About Nathan Cole
Hi, I’m Nathan. I help violinists and violists play the way they’ve always dreamed. I’m also First Associate Concertmaster of the
Los Angeles Philharmonic, and I teach at the Colburn Conservatory. I’ve been teaching online since 2001.
How I Got Here
I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, and both my parents were flute teachers.
Most of their friends were musicians too, so I assumed that everyone played an instrument. Eventually I asked what my instrument was, so when I was four, my mom took me to a group music class called “Suzuki”.
By The Time I Was 11, I Started Attending Summer Programs For The Violin, “Music Camps.”
There I finally met other kids from around the country who played as much violin as I did. But while I was still practicing just an hour a day, some of these kids were putting in four! And when I heard the pieces they were playing, I started to understand why.
I never liked practicing very much, but I loved playing the violin.
I liked the fast songs best, but I got frustrated when I didn’t sound the same as the person on the Suzuki record. Luckily, my parents were just as patient with me as they were with their flute students. So was my first teacher Donna Wiehe, who taught 80 half-hour lessons each week!
It Was Time To Say Good-Bye To Mrs. Wiehe, Who Passed Me Along To The Professor At The University Of Kentucky, Daniel Mason.
He had studied with the great Jascha Heifetz (although that didn’t mean much to me yet!) All of a sudden, things got a lot tougher. I was playing more difficult music, “grown-up pieces” as Mr. Mason liked to say. I still disliked practicing, but I gradually got up to two hours a day.
1993: Things got more serious when I was 15. At that point I had to choose whether the violin was something I really wanted to do in college, and perhaps for the rest of my life. And that summer, I heard a major orchestra for the first time: the National Symphony, during a summer camp in Washington, D.C. I still remember sitting in the balcony, listening to the slow movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. For the first time, I could see myself on that stage, and I knew that if I kept putting in steady work, I could make it happen.
Meanwhile, in high school, I found myself teaching my fellow students… not violin, but math, English, physics, you name it! Usually when someone came to me for help, there was just one piece of information they were missing, one key thing they didn’t understand… and then they’d be unstuck and good to go. I couldn’t rest until that happened (I wasn’t always the most popular kid in school)!
Music School, Or Conservatory, Was The Logical Next Step, But To Get There, I Would Have To Put Together A Big Audition Program:
Two concertos, solo Bach, a Paganini caprice, even scales!
This may not have been a big deal for the four-hour-a-day kids, but it was the biggest project I had ever taken on. That was the time I discovered the tape recorder, and the great things it could do for my playing (along with the terrible things it could do for my ego!)
When I Arrived At The Curtis Institute In Philadelphia, I Realized I Had Some Catching Up To Do.
My days of practicing two hours were over! And so were my days of learning from a patient teacher who would tell me how to practice. My four teachers at Curtis (Pamela Frank, Felix Galimir, Ida Kavafian, and Jaime Laredo) were all outstanding artists, but they weren’t going to spoon-feed me. They weren’t much concerned with my practice process, just the weekly results. And they weren’t shy about expressing their displeasure when I came up short. Luckily, I discovered chamber music at Curtis. String quartet playing, in particular, was just the outlet I needed any time solo work got too frustrating.
Now That You Know How I Got Here…
My learning about calculus and chemistry may have hit a wall after high school, but I’ve never stopped discovering new things about the violin. And I still feel the same way about roadblocks now as I did then. With the right piece of information at the right time, there isn’t a player on the planet who can’t get unstuck and reach their next level.
And I can’t rest until that happens for you. Get in touch with me here, and discover how I can help.
Free Guide: 8 Most Common Practice Mistakes
If you’re making any of these mistakes in the practice room, you could be killing your progress and wasting your hard-earned time. Here’s what to do instead: