PAUL ROLLAND

Paul Rolland logo dark blue frame copy.j

“Paul Rolland was the first to use science-based research to consider the role of movement in the acquisition of stringed-instrument performance technique. His movement-centered approach has had worldwide influence in the teaching of children to play stringed instruments.”
Plaque honoring Paul Rolland, University of Illinois School of Music

“No one has rendered greater service to violin playing than Paul Rolland,” said Yehudi Menuhin.
Born in Hungary, Paul Rolland (1911-1978) became fascinated by the violin from an early age,
listening to the Hungarian gypsy orchestras and requested to have violin lessons. He later was
accepted into the prestigious Franz Liszt Academy to study violin and viola. Upon graduation his
teacher, Imre Waldbauer, asked him to create and teach a curriculum for a violin methods course.
This assignment would prove to be a pivotal event, affecting Rolland’s teaching, research and
outcomes, and advocacy as both a mentor and music education activist for the course of his
professional life.


Paul Rolland came to the United States in 1938 as the violist in the Pro Ideale Quartet. In 1945
he accepted the position of professor of violin and chair of the string department at the
University of Illinois. For the next twenty years he worked on pursuing clinical investigations of
his theory of whole body action, whole-to-part-to-whole, an approach to string playing that
encompassed biomechanics, kinesiology, physiology, movement, sequential motions and
patterns, and auditory and rhythm training. Rolland deconstructed each variable in violin playing
on both macro and micro levels to develop his pedagogical approach, which “would
systematically establish natural playing movements free from excessive tension, creating a firm
foundation of basic technique and tone production, freedom and ease in playing” for students and
performers of all ages.


In 1966 Rolland and U of I Professor Richard Colwell proposed and designed the government-
funded University of Illinois String Research Project to test and validate his work. The project
focused on all elements of Rolland’s theories with an applied curricular emphasis on the critical
first two years of a student’s instruction. With the editorial assistance of Dr. Marla Mutschler,
Rolland authored the text and developed the film series, The Teaching of Action in String
Playing
, based on the project’s Final Report and films, presenting the essential research results
in a sequential curricular format. The films (DVD) of the Champaign-Urbana project group
taught by Rolland and Mutschler examine all the project subject areas of the two-year
instructional program. In Rolland’s words, “These are the audio-visual presentation of the whole-
to-part-to-whole concept” of every physiological movement, playing action and pattern in
precise detail and how they are optimally mastered. Rolland and composer, Stanley Fletcher,
collaborated on publishing New Tunes for Strings, teaching materials and compositions which
are taught in conjunction with the action studies in The Teaching of Action in String Playing.


Additionally, Rolland is remembered for his advocacy of the string teaching profession as a
founding member of the American String Teachers Association. He continued to serve this
organization as the founder and editor of the journal, American String Teacher, publications
chair, and president. He was an innovator in higher education nationally by his development of
the first string pedagogy courses for teacher education and performance degrees at Simpson
College and the University of Iowa. He presented at hundreds of national and international
workshops and established the annual Paul Rolland International Workshop. At the University of
Illinois he was responsible for the resident Walden String Quartet members having tenured
faculty status, the Illinois Summer Youth Music programs, and a progressive music extension

department outreach program throughout the state. For these and his many other leadership roles
and accomplishments the American String Teachers Association awarded him with the
Distinguished Service and Artist Teacher Awards. In his honor, ASTA created the Paul Rolland
Lifetime Achievement Award, to be given to an individual of renowned stature in string
education. Rolland was also a recipient of the Eugene Ysaye Medal for his pedagogical research.
The University of Illinois erected a plaque at the entrance to the School of Music, honoring Paul
Rolland and the Illinois String Project with the inscription, “Paul Rolland was the first to use
science-based research to consider the role of movement in the acquisition of stringed-instrument
performance technique. His movement-centered approach has had worldwide influence in the
teaching of children to play stringed instruments.”

Dr. Michael Fanelli
Professor Emeritus, University of Northern Iowa