University of South Carolina

Professorís heartstrings tied to cello

By Frenche` Brewer,, 803-777-3691

It takes a special temperament to teach. Some might go as far as to say it’s a calling. That rings true for Robert Jesselson.

“I do it because I love it -- I love teaching, I love being in my studio with the students and seeing the joy that they go through learning new pieces,” Jesselson says. “I’ve seen them grow and change over the years and it gives me great satisfaction.”

Jesselson’s love of music and the arts fuel his drive to introduce others to the vocation he believes enriches lives. You see it in his body language as he coaches his cello students as they perfect a piece to be played at an upcoming concert.

It’s also evident in his legacy as the former director of the String Project, which offers strong lessons to children taught by undergraduate students and, under his leadership, achieved national acclaim as a model for 44 other programs.

“My dream is that every child in South Carolina has the opportunity to play an instrument and have some experience in the arts,” Jesselson says.

He believes that the arts are important on many levels, and says that’s why he works hard to bring music into the lives of young people.

“The arts are what make humans human and make us thrive and give us joy on another level. It’s shown that music and art improve intelligence, attendance, SAT scores,” he says. “It’s a terrific way for young people to get involved and learn self-discipline.”

Anna Mesa, a sophomore biology major who is also a performance certificate student taking cello lessons from Jesselson, appreciates her music teacher.

“He puts in a lot of time, and you can tell he’s really passionate about what he does,” Mesa says.

In addition to teaching cello, Jesselson, a Carolina Distinguished Professor, plays in the American Arts Trio at USC and is the executive director of the National String Project Consortium. He has performed with orchestras around the world and has been the principal cello of the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orquesta-Sinfonica de Las Palmas, Spain.

Jesselson’s passion caught the attention of the Commission on Higher Education, which has named him Professor of the Year. While grateful for the honor, he sees the award as a means to bringing more attention to the profession he loves.

“It’s wonderful to have the acknowledgement on the part of the Commission on Higher Education, the state of South Carolina and the governor on the importance of arts in society, and passing on our wonderful music, dance and theater to the next generation is an important thing for us to be doing,” Jesselson says.

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Posted: 03/07/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 03/10/13 @ 4:13 PM | Permalink