Top teaching award
Jesselson’s high hopes for Carolina and the Columbia music community came to fruition as the years went by. The Koger Center for the Arts was constructed, followed by the adjacent School of Music building. And the String Project, which he directed for 15 years, took root and flourished, jump starting the K-12 string presence in Columbia and attracting more and better qualified students to the School of Music. Jesselson has been involved in the hiring of all the current USC string faculty who make up the program: conductor Don Portnoy; violinist William Terwilliger; violist Connie Gee; bassist Craig Butterfield; Gail Barnes, director of the String Project; and the newest member, violinist Rebecca Hunter, who will join the faculty in the fall.
Jesselson recalls that when he first came to USC, his only cello student at Carolina quit after one semester to join the Army. Since then, the rigor and commitment level necessary to succeed has increased even more.
“I have a reputation of being strict and disciplined,” he said. “Early on, I had to set standards—the kids know that coming in, and they respond to it.”
His colleague Christopher Berg, a professor of guitar, said Jesselson’s rigorous standards are only part of the story.
“I have served on end-of-semester juries [i.e., playing exams] with Bob every year since he came to USC and have heard hundreds of cello students throughout the years,” Berg said. “Bob is an extraordinary teacher who has been able to initiate his students into a discipline of artistic research, and he has consistently done this with good humor, creativity, insight, and high standards. I couldn't ask for a better colleague.”