Kurt Meisenbach

Category Names: 
Violin, Viola
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Kurt brings together a unique mix of music and business experience as a Manhattan School of Music scholarship graduate, soloist with Leonard Rose and Andor Toth, CPA and Partner with PriceWaterhouse Coopers in Europe.  He was Principal Violist in the Aspen Chamber Orchestra and also in the Kansas City Philharmonic.  He taught and performed at the Taos School of Music, Red Fox Music Camp and William Jewell College.


Because of my extensive travel and work abroad, I understand the challenges faced by the expatriate family.  A connection back to a home-based learning experience can do more than fill the learning gap caused by not being able to find a qualified local teacher.  It can also reinforce the value that sound musical training can have in one’s future business career.

I am a scholarship graduate from the Manhattan School of Music, where I majored in viola.  During my five years in New York I played 2 years with Leopold Stokowski in the American Symphony in Carnegie Hall and with Frederic Waldman in the Music Aeterna Orchestra in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I taught in the Preparatory Division at the Manhattan School of Music.  My teachers and coaches include Robert Slaughter, Bernard Kadinoff, Lillian Fuchs, Joseph Fuchs, Mauricio Fuks and Arthur Balsam.

While still a student I played Principal Viola in the Aspen Chamber Symphony at the Aspen Summer Music Festival.  In 1971 I accepted the Principal Viola Chair in the Kansas City Philharmonic in Kansas City, Missouri where I played for 9 years.  During this same time I was Artist in Residence at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri.  I taught and performed in the Red Fox Summer Music School in Great Barrrington, Massachusetts and at the Taos School of Music in Taos, New Mexico.

In 1981 I became a CPA and began a business career that lasted for 25 years.  During this time, I worked and lived 15 years in London and 10 years in the US.   I managed projects in 5 continents and travelled extensively in the US, Europe, Russia, India, Asia and South America.  My clients included EDS, Midland Bank, National Westminster Bank, Cap Gemini, Cooperators Insurance, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Aviation Administration. 

I recently returned to teaching and am developing a web site to support my teaching practice.  When completed it will be the only training web site of its kind, with extensive videos and training knowledge from the world’s best teachers and performers of the past 150 years.

I now live in Punta del Este, Uruguay where I teach violin and viola and perform chamber music.  I teach both traditional and Suzuki methods.  I use standard the violin and viola literature, and I enhance it with my own exercises and practice techniques that I have developed over the past 50 years.  These techniques have been proven successful with my students in Uruguay, where they learn faster and more thoroughly than those trained only in traditional methods.  I make these materials available to my students at no extra charge.  I teach all ages of students from beginning to advanced.

I train my students to become problem solvers.  I do this by asking them questions that enable them to develop their understanding of what they are doing, where they can improve and what they need to do to improve.  I demonstrate frequently at each lesson, but I do not play along with the student, as this changes the focus from them to me and can make them feel that I am not listening to them.

I use the standard violin and viola literature, and I augment this with my own exercises and practice techniques that I have developed over the past 50 years.  For my beginning students this includes mostly special exercises that develop dexterity and coordination faster than traditional methods.  For the more advanced students it includes time management techniques and visualization strategies that overcome mental blocks that frustrate many performers. 

I am somewhat prescriptive for my beginning students, as they do not yet have the proper practice habits on their own and need careful guidance to so.  As they advance I encourage them to take a greater role in their learning destiny by selecting their own repertoire and developing their own solutions to their problems.  This is a gradual process that varies by student, but all my students become better problem solvers.

For the parents of my younger students, I stress that their child is learning powerful problem solving techniques that are not taught in university business school curriculums.  I know this to be true from my own experience and have written an article on this important subject that has been submitted for publication.

My Methodology: The Essential Violist

A good methodology enables the teacher to move a student more quickly through the stages of learning.  A complete methodology will cover more than the student has time to learn.  The teacher selects the elements that are best suited for the student, depending on their interests, career goals and available practice time.

I use a comprehensive and flexible methodology, The Essential Violist, that combines teaching knowledge from the following sources:

·        Traditional Teaching Method – I have read over 50 books written by famous teachers and educators of the past two centuries.  This knowledge has been incorporated throughout the extensive materials in the Essential Violist Methodology.

·        Suzuki Method – I am trained in the Suzuki Method and I use it for my beginning students, including adults.  The Suzuki Method focuses on the essentials and making their study an enjoyable experience.

·        The Essential Violist: Special Materials – I have developed a full range of teaching materials to augment those provided by the Traditional and Suzuki Methods of teaching, entitled The Essential Violist.  These materials include the following:

o   Three Volumes of Essential Technique – these volumes include over 500 pages of special exercises, practice techniques and detailed practice plans from beginning Viola to the most advanced stages.

o   Piano Exercises for Violinists and Violists – two volumes of piano exercises designed to improve violin and viola technique.  Volume-I includes over 40 exercises for the beginning and intermediate student.  These exercises promote better control, speed and accuracy in right and left hand techniques.  Volume-II includes over 100 exercises that focus on specific technical areas (thirds, sixths, octaves, spiccato, detache, staccato, saltando and other advanced left and right hand techniques).  Students who use these exercises improve more rapidly in the technical areas mentioned.

These exercises have been tested by my students, and have been shown to accelerate technical progress faster than more traditional methods.

·        Personalized Learning Programs – I develop a short and long-term learning program for each of my students.  An individualized Learning Program gives each student a greater sense of identity with and ownership of their learning experience.  I encourage each student to develop their own Learning Program, using the materials in the Essential Violist Methodology once they have an adequate understanding of its contents.

These materials have been used in my teaching practice in South America and are available to my students at no additional cost.

Web Site Support

I am developing a web site to make these materials more widely available and to provide video examples of practice and performance techniques.  When ready, it will be the most comprehensive web site of its kind and will include over 500 works by over 300 composers and a full range of teaching materials for many of the works.

Guiding Principles

The objective of The Essential Violist Methodology is not to present a new way of playing the violin or viola.  Although there are new exercises, different problem solving techniques and a different strategy for learning the technique and literature of the instrument, everything in the Methodology is taken from the real world of teaching and performance, and is based on the following principles:

·        Learning how to practice intelligently and efficiently is an enormous aid to progress.

·        One of the most important things a student can learn is how to solve technical and musical problems independently of their teacher.

·        Most students are more motivated to learn and learn faster when they have a greater sense of ownership in their learning destiny.

These three factors are stressed repeatedly throughout the Methodology.  Practice techniques are presented for each technical topic and repertoire work.  Some of these practice techniques are based on personal experience. However, most of them are based on what has been learned through studying the methods and habits of successful teachers and performing artists of the past 150 years.

I encourage each student to become their own problem solver.  Some students excel more in this practice than others, but all of them make visible progress in identifying problems and possible solutions.  As a result, they practice more efficiently and progress more rapidly.

Studies have shown that students learn better when they have more ownership in their own personal learning process.  Students are encouraged to use the Methodology and the web site (when it is available) site as reference sources to seek out their own solutions and to identify what pieces they want to study next.  If I don’t have the opportunity to teach a student personally, I hope that they will benefit from the materials that I use.