'Once Upon My Cheek'

'Flight of the Bumblebee'

End of Year Dances

Upcoming Performances

Dr. Sera Smolen loves teaching cellists from age 3 up.  In her cello program at Opus Ithaca, we combine traditional cello study with improvisation, composition and world musics, inviting guest artists to contribute to our program.  Some projects we have done are practice marathons, winter workshops, composers projects and “Dances from Around the World”. 

Smolen received her PhD in music education from the Union Institute in 2000. Her Doctoral thesis, titled “Moons of Osiris” Is inspired by her longstanding research into string pedagogy in Waldorf education.  Smolen has a deep understanding of how to present improvisation parallel with repertoire study. She is a frequent guest clinician in Europe, the US and Canada for workshops and teacher training seminars covering pedagogies of improvisation and composition for string players. She has taught at Mansfield University, Alfred University, the Kanack School in Rochester NY, and Hobart and William Smith College.

Visit Sera’s website for the teaching calendar, free resources, articles, ideas, and more: http://www.serasmolen.com/

As a performer, she has been a soloist, collaborator, chamber musician, improviser, orchestral musician and recording artist.  She is an active performer of numerous genres of music, including four centuries of classical music and premiering new music by numerous composers. She loves collaborating with dancers, sculptors, painters and poets. She has been a longstanding member of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra. She composes and records original music with her husband, Tom Mank with whom she toured the Netherlands and Belgium for the eleventh time in November 2021. She was the assistant director of the New Directions Cello Festival for 24 years and is now Vice President.


I have always been equally passionate about playing the instrument, learning, and teaching music.  Playing the cello invites us to explore every aspect of ourselves.  We awaken, develop, then express any thoughts and feelings in the language of music.  We integrate the knowing, willing, feeling and intuition.  We discover how discipline and freedom belong together.  We become citizens of the world as we play music from around the world.  We learn to express the ineffably beautiful sentiments of the greatest composers.  The great masterpieces awaken in us the first glimmers of one's own, individually unique musical voice.  

Here is a list of the schools, programs and teachers I have worked with on this journey.


Dr. Sera Smolen: 


Union Institute of Graduate Studies: Ph.D. in Music Education and Applied Cello 1993-2000

Cornell University: Graduate work in Education, 1987-88, partial masters degree

Ithaca College School of Music: Graduate work, Permanent Certification for teaching Suzuki Method, all levels 1984-1986, partial masters degree

Ithaca College: B.M., Public School Certification, Performance Certificate, 

Magic Mountain Music Farm: Practice Marathon Retreats with Burton Kaplan, winters 1995,6,7, Summers 1993-4

Music for People with David Darling, 1981- 1983, Musianship and Leadership program,1994-9

Aspen Summer Music Festival, 1978-1979

Meadowmount School of music, 1976-1977

Ithaca Violoncello Institute, 1974-1975


Cello performance: Einar Holm, Alan Harris,Colin Hampton,Robert Newkirk,Rolfe Gjeltsen,Burton Kaplan,Laszlo Varga

Improvisation:David Darling,Steve Brown,Hank Roberts, Alice Kanack

North Indian Raga:Daniel Birch,Joep Bor


Opus Ithaca School of Music, Ithaca NY (opusithaca.org) 2016-

Cello Studio, Ithaca, NY, 1988-2016; Certified Suzuki Instructor, ages 3-up, Pre-Twinkle to Book 10; Creative Ability Development at all stages;Waldorf School cello instructor 1987-2008

Cello, Improvisation, Improvising Chamber Music, The Kanack School, Rochester, NY, 2006-10

Cello, double bass, Mansfield University, Mansfield, PA., 1999- 2005

Music Therapy Department, Mansfield University, from Spring 2000. Research, design and implement an ongoing Improvisation workshop series, topics spanning a 4 year program.

Adjunct Professor, Alfred University, Alfred, N.Y., 1995-1996

Cello instructor and Program co-ordinator, Ithaca Talent Education, Ithaca, N.Y.,1987-1994

Sabbatical replacement for Cello, Hobart-William Smith College, Geneva, N.Y.,1983-1984

Guest Clinician at Regional Suzuki Workshops, U.S and Canada, from 1988

Instructor at annual Summer Suzuki Institutes from 1989:
- Ithaca Suzuki Institute, from 1989-1994
- North Eastern Suzuki Institute, ME., from 1994-2005, 2011-2012
-Southwestern Ontario Suzuki Institute, Wilfrid Laurier University, 1997-present

-Edmonton Suzuki Institute, University of Alberta, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012

-Ogontz Suzuki Institute, New Hampshire, - 2006-2008

-Music As Play: All-Improvised summer program-Ithaca, NY- from 2009


New Directions Cello Festival: Assistant Director, Educational co-ordinator, Steering Committee, performer, workshop presenter, writer, 1991-present

Chiron Festival of the Creative Spirit: Performer, consultant, from 1988-1999 Young People's Composition Festival: Co-ordinator, (for young composers, part of Chiron, above)1996-2000

Binghamton Cello Festival: Workshop leader, consultant, 1989-2007