New Video from 4-Way String Project

As hard as it is to imagine right now, school starts in two weeks! 4-Way will once again be in residence at Woodford Paideia, assisting with 5th and 6th grade orchestra, this time for the whole school year. We’ll begin our after school program in early September, and we can’t wait! There will be more news coming soon about the program, new supporters, and upcoming concerts – stay tuned! In the meantime, here’s a video Kevin made with highlights from last year’s program – I hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and if you’re able to support our work, please click the donate button below the video – thank you!


First Day of (After) School

Yesterday, 4-Way began our education program! After a quick snack, we started playing. Led by our amazing violin teacher, Trista Emmons, by the end of the afternoon we had the kids playing simple duets together, and had some pretty impressive bowholds to show off, too!


We ended the afternoon with some “body percussion”, led by Woodford’s awesome music teacher, Angela Carota – here’s a snippet:


It was a great way to start the program, and the new year – I can’t wait till next Tuesday!

A special thank you to all our donors – we couldn’t do this without you! If you’d like to help support the program, please click the button below.

Thanks – more soon!




For a long time, I’ve wanted to share my take on the Bach cello suites with a wider audience, so I’ve decided to make a series of videos – each one will cover one movement.  No better place to start than the beginning, with the most famous of Bach’s pieces for solo cello, the Prelude to the G major Suite. I hope you like the video and that the music brings you the same joy it brings me. In exchange, I’m asking you to consider supporting something else I care deeply about.

Many of you know I have also started a non-profit string quartet, 4-Way, and we’re raising funds for our free education program. So, especially because it’s Giving Tuesday, please think about making a tax-deductible donation if you like the video. Please post your comments, and share this with your online community!



Donate Button with Credit Cards


Till next time (and the G major Allemande!),





Roger screws up.

As many of you know, my quartet, 4-Way, has been teaching this year at Woodford Paideia Elementary School – we’re helping out the 5th and 6th grade orchestra classes, and giving some private lessons. We’re also getting to know some of the kids we’ll be working with starting in January, when our after-school program begins.

Last week at Woodford, I worked with several young cellists, and one moment in particular stuck with me. I was teaching French Folk Song (a staple of beginning string players from the Suzuki method) to a very enthusiastic 5th grader (let’s call her Riley for now) – a child whose photo should appear alongside the dictionary entry for the word “radiant.” However, she became very upset with herself every time she made a mistake. “I’m a perfectionist,” she explained.

I know that feeling all too well, as most musicians do – you can’t play an instrument well without setting high standards for yourself. I gently told her that her instinct to correct her mistakes was good, but that getting upset at herself wasn’t helpful or healthy. I reminded her that I made mistakes all the time, and that she should accept and indeed, embrace those mistakes as the critical learning tools they are.

Yesterday morning, I played a Youth and Family concert with the Cincinnati Symphony – 2,500 elementary school-age kids packed the Taft Theater for a program entitled “American Journey”. I love doing stuff like this – it is always fun to witness the energy of the audience right before the concert starts, with all the kids chatting and bouncing in their seats.

During the show, I was reminded that kids understand some things better than grownups do. During our performance of the slow movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Chris Philpotts, the CSO’s marvelous English horn player, gave a beautiful rendition of the famous solo, and the kids (sadly unfamiliar with the classical music tradition of sitting still and shutting up no matter how much you’re enjoying yourself) applauded wildly, until they were quickly shushed by their teachers and chaperones. Audience training begins early – sigh.

What my lesson with Riley and the stifled enthusiasm of the kids both highlight are the dangers of overcorrecting behavior. In her case, she’s decided (as too many of us often do) that mistakes are something to feel bad about. Luckily, it’s fixable – if she enrolls in our program (and I really hope she does), we can work every week on putting that perfectionism to work for her in a positive way. In the case of the audience at the Taft, it’s a little more complicated.

I am sure that many of those kids had never been to an orchestra concert before, and that their teachers, with only the best of intentions, gave them strict instructions to be on their best behavior, which is certainly good. Still, those kids experienced what music is all about during Chris’s solo, and responded naturally – I bet that many of them thought, “That was awesome – why can’t I show my appreciation?” And just as this might have been their first orchestra concert, it also could well be their last, and if their takeaway was, “Don’t show it when you like something – it’s not appropriate,” well, I could hardly blame them for not wanting to come back later in their lives.

Now, I certainly understand the importance of crowd control in a hall with 2,500 kids – without it, anarchy would set in real fast. But maybe there’s a way to have both decorum and enthusiasm. What if the conductor had acted like a jazz bandleader, and told the audience before each piece – or even just one piece – which instruments would be featured, and that they should feel free to clap after each solo? I bet it would work just fine – it’s certainly worth a try. Maybe we could try it with the adults, too – remember, Mozart expected that sort of behavior!

For my part, I can’t wait to start working with Riley and her classmates at Woodford after school every week, and help them learn from their mistakes. I’ll be posting regular updates here and on the blog at In the meantime, we are hard at work raising the money we’ll need – if you would like to help us out, please click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to donate via PayPal. Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!


Till next time,



Back to School


Today, the school year begins here in Cincinnati, and as a parent of two, I couldn’t be happier. Even better is the news that Cincinnati Public Schools is putting the arts front and center at two magnet elementary schools, and I’m pleased to announce that 4-Way will begin its education program this year at one of them!

As part of its Vision 2020 plan, CPS has designated Woodford Paideia to be one of its specialized schools, with an emphasis on strings – that’s where we come in. There will also be a band program at Chase Elementary in Northside, as well as programs built around tech, entrepreneurship, and environmental stewardship at various other schools around the city. To make the arts the central, defining feature of two elementary schools is a bold step, and I hope we can help CPS make the case that all schools should have the same opportunity.

Today, 4-Way will perform for the entire school. Beginning in October, once a week, we will come in and teach chamber music and ensemble skills to the 5th and 6th grade orchestra classes. We’ll also begin identifying kids to join our free, after-school lesson and chamber music program, which will start in January. By the spring, we hope to have the kids performing short pieces, both as soloists and in groups without a conductor!

This will take a lot of help, from Woodford’s students, parents, teachers and staff, and we’ll need your help too! We’ve already secured grants from ArtsWave and the Ohio String Teachers Association, and will be doing lots of fundraising this fall to raise more money for the program. Here are three ways you can help us:

  • We’ll be performing a series of house concert fundraisers – if you’d like to host one, click here to e-mail me.
  • In a few weeks, we’ll begin an Indiegogo campaign – we’d love to hear your suggestions for 4-Way swag to be given to donors, so please post them in the comments, or e-mail us!
  • If you’d like to contribute directly, click here to go to the Paypal site set up by our fiscal agent, the Kennedy Heights Arts Center, to accept tax-deductible donations to 4-Way’s education program. You can also find the link to donate at our website,

Sorry, got to get to class now! More news soon – thanks for your support!