August Teacher Spotlight: Dr. Robert Gillespie

This month we're going to focus on the amazing and accomplished violinist/ professor, Dr. Robert Gillespie. You probably know Gillespie from being Chair of Music Education at Ohio State University or recognize him from being co-author of the Hal Leonard string method book series, Essential Elements for Strings. Gillespie has truly dedicated his life to the wonderful world of strings, and working with him is always an honor. If you'd like to learn more about him, continue to read his biography below and our exclusive interview with him!

"Robert Gillespie, violinist and professor of music, is Chair of Music Education at Ohio State University where he is responsible for string teacher training. Ohio State has one of the largest and most extensive string pedagogy degree programs in the nation. Under Dr. Gillespie’s leadership, Ohio State University received the 2015 Institutional String Education Award as the premier string education university in the country. Dr. Gillespie is a past national President of the American String Teachers Association. He is a frequent guest conductor of All-State, region, and festival orchestras. Dr. Gillespie has appeared in 47 states, Canada, Asia, and throughout Europe. He is co-author of the Hal Leonard string method book series, Essential Elements for Strings, the leading string instrument teaching series in the country with sales of over nine million copies. Also he is co-author of the college text Strategies for Teaching Strings: Building A Successful School Orchestra Program, the String Clinics to Go DVD series, and the Teaching Music Through Performance in Orchestra texts for GIA publications. He received the Distinguished Scholar award for 2002-2003 in the School of Music at Ohio State University. In summers, Gillespie directs the OSU String Teacher Workshop, the largest string/orchestra teacher-training workshop in the country. In Columbus, he conducts the Columbus Symphony Chamber Strings Youth Orchestra. He is a performing violinist in the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra. During the 2017-2018 academic year, Gillespie gave string pedagogy and research presentations, and conducted orchestra performances in Ohio, Maine, Louisiana, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, Alabama, Missouri, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Florida, and Oregon. In the 2018-2019 he once again will be working with students and teachers throughout the United States, including a week long professional residency in Switzerland. In addition, he will be conducting concerts in LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and Chicago’s Orchestra Hall."

What city do you currently teach in?

Columbus, OH

What instruments do you play/ teach?

Violin & Viola

How did your career in music get started?

Funny, but true story! When I was 7 years old, a man knocked on the front door of our house. My mom answered the door. The man worked for a violin teacher in town. He was going house to house asking if anyone was at home who would like to learn to play the violin. My mom invited him in. He gave me a music ability test. He said that I scored well. He asked if I would like to learn to play the violin. I could not think of a reason why not. My mom said it was okay for me to sign up. I agreed and I began taking lessons. My life has never been the same! (Of course, it is likely that the salesman worked on commission so I am sure everyone he gave the music test to scored high!)

What’s your favorite piece to play?

The Vitali Chaconne

What are some of your other hobbies?

Watching movies, reading just about anything, weightlifting (Who would have thought!)

What has been your favorite moment as a teacher?

Seeing the joy on the faces of my students after playing something well.

What do you find to be the best motivator for students?

Success in playing and simple love for the instrument.

What are your future goals as a musician and teacher?

Musician: To bless people when they hear me play; Teacher: To get better and better as a teacher every day to help my students and continue the great art of string instrument playing.

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?

Realize why you are working so hard to play your instrument: To uplift people when they hear you play. This is why we do what we do. A few years ago I was playing in one of the cancer wards at a hospital. My violin case was behind me sitting on a gurney. Someone came by while I was playing and wrote a note and put it in my case. I noticed it when I finished playing. They said: “Thank you for your playing. It made me feel good. I needed that today.” I still have the note in my case. It reminds me of the reason we play.

Fun fact?

I grew up in Oregon where my father owned horses. He taught me to barrel race (Race horses in a configuration around barrels as fast as you could.) I still remember it. It was great fun!!

Courtney Kappa