And when it became evident that I had talent, she gave me a lot of support with several lessons a week. When I was eleven I was a boarding student at what was then called the Spezialschule für Musik Dresden, a high school specialising in music. My teacher Roland Eitrich took me back to playing only open strings. It was a hard time but I’m very thankful for it. He gave me a new approach to the instrument and helped me to loosen up my muscles and play in a natural way.

When I was 17 I went to study with Werner Scholz at Berlin’s Hanns Eisler Hochschule. At that stage, I had a lot of doubts about my playing and he managed to make me believe in myself. And as I could sometimes be unfocused, he helped me ignite my ambition. A very focused concentration is essential to our job as musicians, and I try to instil this in my students today.

A very focused concentration is essential to our job as musicians

My learning continued after my studies – and hopefully it continues today! When you rehearse and play with others, and are open and interested, you will always learn. A big part of my development was also teaching. I was very young when I started – only a month after I graduated. I’m still very sorry for my first student because I feel I didn’t know what I was doing! What I love about teaching is that it helps you reflect on your own playing. It has helped me stay fresh and ensure I’m still practising the things I preach.


Antje Weithaas in 1987–88 with her teacher Werner Scholz in Berlin

Growing up in East Germany I was given a lot of performance opportunities. The system was geared towards helping young talents develop their potential. I performed in lots of small venues, which meant I could play programmes several times. I could try things out and learn from experience. Today, with everything on the internet and the pressure to perform in the biggest halls immediately, I feel sorry for young musicians. They are not allowed to play a bad concert, which happens to everyone.

The most important advice I can give a young player is to stay true to themselves. I think this is the main thing that gives you a chance to build a long-lasting career. I encourage my students to believe in themselves and understand what they want to say with their playing. The audience will always know when you are being emotionally honest.


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