Popper Challenge

Original artwork by Nik Mercer for the Cleveland Cello Society’s Popper Workshop, 2018.

Original artwork by Nik Mercer for the Cleveland Cello Society’s Popper Workshop, 2018.

Welcome to The Popper Challenge! We’re glad you’re here. The Challenge officially begins January 1, 2019, so dust off your book of Popper Études and get to practicing! Read on below for the big questions (and some answers!): Why Popper? Why études? Why now?

Short on time? Here’s what you need to do: 1.) Join our Patreon community so that you stay up-to-date with the latest from the Popper Challenge. 2.) Follow @popperchallenge everywhere! (Especially on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!) 3.) Start practicing your Popper!

Not a cellist? Make sure to join Patreon and follow @popperchallenge everywhere to keep up with the Challenge and all of the adventures yet to come.

Read on for more information!

The man himself - David Popper.

The man himself - David Popper.


Are you ready? Submissions open in January 2019! Here’s how the Popper Challenge works: Cellists of all ages, experience levels, and nationalities will submit video recordings of their Popper Études (à la The Popper Project). Each month, a panel of teachers, performers, and expert cello lovers will select up to 3 cellists to participate in a livestreamed masterclass with Joshua Roman. Cellists are encouraged to submit as many of the 40 Popper Études as possible throughout 2019. At the end of the challenge, up to 40 cellists will be selected to have their recordings featured on a CD of the Popper Études produced by the Popper Challenge Community!

Be sure to join the Patreon community so that you don’t miss any updates as the Challenge progresses (all announcements, like who has been chosen for the online masterclasses, anyone featured by the Challenge, and the ultimate results of who will be featured on the album will be available exclusively on Patreon). While your subscription to Patreon is not required for your participation in the Challenge, it will be the only way to stay absolutely up-to-the-minute in terms of announcements, progress, and merchandise!

Stay tuned for more details, and make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

From the Popper Project: No. 25, shot in Napa Valley at the Tonella Vineyards.

From the Popper Project: No. 25, shot in Napa Valley at the Tonella Vineyards.


Join the community where you can comment, discuss, encourage, and follow cellists from around the world as they embark on the Popper Challenge! By joining Joshua’s Patreon community, you will receive exclusive access to everything the Challenge has to offer: online masterclasses, early access to merchandise, interviews, interactions with the cello community, and more! Find out more here - we’re excited to have you on the team!

Joshua’s Patreon community launched in the summer of 2018 - current Patrons enjoy monthly downloads of original, multi-track improvisational recordings from Joshua, interactive live practice sessions, exclusive blog posts, and in-person events. The Patreon community also funded Joshua’s first-ever Patron-funded music video (also his first-ever multi-track improvisational composition!), “Alignment.” Check it out here!

Why the popper challenge? why now?


In 2009, I was frustrated with my perceived inability to maintain a regular practice schedule after relying on years of weekly check-ups through private teachers, school schedules, and then a position as Principal Cellist in a major American orchestra. I had recently moved to New York City to pursue my solo career, which was exciting, but at least as far as scheduling was concerned, sporadic.

One day, as I was impetuously running through all 40 of the études from David Popper’s “The High-School of Cello Playing”, I had the idea to start posting them on YouTube. I figured that if I set a goal of posting one each week, it would force me out of the lumpy, concert-centric practicing I was doing, and into a more regular routine where I could track progress more consistently. The idea behind posting them was simply accountability: I did not expect more than 20-25 friends to view them, but knew that even the possibility of that viewership was enough to make sure I practiced well and only posted videos I could be proud of. An actual marker of my playing, consistent goals, along with accountability from others, worked.

Through this process, I realized is that there is not an easily accessible archive of recordings of these études. Cellists began sharing my videos, writing to tell me how excited and inspired they were in their own practicing, and everywhere I went (even the streets of New York City) I was now recognized by cellists as “the guy with the hair who does the Popper Project”.

Now, almost 10 years later, I want to return to the Popper Project in order to make a stronger connection with the global community of cellists. That’s where The Popper Challenge comes in. I hope that the Challenge will offer clear paths for cellists of all ages to make good on the inspiration of the Popper Project by setting their own goals, tracking their progress, getting feedback from myself and others, and geeking out with other cellists in the community about ways to improve their playing.

But, the Popper Challenge is not just for cellists. One woman who I will never forget came up to me when I was performing at the US Open in Queens, NY, and told me she had watched every Popper video I had posted up to that point, all in a row. As it turns out, she was not a musician at all, had never even taken lessons as a child. She loved the sound of the cello, and was really hooked by the notion that she was watching my progress unfold along with people “in the know”; cellists. The Popper Challenge serves as a place for musicians and lovers of music alike to connect with each other and experience the Challenge together in one forum.

So, only one question remains: Are you ready to get Poppin’?