Meet Dr. Bersin

Faculty Profile
by Daniel Mollenkamp

Photography by Emily Jordan

Please use Professional bio for programs and publications

Dr. Michael Bersin has a crowded work schedule that unsurprisingly includes a lot of cello playing in the form of teaching and performing, but when he finds himself with a rare spare moment, he does something both amazing and predictable – he picks up his cello again and starts “working some things out.” He’s not rehearsing for anything in particular. It’s nothing he needs to do. He wants to do it. And Dr. Bersin’s core message to his students as he reminds them to “practice, practice, practice” is that if they really want to succeed – on the cello, on bass, in class, or in their careers – they can.

From his earliest days, Michael was always listening to music. In the public schools of Tucson, Arizona, he began learning strings at age ten, and his father suggested he try cello. A passionate advocate for music education, Dr. Bersin believes every kid should have the same opportunity.

Music captured Michael’s young imagination like nothing else, and he soon discovered the joy of performing, communicating the otherwise inexpressible through music. Today he tells his students anyone can get the notes, but it takes an artist to create musical expression. He encourages independent thinking, and informs his students’ artistic decisions with a wealth of historical knowledge.

Everyone in music teaches at one point or another, and for Michael it started as an extension of figuring things out for himself as a performer, then wanting to help others along the same path. The qualities that aid him as a musician: patience, persistence, humor, and a demand for the best, also serve his teaching. It’s without irony that Dr. Bersin says his career highlight is that he’s still here. In a field where persistence is key, those who last the longest are often the most successful, and he’s been teaching at UCM for over 20 years.

Dr. Bersin’s studio wall displays pictures of some of his teachers and students. One of the pictures shows a teacher in front of their own wall of pictures. If you look closely you can recognize one of the pictures within the picture as also being on Dr. Bersin’s wall. When you play cello, you become a part of a family tree that connects you to seemingly everyone else who plays. That community legacy is important to Dr. Bersin, whose students go on to teach and play professionally. His graduate instructors, Raya Garbousova and Gordon Epperson, were among the great cello teachers of the 20th century.

Dr. Bersin is the principal cello in Lee’s Summit Symphony and a sub in the Kansas City Symphony. As a recording artist, he has arranged and performed with Celtic musician Pamela Bruner. He has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestra soloist throughout the US and Europe. He wrote a definitive article for Strings magazine on how to fly on a commercial airline with your cello, but now happily avoids that circumstance. In addition to being on the faculty at UCM’s summer music camp, he also gives back to his hometown of Tucson as a teacher at their summer music festival, Chamber Music in the Mountains.

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