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Teaching Philosophy

I thrive on seeing my students deepen their relationship with music and humanity through their cello studies, and I’m committed to doing everything possible to guide and strengthen their paths toward that goal. Cello teaching has been a constant in my life since the age of 20, and I’ve always strived to address the emotional, mental, physical, collaborative, social, and transcendent aspects of instrumental music-making in a way that’s individually balanced for each student. My primary aspiration is that students gain a love for the cello and its music so that it radiates throughout their lives, both inwardly and outwardly.

I’ve successfully prepared numerous high school students to thrive at conservatories and high-level university music departments, and, for those pursuing non-musical careers, to participate with pleasure and generosity in their university and community music programs. I believe that every student benefits the most by working as though they intend to pursue a career in music. Both aspiring music professionals and those pursuing other careers will gain numerous transferable learning and life skills and ensure the greatest pleasure from music in their lives.

I focus on both musical expression and technical proficiency, believing that these are inextricably linked. I encourage students to learn about the larger world of music by attending concerts, master classes, and other performing arts, along with viewing all these and more online. Physically I employ years of experience in eliminating tension and discomfort in playing. My approach includes scale studies, exercises, etudes, and virtuoso pieces aimed at gaining the facility and ease with the instrument that allows one’s inner musical ideas and feelings to flow freely through the physical self. I believe that one of the primary roles of a teacher is to impart and develop effective and enjoyable practice techniques, striving to achieve practice as—in the words of Yehudi Menuhin—a “refined art that partakes of intuition, of inspiration, patience, elegance, clarity, balance, and, above all, the search for ever greater joy in movement and expression.”

Primarily a teacher of musically gifted teenagers, I also enjoy working with younger, college-age, and adult students. I work most effectively with students who are eager to learn, excited about the cello and classical music, ambitious, collaborative, and driven to be the best cellists and musicians that they can be. With a studio open to all, I have a long history of teaching students from underrepresented backgrounds in Western classical music, and one of my central life missions is to see that world reflect the demographics of our society.

Caring deeply about both people and music, I view the relationship between teacher and student as sacred: two individuals working shoulder to shoulder to achieve the very best for the student, both humanly and musically. I bring to my teaching a deep sense of responsibility and rich experience as a cello devotee, educator, and conductor of professional, youth, and amateur orchestras. I believe in the power of musical learning and performance as a vehicle for human development and social justice—a model of true education.


Dr. Mark Churchill has had the privilege of a long career as a cellist, conductor, educator, and innovative thinker. He is Dean Emeritus of New England Conservatory’s Department of Preparatory and Continuing Education (now Expanded Education), which he led for 31 years. Under his leadership, the Preparatory School became known as one of the best programs of its kind in the nation, emphasizing serious, professional training for pre-college students. He established the School of Continuing Education and Department of Community Collaborations in addition to numerous community-based programs and local, national, and international partnerships, most notably NEC at Walnut Hill, the Orchestra of the Americas, Project STEP, and El Sistema USA and the Abreu Fellows Program at NEC. In 2021 El Sistema USA established the Mark Churchill Teacher of the Year Award to honor his legacy.

Mark is currently on the faculty of the NEC Preparatory School and has taught at major summer programs including the Heifetz Institute, Musicorda, Cremona International Music Festival, Foulger Institute, and Greenwood Music Camp.

As a cellist, he has appeared as soloist, recitalist, and chamber music player throughout the United States and on tours of South America. He has performed as soloist with the NEC Symphony and Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, Hartt Symphony Orchestra, Thayer Conservatory Orchestra, Symphony Pro Musica, and Merrimack Symphony, among others. He has also appeared in Seoul, Hong Kong, and Taiwan with Trio Pro Musica and on tours of New England and Brazil with Trio Pan Americano. In 2016 he was named Cellist of the Year by the Boston Cello Society and in 2005 awarded Harvard’s prestigious Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award.

Mark is widely known as a conductor in New England and abroad. He has been Music Director of Massachusetts-based Symphony Pro Musica since 1982 and was Associate Conductor of the Boston Ballet from 1990 to 2012. He was also Resident Conductor of the Asian Youth Orchestra (1990–2001) and Conductor of the Thayer Symphony Orchestra (1976–1983) and the Salisbury Lyric Opera and Chamber Orchestra (1986–2005). Guest conducting engagements include Tokyo’s Komaki Ballet, the National Ballet of Mongolia, and the New Zealand National Youth Orchestra.

Throughout his career, Mark has been an active advocate for the improvement and expansion of music education programs in American schools. In addition to El Sistema USA and Project STEP, a pre-professional support program for string students of color, he was a founding board member of the Conservatory Lab Charter School and the Berkshire Institute of Theology and the Arts. Churchill was married to violinist/educator and NEC faculty member, the late Marylou Speaker Churchill. His twin daughters, Emma and Julia were students of the NEC Preparatory School for 14 years before pursuing professional music studies in college.

Photo by Paul Marotta

B.M., M.M., NEC; D.M.A., Hartt School of Music. Studies with Herbert Blomstedt and Charles Bruck (conducting); Rudolf Kolisch (chamber music); and Raya Garbousova, Laurence Lesser,  David Soyer and Benjamin Zander (cello).