Issue 63 | November 7, 2013 | Making Sweet Music


In our watchfulness to find interesting students to tell you about, we are never disappointed. After enjoying this beautifully-crafted YouTube clip on making a cello, read the story of Benjamin Wilke, a home schooled student from Clinton, Connecticut, who built a cello under the oversight of a master, his own father, Lawrence Wilke. 

INSIDE NARHS: Integrity of Study

There are some similarities between mastering the art of cello making and becoming an excellent student.  It takes time and effort; you cannot cut corners.
That is why we ask parents and students to sign the "Integrity of Study" form during the registration process.  Five important practices will help students stretch to achieve a long- lasting education.

  1. Students, be accountable to someone who can give you feedback on the quality of your efforts.
  2. Parents, evaluate student work with specific standards in mind.
  3. Use averaged grades, accumulated through the study period to determine the course grade.  If a course is given 100%, that means the student did a perfect job on every assignment with the first attempt.
  4. A purpose of a test is to determine if the student has truly understood the concepts well enough that they are stored in the long-term memory, not to test whether the student's book has the right answers.
  5. Plagiarism is essentially cutting-corners.  Understand what plagiarism involves and help your student not to take the easy route.

With these guidelines in mind, your student can be trained little by little to prepare for the next level of mastery, craftsmanship and education. 

Making Sweet Music (and the instrument to play it on)

Most master cello makers are reluctant to take on apprentices, because they have developed craft secrets that they risk sharing.   However, when it comes to a father training those valuable skills into his passionate son, that is another story.  Lawrence Wilke, after learning to make cellos at age 16, now works at that occupation full time.  He has won enough competitions to prove that he is a master; his clientele are mostly professionals and college students who have been directed to his shop by their music professors (and not a few of those professors are also customers).

What an opportunity for his son, Benjamin, who for the past two years has been spending time working with his dad, going step-by-step to complete one excellent cello. Lawrence can make 6-8 quality instruments a year. Since the selling price can be approximately $36,000, his labor can make an excellent living.

Now that Benjamin has finished his cello, the next step is to enter it into a competition which occurs this weekend in Baltimore, Maryland, where experts can critique it for quality craftsmanship and tone.  Benjamin has three things going for him: the skills learned from a master, his own talents & passion, and a name which is well-known. On that basis, his cello will be scrutinized.  The final nod will come if he sells the instrument as a result of the competition.  Will his efforts show promise?  Assuming the new cello passes the test, he could sell it for $10,000 - $20,000.

Meanwhile, two more goals are now on Benjamin's "to-do" list as part of his daily routine:  learn how to repair cellos and learn how to play cellos.  A craftsman must be able to produce a certain tone-level from the instrument to discern if the product is quality.

Here we home schoolers enter familiar territory with testing that tells us if we have met the goal or not.   So Benjamin works to play the instrument. However, playing it correctly is not all that difficult, right?
As far learning to play the cello is concerned, that is easy, according to Johann Sebastian Bach:
"It's easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself."

We leave you now with John Rihani of Encore Orchestral playing one of Lawrence Wilke's incredible instruments (this is the same instrument pictured above):