Teacher Spotlight on Julia Wen, cello

Julia Wen, Suzuki cello instructor

Interview by Erin Cano, violin


Julia joined MIC in 2016


What led you to become a Suzuki teacher?
Quite literally my Suzuki teacher, Gilda Barston. The summer after I graduated high school, she told me to get my Book 1 training and I obeyed (because she’s Gilda!). I submitted my audition and returned to CSI for another summer, except this time I was a teacher training participant, not a student. After ECC and Book 1, I saw my Suzuki education in an entirely new light. If Gilda could put up with my lackadaisical practice habits for 12 years and somehow draw out a love for music and teaching despite all the disorganization, then there really must be something to the Suzuki Method.


Which of your teachers inspired you the most? What aspects of their teaching have you integrated into your own style?

All of my teachers have inspired me, each in a different way. Gilda Barston inspired me to teach; to be a teacher whose patience, creativity, and investment would create a cello family that thrives on peer encouragement. Daniel Morganstern’s high expectations gave me the willpower to change my pre-college habits and to take ownership of my studies. Richard Hirschl taught me how to practice. Once I learned to practice efficiently I could play with freedom and enjoyment, which then made me realize, “Hey, I’m a musician!” Alan Stepansky inspired me by simply playing during our lessons. I strive daily for an ounce of his easy, warm, embracing tone. Tanya Carey and Bai-Chi Chen demonstrated the importance of setting strong foundations, keeping the big picture in mind, and freely sharing their wisdom. Each of my teachers built up different parts of my playing and teaching abilities, but the thing they all shared was a genuine concern for my well-being as a person, not just as a cellist.


What was your favorite Suzuki piece to play when you were a young student?

Scherzo in Book 3! You get your superhero speed action and sappy, over-the-top romance in one piece.


Do you play any other instruments besides the cello? If not, what other instrument would you like to be able to play?

I can kind of play the piano... I’m participating in the 100 Day Practice Challenge with my students, and my challenge is on the piano. If I could play the piano as well as I do the cello, then the next instrument I’d like to play really well would be my voice. Once upon a time there were Broadway dreams…


What’s on your listening list right now?

I listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts while I drive. “The World and Everything In It,” “The Briefing with Albert Mohler,” and “A Time and a Plate” are some of the current regulars. I’ve also discovered a book series, The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson. It’s like a Narnia/Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter mash and it definitely keeps me awake during my commutes. I love to read and now I can “read” all the time!