“Paul Rolland was the first to use science-based research to consider the role of movement in the acquisition of stringed-instrument performance technique. His movement-centered approach has had worldwide influence in the teaching of children to play stringed instruments.”
Plaque honoring Paul Rolland, University of Illinois School of Music
“No one has rendered greater service to violin playing than Paul Rolland,” said Yehudi Menuhin. Born in Hungary, Paul Rolland (1911-1978) became fascinated by the violin from an early age, listening to the Hungarian gypsy orchestras and requested to have violin lessons. He later was accepted into the prestigious Franz Liszt Academy to study violin and viola. Upon graduation his teacher, Imre Waldbauer, asked him to create and teach a curriculum for a violin methods course. This assignment would prove to be a pivotal event, affecting Rolland’s teaching, research and outcomes, and advocacy as both a mentor and music education activist for the course of his professional life.
“No one has rendered greater service to violin playing than Paul Rolland,” said Yehudi Menuhin.
Paul Rolland came to the United States in 1938 as the violist in the Pro Ideale Quartet. In 1945 he accepted the position of professor of violin and chair of the string department at the University of Illinois. For the next twenty years he worked on pursuing clinical investigations of his theory of whole body action, whole-to-part-to-whole, an approach to string playing that encompassed biomechanics, kinesiology, physiology, movement, sequential motions and patterns, and auditory and rhythm training. Rolland deconstructed each variable in violin playing on both macro and micro levels to develop his pedagogical approach, which “would
systematically establish natural playing movements free from excessive tension, creating a firm foundation of basic technique and tone production, freedom and ease in playing” for students and performers of all ages.
His (Rolland's) pedagogical approach, which would systematically establish natural playing movements free from excessive tension, creating a firm foundation of basic technique and tone production, freedom and ease in playing”
In 1966 Rolland and U of I Professor Richard Colwell proposed and designed the government- funded University of Illinois String Research Project to test and validate his work. The project focused on all elements of Rolland’s theories with an applied curricular emphasis on the critical first two years of a student’s instruction. With the editorial assistance of Dr. Marla Mutschler,
Rolland authored the text and developed the film series, The Teaching of Action in String Playing, based on the project’s Final Report and films, presenting the essential research results in a sequential curricular format. The films (DVD) of the Champaign-Urbana project group taught by Rolland and Mutschler examine all the project subject areas of the two-year instructional program. In Rolland’s words, “These are the audio-visual presentation of the whole-to-part-to-whole concept” of every physiological movement, playing action and pattern in precise detail and how they are optimally mastered. Rolland and composer, Stanley Fletcher, collaborated on publishing New Tunes for Strings, teaching materials and compositions which are taught in conjunction with the action studies in The Teaching of Action in String Playing.
Additionally, Rolland is remembered for his advocacy of the string teaching profession as a founding member of the American String Teachers Association. He continued to serve this organization as the founder and editor of the journal, American String Teacher, publications chair, and president. He was an innovator in higher education nationally by his development of the first string pedagogy courses for teacher education and performance degrees at Simpson College and the University of Iowa. He presented at hundreds of national and international workshops and established the annual Paul Rolland International Workshop. At the University of Illinois he was responsible for the resident Walden String Quartet members having tenured faculty status, the Illinois Summer Youth Music programs, and a progressive music extension department outreach program throughout the state. For these and his many other leadership roles and accomplishments the American String Teachers Association awarded him with the
Distinguished Service and Artist Teacher Awards. In his honor, ASTA created the Paul Rolland Lifetime Achievement Award, to be given to an individual of renowned stature in string education. Rolland was also a recipient of the Eugene Ysaye Medal for his pedagogical research.
Rolland is remembered for his advocacy of the string teaching profession as a founding member of the American String Teachers Association.
The University of Illinois erected a plaque at the entrance to the School of Music, honoring Paul Rolland and the Illinois String Project with the inscription, “Paul Rolland was the first to use science-based research to consider the role of movement in the acquisition of stringed-instrument performance technique. His movement-centered approach has had worldwide influence in the
teaching of children to play stringed instruments.”
Dr. Michael Fanelli
Professor Emeritus, University of Northern Iowa