Ernest Bisong is a classically trained violinist who was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. He picked up the violin at the age of nine, after a short stint with the clarinet. He has since studied with several notable string tutors and performers including Rachel Barton-Pine (U.S.A.), Randy Sabien (U.S.A.), Daria Adams (violinist, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra), Sir Godfrey Amoah (Ghana) and Thomas Kanitz (Germany). In July 2013, he became the first Nigerian to obtain Performance Diploma certification from the Associate Board of the Royal Schools of Music in London with a distinction. Ernest is also a self taught jazz musician and has performed at concerts such as the Smooth FM Luxury Concert, the Lagos Jazz Festival, and the St. Paul Jazz Festival. He has as also opened concerts for Mike Stern, Richard Bona, Marcus Johnson, Anita Baker, and Marsha Ambrosius. In 2012, he was on the Nigerian contingent to perform at the African Showcase of the SXSW in Austin, TX. In the maiden edition of Venture Career Journal Nigeria released in 2013, he was referred to as “arguably Africa’s foremost contemporary violinist.” In 2016, he performed with Sheila E during the Prince Tribute Concert held at Minnesota’s prestigious Orchestra Hall. Ernest is currently a mentor with the Mobile Jazz Project which currently uses music and the arts as a conduit for reaching inner-city youths in the Twin Cities. Ernest currently holds a masters degree from McNally Smith College of Music in violin performance and is currently completing a second masters in Education at the University of St. Thomas also in St. Paul, Minnesota. He performs locally and across the country with the Ernest Bisong Group.
I have been fortunate in my life to be surrounded by great musicians and it is clearly evident the recordings I have collaborated on. Some of the finest musicians (actually artists in their own rights) here in the Twin Cities who have helped me craft historical monuments in the form of timeless recordings are Arthur Buckner (Drums), Steven Hobert (Piano/Synth), Ry Dill (Bass), Gary Raynor (Acoustic Bass), Chris Olson (Guitar), and Pete Whitman (Saxophone). Click below to check out my music!
Violin pedagogy has evolved over the years, with every decade seeing the preponderance of new teaching methods. Feats that were hitherto unimaginable are now commonplace as individuals with malformed limbs can now lead normal and productive lives with the aid of prostheses. Owing the current rate of technological advancement, it is almost impossible to remain on the cutting edge. As educators, we are prompted to think critically before subscribing to a teaching philosophy so that we can be party to the advancement of the current pedagogical spate of affairs and not constitute a drawback.
In my seven-year teaching experience, I believe that anyone with average motor skills can learn to play the violin with some proficiency as long as instruction and practice are Systematic, Continuous and Rigorous. With such a demanding instrument as the violin, a systematic approach in the presentation of ideas to the student will ensure that the foundation for good technique is laid and facility can be upgraded. When this is done continuously, good technique becomes a way of life. Rigor in this context does not necessarily translate to the exertion of physical strain. It only means that practice should be done meticulously and attention should be paid to every aspect of the task in view. This three–point approach forms the core of my teaching philosophy.
I also believe in creating an environment that fosters active participation and critical thinking with the use of concepts and imagery that are familiar to the student. I once taught a class on ‘Natural and Artificial Harmonics’ with this technique using the ‘Crest and Trough’ diagram of a sinusoidal wave. It was immediately apparent to this senior high school student that natural harmonics occur at the nodes – where the wave cuts through the x–axis and that artificial harmonics are produced at corresponding nodes relative to the shortening or lengthening of the string with the displacement of the index finger.
My students are given exercises to be completed before the next class so that a system for continuous evaluation is established. They are also made to perform at small–scale events such as house concerts and talent shows as a way to boost confidence by performing for audiences other than themselves and/or family.
I do not believe in imposing ideas on students. Instead, I help them understand complex scientific concepts such as frequency, helmets motion, helmholtz corner, helmholtz resonance and after length tuning using simple every day concepts. As such, my teaching philosophy is congruent with the fact that the classroom experience should be a refreshing adventure which seeks to lead students in a path of constructive analysis on the road to unlocking their unique identities as violinists and pedagogues of the future.