Who do I teach and where?
I teach students as young as 4, and adults of all ages! I teach boys and girls, teenagers, adults looking for a new hobby, and retirees. I have taught gifted students, students with dyslexia, students with asperger’s syndrome, and other uniquely endowed children. I teach at my home studio in New Cross, London.
What is my teaching experience?
I began teaching privately when I was 13, and had 9 students while in secondary school. During my music ed degree, I taught elementary band students, string students, and core secondary school music (years 9 & 10) for four months. While living in Northern Ontario, I maintained a studio of over 25 weekly private students at the Geoffrey James Lee School of Music, and I also conducted the Timmins Symphony Youth Orchestra for 3 years. (Ages 12-18). I was also a guest clinician in Quebec where I worked with the second violins at a workshop called the Rassemblement des Cordes.
What is my training?
I have a post-grad music education degree, making me a qualified school teacher. My final project proposed a three-tier system for dealing with repetitive strain injuries. I have studied the basic technique of all orchestral instruments (except the harp and piano) as well as singing and choir. I completed the first two courses of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, the philosophy course “Every Child Can!” and Suzuki Unit 1. I took Alexander Technique lessons and Body Mapping seminars. I have an undergraduate degree in violin performance, and a master’s degree in viola performance. I also participated in the Karen Tuttle Coordination workshop at New York University. I’ve also got a stack of books at home that I read when questions I had weren’t covered during my 8 years of university education.
Why do I like to teach?
I like seeing people learn how to accomplish something very difficult, and I like how rewarding it is when people are enabled to have a satisfying musical experience. It’s something I think everyone should get to have in their lives. I’m also fascinated by the infinite variety of individuals trying to do this one thing - play a stringed instrument. Everyone has to figure out how they learn and who they are as individuals in order to make progress on the path to excellence, and I’m completely engrossed in helping people find their way to excellence. Teaching violin and viola provides an all-encompassing set of goals to strive for, and I love helping people meet theses goals.
Why you should study with me?
You should study with me because we’re going to have fun! We are going to learn how to make beautiful music, and I am committed to helping you or your child to discover inner strengths and the power of persistence. I am also dedicated to making sure the student has a really comfortable and ergonomic foundation for playing the violin (the positioning is a little more awkward than piano or cello!) As someone who spent years correcting bad habits in my own playing, I know all too well how issues left unattended in the early years of learning the violin can create incredible barriers. I have extensive pedagogical training, an extensive library on violin pedagogy, and a keen interest in cognitive science. There is a solution to every problem, and talent is a myth. There are only goals, and finding the right solution for the individual. Aptitude is nothing without persistence.
I encourage anyone with a disability, physical or cognitive, to try and learn the violin. There are aspects of learning a musical instrument that can enrich and contribute to any individual’s life. One of Canada’s most famous violinists, Adrian Anantawan, was born without a bow hand. He didn’t let this handicap stop his dream, and he has performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to in front of the Pope. I won’t let a disability chase away the chance to play the violin. We’ll figure out how to handle it together!
What is involved in learning the violin?
Learning to play the violin includes what you’d expect: how to hold the violin, the bow, read music. With new students I start with posture, and we do a lot of bowing and holding the violin separately. We are really learning about patience and persistence, planning for long-term goals, criticial thinking and problem-solving. These are all skills that contribute to a student’s success, both as a musician, and academically. It’s a big commitment, and the only way to get the benefits of music education is to study seriously, and it requires just as much energy from parents as from their children. (More, in some cases).
Goals as a teacher?
I don’t try to make students into potential professional musicians. My goal for students is that they have a good time learning the violin, and that they develop the skills that make a competent musician: patience, perseverance, discipline, critical thinking, and a passion for the repertoire. When starting a new student, a picture unfolds over the first six months of the student’s temperament, abiliites and affinities. I see my job as finding the things that the student finds most difficult, and hepling them to extend the threshold of what they can do. I help them overcome what they see as weaknesses, whether it’s coordination, stage fright, concentration, rhythm, expression, or discipline. It’s amazing to see a student develop confidence as they find themselves making progress in areas they thought were unsurmountable obstacles.
How do you know if your child is ready for lessons?
A child is ready for lessons when they are willing. I can’t force a child to hold a violin, or to practice. Lesson activities for young children include games that introduce them to musical symbols, a musical Simon Says, etc. A child who refuses to participate can’t be taught, in which case the parent will get instruction as if they are the student. I do try and teach the parents bit by bit along the way, so that they are equipped to help the student at home. Parents learn the basic concepts of holding the violin, the bow, reading music, and posture.
Is my child going to be a successful music student?
With the very rare exception, the parents are the greatest factor in determining the success of the student (no pressure!). An overbearing parent can cause a student much distress ( and TENSION!!! the enemy of every musician!), a negligent parent will have a negligible effect, and a supportive parent has the power to create an environment where the child will develop the positive habits of any successful person: consistency, discipline, but also the understanding of when you should take a break.
The most important thing is making regular practice a habit. Quality of practice beats quantity every time. It’s amazing what can be done in 10 minutes a day. (Hint: it’s much more than 60 minutes once a week before a lesson!)
In these modern times, it can be a struggle to create a consistent time to practice. Beginning students don’t need to practice for long, they just need to practice daily (but they should definitely get one day a week off, saturday or sunday, for example). Children need parents with enough discipline to sit with them on a regular basis and help them practice. Even children who are really keen on the violin are not always going to practice when they should, and the social aspect of having a parent’s time and attention for the 10 minutes of practice every day will make all the difference.
I highly recommend a kitchen timer and an instrument stand, as well as a cozy corner where the parent can sit close to the child, and the child has room to play. Having a mirror nearby is also a good idea.