Kirin McElwain

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Featured Teacher on Lessonface Since January 2015

Price per lesson

From: $40.00 / 30 Minutes
To: $65.00 / 60 Minutes

Book a Lesson with Kirin McElwain



Perhaps the only cellist to have ridden a bicycle across the continental United States, Kirin McElwain has a knack for finding cellos to practice on in the unlikeliest of geographic locations. That said, she is still searching for a travel cello small enough to fit on the back of her touring bike. When not out on a cycling adventure, Kirin enjoys a musical career as diverse as her non-musical interests. She recently gave the world premiere of composer Jeff Beal’s ballet, “Almost Morning” at the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater with the Claudia Schreier Company. Since June 2015, Kirin has been the cellist for the string-powered indie rock band Miracles of Modern Science.

An advocate for performing both really old music and really new music, Kirin also performs on viola da gamba and was the founding cellist of the Sawtooth String Quartet, a Philadelphia-based ensemble specializing in pop, jazz, and original tunes. Kirin has performed with pianist Judith Gordon, John Vanderslice, Boyz II Men, vocalist Anna Winthrop, and has been featured on Indiana Public Radio, the University of Rochester’s WRUR, Portland’s XRAYfm, and UC Berkley’s KALX. As an orchestral musician, Kirin has been the principal cellist of the Contemplum Ensemble, the assistant principal cellist of the Wayne Oratorio Society and the Opera Libera Orchestra, and has performed with the Southeastern Pennsylvania and One World symphonies.

Kirin was the prizewinner in the 2006 Smith Concerto Competition, the 2009 Commencement Concerto Competition, and received the Susan Rose Fellowship for Music Study in 2007 and in 2009. Festivals Kirin has participated in include the Lake George Music Festival, the Cello Seminar from Music from Salem, and the Encore School for Strings. 

Kirin is a third year teacher-trainee at the Philadelphia School for the Alexander Technique and holds a Master of Music degree in Cello Performance from Temple University, where she was a student of Jeffrey Solow. She also holds a degree in Economics from Smith College. Kirin lives in Brooklyn with her two cellos (a 1925 Amadée Dieudonné and a modern Bulgarian instrument), her bicycle, and lots of vegetarian cookbooks.


I teach my students to exercise logic: to analyze whatever challenge they are facing, and to break down the problem into achievable components. My students learn critical thinking and problem solving skills that will help them get ahead in music, in school, and in life. While not all of my students go on to become professional musicians, they will receive the best possible musical foundation and training as if they were to choose a career in music.

I emphasize a fun, goal-oriented approach to learning. Not everyone learns in the same way. I specialize in structuring my teaching to optimally match the student’s personal learning style. In addition to developing my students' technical skills through scales, études, and solo pieces, I often use improvisation exercises in my lessons to help my students develop a sense of self-sufficiency and independence. I place a strong emphasis on playing with others, and will often accompany my students in lessons to develop their aural skills and to foster a love of the social aspect of music-making. My goal as a teacher is to make learning fun for my students, and to guide them so that they are ultimately free to think for themselves as musicians.

Reviews of lessons with Kirin McElwain

Kirin McElwain has got IT! It being the ability to see where feedback is most critical and provide clear and easily grasped guidance, in short - outstanding teaching ability. This alone is more than most students can hope for, but McElwain also is also inspiring. It just does not get any better than this at any price.
John Gilbert, Verified Student
August 22nd, 2017
Loved that she got me to focus on my experience (physical and psychological) by asking me questions and also by offering different ways of looking at things e.g. the notes are not important at the moment, and be curious rather than judgmental
Paul, Verified Student
February 24th, 2017
Cello Student
September 4th, 2016