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Teaching

Ursula has taught at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama since  2011. She has taught on the staff of Conservatorium Maastricht in the Netherlands and given guest masterclasses at Conservatoires in Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Switzerland, Japan, China and the USA.

 

At GSMD Ursula is also Senior Tutor in Strings Chamber Music where the department has had much success in recent international competitions; the Marmen Quartet won First Prize at the Banff International String Quartet Competition 2019 and the Barbican Quartet were awarded First Prize in the 2022 ARD International Music Competition in Munich.

 

Former cello students include Karen Stephenson (Co-Principal, Philharmonia) Abigail Hayward (Aurea Quartet) Joshua Lynch, Zosia Jagodzinska and Alejandra Díaz Pérez (Co-Principal, Israel Symphony Orchestra) 

Ursula says: 'I have developed my teaching strategies over the course of a 30 year career. I try and approach each student as an individual and not use a ‘one size fits all method. That said - certain key points such as posture, alignment of the body with the instrument, structured and mindful use of practice time are key points from which I do not deviate. I encourage honest self reflection and  self appraisal by the student and ask a lot of questions. My central precept is that I should teach the student to a point where they no longer need me!' 

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'As a player and a teacher she is highly intelligent, expressive, detailed and inquisitive, always searching for different layers of meaning and subtleties in the score and adapting to her students' changing needs. These qualities lend a special depth of understanding and meaning to her performances and teaching practice'  Zosia Jagodzinska, former student

Testimonials

Zosia Jagodzinska - Cellist, Improviser, Composer (MMus Guildhall School of Music and Drama)

www.zosiamusic.co.uk Instagram: zosia_music

Ursula is an incredibly inspiring cellist, teacher and mentor and I am so grateful for her life changing lessons! The tools, exercises, ideas and encouragement she gave me still play a fundamental role in my life as a professional musician. Her teaching has had a profoundly positive, enriching and liberating impact on my approach to practice, performing and teaching.

 

She is sensitive, empathetic, generous and warm. Through her kind and supportive approach she is able to challenge and motivate students to overcome difficulties and push them out of their comfort zone to achieve their goals. Her open-minded and flexible approach challenges you to think differently, seeking deeper truths and meaning in the score and exploring fresh and creative angles to problem solve in practise sessions. Lessons were always very insightful, engaging and inspiring. Ursula is able to bring out her students’ most authentic selves to build confidence in the practise room and on the stage. She gently guides students to teach themselves so that they can cultivate greater patience, joy, creativity and confidence in being independent thinkers and lifelong learners.

 

On a technical level she gave me lots of helpful tools, exercises and ideas to transform my sound and expand my expressive capabilities; exploring a richer and more nuanced tonal and textural palette and phrasing, helping me portray the different emotions and atmospheres I imagined. Her teaching enabled me to find and express my voice!

 

On a personal level, she helped me to develop greater confidence in my own instincts and interpretative ideas and to be an open-minded ‘explorer’ in the practise room - imaginative, playful, patient and forgiving. This approach helped me to develop a wonderfully freeing feeling of spontaneity and expressive potential in performance and to grow in confidence on stage.

 

Ursula is a world class musician with a distinctive voice. Her playing has a very human and intimate quality - sensitive, honest and nuanced, like a natural extension of speaking or singing. Exceptionally technically skilled, with an open hearted and vulnerable approach, she moves audiences to tears and inspires her students. As a player and a teacher she is highly intelligent, expressive, detailed and inquisitive, always searching for different layers of meaning and subtleties in the score and adapting to her student’s changing needs. These qualities lend a special depth of understanding and meaning to her performances and teaching practice.

 

She is a truly inspirational cellist and teacher and I cannot recommend her highly enough!

Image by Massimo Sartirana

'I feel incredibly lucky to have spent time with such an inspiring, dedicated and empathetic teacher and I cannot recommend her highly enough'  Joshua Lynch, former student

Abigail Hayward, cellist, Aurea Quartet

I  feel lucky to have met Ursula at a difficult time in my studies.  She paid kind and focused attention to all aspects of my playing - something I really needed and benefited from. Her wise and holistic approach to teaching and physical awareness especially made it possible for me to complete my studies, and is something that I continue to apply to my own practise as a cellist and teacher.

Joshua Lynch, cellist and teacher. GSMD graduate 

Ursula is an exceptional teacher and musician. Her enthusiasm and commitment to all her students, paired with the ability to adapt her depth of musical and technical understanding to suit any individual, is second to none.

 

She is passionate about passing on her insightful knowledge and experience, both as a teacher and performing musician, whilst having a curiosity and drive to continue learning herself. Ursula's teaching style has greatly influenced not only my playing but also my own teaching where the investment in the individual, both as cellist and person, is key.

 

I feel incredibly lucky to have spent time with such an inspiring, dedicated and empathetic teacher and I cannot recommend her highly enough. 

ursula smith cello
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