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September 2009 Interview with Violinist Terje Moe Hansen

September 8, 2009 18:33

By Jasmine Reese

(Click on the photo to visit Terje's website.)

You started violin at 19 and progressed rapidly in three months.  Can you tell me what took place in those months before entering the Academy of Music in Oslo?

Prof. Hansen: I got my first violin lesson at 19. After three months of intense study, I was accepted as a full time student at the Academy of Music in Oslo. I have to say that the level for acceptance is much higher today. In [those] months, I was practicing around the clock. I remember my parents reaction, and they were afraid of my fanatic behavior.

Were you self-taught from the beginning? Or did you immediately start lessons with a teacher when you received your violin?

Prof. Hansen: My father, [an amateur violinist], was my first teacher for a couple of months before I got my first "real" lesson.

Had you studied music before taking up violin?

Prof. Hansen: I had played a little piano and guitar in a pop band.

Why did you start playing violin?

Prof. Hansen: When I heard my father's records with the fantastic violinists Alfredo Campoli and Herman Krebbers. [Because of] the influence of pop music, classical music was not let in to my life. When I took the time to really listen alone, I understood that music was my life.

How much time during those three months did you spend practicing?  Did you have a job or other obligations? 

Prof. Hansen: I had no job and practiced about 10 hours a day.

Wow! Did your family support you in this endeavor?  What kind of reaction did you receive from music educators?

Prof. Hansen: My parents were positive, but educators were skeptical. We do not really have a school or method for the late starter on violin. Often we are told to do something else. At least it is very hard to get a qualified teacher. The myth and belief that the technical grounding must be done in early age is still alive in many circles.

What happened in the two years before you started playing with professional orchestras?

Prof. Hansen: I played the traditional repertoire, scales and exercises. On the side, I started to develop my own method for faster learning of repertoire, ultimate control on the fingerboard and new exercises for sound quality.

Tell me a little bit about your method books.  What is the general goal of each book?

Prof. Hansen: In my books, I try to realize the dream of all string players to be able to perform all note connections and note shifts with the same degree of perfection. In the method, I present all intervals and shifts in a systematic and geometric way.

When you began playing professionally, were you truly ready?  Or did you have to revise your technique as you learned more from other professional musicians?

Prof. Hansen: I had to learn the magic of orchestra playing from the experienced musicians. But due to the new method, I was well prepared for the musical and technical challenges.

What do you feel really contributed to your fast progression—talent, genius, hard work, or a solid network of supporters?

Prof. Hansen: I had no extreme talents, but my will and enthusiasm and most of all creativity to change my practicing plans and habits led me to bigger goals. As grown up beginners, we cannot base our work on limitations, but we must all the time fail and try again.  Constructive experimentation is a fun but slow way.

When did you start teaching?  Do you teach many late starters nowadays?

Prof. Hansen: I started to teach when my fellow students experienced my progression and wanted advice. I love to teach late starters, but I mostly teach advanced students and professionals.

If you had never received your violin, what profession would you have pursued?

Prof. Hansen: I do not want to think in this direction.

Career pursuit aside, why do you feel everyone of all ages should learn music and study it well?

Prof. Hansen: Because musical communication is the most noble link between persons. 

Recently, there has been some debate on the meaning of virtuoso and what it means to truly be one.  You are considered a virtuoso.  How long do you think it took you to be a virtuoso?  And what is your definition of it?

Prof. Hansen: For me, a virtuoso is the artist that can communicate all his [or her] musical intentions. I am still [working towards] this [accomplishment].

LSM viewer, Lily, from San Francisco asks, "Do you think it is silly for someone who starts over the age of 13 to dream of becoming a professional musician?"

Prof. Hansen: Not at all. I hope I can be to some inspiration for late starters, and there are many examples that proves that it is possible.

What practical advice would you give to a passionate late starter who feels music is in his or her blood?

Prof. Hansen: Do not hurry. When you meet new problems enjoy the process of learning by changing the tactic and working plans. Slow learning is beautiful. Find your own tempo and level. Meet your challenges with enthusiasm...and use your fantasy, maturity and intuition to do it your way.

In a few months, will be collaborating with Prof. Hansen in the form of possible video tutorials and masterclasses. Stay tuned...

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