Uri Vardi has performed as a recitalist, soloist, and chamber player across the United States, Europe, South America, and his native Israel. Born in Szeged, Hungary, Vardi grew up on kibbutz Kfar Hahoresh, Israel. He studied at the Rubin Academy in Tel Aviv, was an Artist Diploma student at Indiana University, and earned his Master's degree from Yale University. His teachers have included Janos Starker, Aldo Parisot, Eva Janzer, and Uzi Wiesel. Vardi has recorded and toured widely with the Israel Chamber Orchestra and was a founding member of the Sol-La-Re String Quartet. He has served as Assistant Principal Cellist of the Israel Chamber Orchestra and Principal Cellist of the Israel Sinfonietta.
In 1990, following an extensive teaching and performing career in Israel, Vardi was appointed professor of Cello at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to his work at Wisconsin, Vardi has taught and conducted master classes at numerous music schools, including the Juilliard School, New England Conservatory, Indiana University, Yale University, Eastman School, Oberlin College, Cleveland Institute of Music, University of Iowa, Ohio State University, Geneva Conservatory (Switzerland), Paris Conservatory (France), and the Jerusalem Music Center (Israel). He has also participated in several Summer Music Festivals across the U.S. and Israel. Professor Vardi's students have been successful as soloists, chamber players, faculty members of major music schools, and members of major orchestras. In his teaching, Vardi puts great emphasis on the choreography of playing, the relationship between movement and sound. In order to further his understanding of this approach, Vardi has specialized in the Feldenkrais Method, for which he received the 1999 UW-Madison Arts Institute Faculty Development Award. He completed a Feldenkrais Practictioners Training and was certified by the Feldenkrais Guild of North America and by the International Feldenkrais Federation as a Feldenkrais practitioner in 2003.
My Teaching Philosophy
I believe that my principal role as a teacher is to help my students become aware of who they are and to help them grow. It is not to define their faults nor cure them. The driving force in this process is my curiosity in the unique makeup of each of my students. As a cello teacher, I not only challenge my students to understand the intentions of each composer, I also help them to explore their inner world, and to express their unique voice within the context of the composition.
Most of the learning occurs in the process of working towards a musical goal. When I teach a musical composition, I both make sure that the students have a firm understanding of the meaning of the text (structurally, melodically, harmonically), and I challenge them to attend to their habitual ways of musical expression. Musical expression encompasses the whole range of human emotions. Although the exploration of expressive nuances does not necessarily lead directly to the ultimate mastery of a composition, it frequently results in the expansion of the student's personality and music-making abilities. This way of learning is organic rather than linear. Instead of setting concrete, simple goals and learning the prescribed tools to attain them, in organic learning, the experimentation with different ideas provides the student with the freedom to choose among a whole array of options for expressing a musical intention.
The same principle of encouraging the search for a variety of options applies to the technical mastery of the musical instrument. This principle, in combination with the systematic approach to cello playing, which I learned primarily from Janos Starker, strengthens my efficacy as a cello teacher. This is because, in order for my students to gain the ability to meet any composition's demands, they must have a vast repertoire of movements that will give them the freedom to use their bodies with maximum efficiency. Most of us accept the ways we move as if they are a part of our genetic makeup, whereas in reality, we learned to move by trial and error, and our nervous system is wired according to our experiences. Unless we are challenged to question this wiring, and to explore new possibilities of movement, we limit our range of expression. I constantly challenge my students to explore new ways of moving while playing, and to correlate them with minute differences in the quality of sound. Through my experience, I have found that when students discover the power of becoming aware of minute differences in their movement, it is not only their sound that changes, but also their coordination, and overall technical proficiency.
The most fascinating aspect for me in approaching teaching in this manner, is that my students come to not only discover their personal involvement in the communication of a musical composition, and their ability to efficiently express it on their instrument, but they also very often gain self-confidence and imagination. The benefits of body awareness also help them in the prevention of injury, and in the healing after a disabling injury.
In addition to my cello teaching at the University of Wisconsin School of Music I offer a two credit course titled Feldenkrais for Musicians. The course is open to all instrumentalists, and includes a weekly Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement class, and a weekly masterclass which concentrates on options of movement in relations to musical intention.
I offered Feldenkrais private lessons, masterclasses, and Awareness Through Movement classes at several summer music festivals, and in summer 2008 I directed the Madison Summer Cello Institute, and since 2010 I direct the National Summer Cello Institute
I have presented numerous cello masterclasses and workshops in the U.S., Europe, South America, Taiwan and Israel. Whenever I present a masterclass the principle of body awareness as related to intent and execution, production of sound, and communication of musical ideas, is an integral part of my teaching.
Cellists and other musicians from across the country have seeked my help in coping with music related injuries and efficient use of the body. I feel fortunate that I am able to help my students leave behind unhealthy habits that have limited or disabled them, and take them on a path of healthier and more fulfilling music making.
Read Healthy Practices: Feldenkrais, Movement, and Music
in Wisconsin Cello Society Newsletter, Opus.5 No.1 Summer 2004