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Tag: violin

Leaving The Nest



Yesterday I sent one of my long term students off to study with someone new.  It made me really proud, and really sad all at the same time.

I always say that the best thing about being a private violin teacher is the relationships I get to build with these kids and their families.  I get to watch them grow up and turn into people.  And maybe, just maybe, I play a small part in the adults they become.

You see, not every one of them is going to aspire to become a professional musician.  In this case, he does and so he needed to graduate from me and study with someone who can take them to the next level.  They need to learn to study like a grown up so to speak.

But my hope is that their time with me is influenced in some small positive way that they will remember me years later and some of the lessons they learned.  And not about how to play a scale in tune.  Lessons about hard work.  About respect.  About dedication.  I want them to leave my studio knowing that anything can be accomplished when you put in enough effort.  That if success doesn’t happen on the first try, try it again.  And when you finally get it right, do it again.  Make sure the right things are the habits you create, and practice them to perfection.

I want them to remember the many times they failed and persevered.  I want them to remember that frustration and mistakes are ok, as long as you learn from them.

And I want them to remember me when they put their child in music lessons, and hold their teacher to the high standards I hold myself to.

I always tell my students that my real job is to make myself obsolete one day.  To bring them each to the point where they can surpass me.  Then I know I’ve succeeded.  When I can send them off to someone new, knowing that I have taken them as far as they can possibly go with me.

I’m going to have several of these moments over the next few years, as I have many kids that are near the end of their time with me. And as sad as it makes me, I am so proud to have spent their childhood with them.

Way to go, kid.

My Legacy Continues


This past weekend was one of those moments in my life where I took a mental photograph and stored it in my happy place.  I also took a real photograph, because I don’t want to lose that moment as I age and my memory starts to go.

On Sunday my Twee Destroyer had her first violin lesson with one of my dear friends and teaching colleagues.  The cuteness factor was pretty high on the Richter Scale.  She happily toted her box violin and dutifully performed each task as well as any three year old can.  I was actually just amazed that she was able to concentrate enough to follow any instructions, despite having taught students this young myself.

But the lesson wasn’t really the point for me.

You can’t imagine what it’s like to watch your daughter find joy in the thing that has brought you joy your entire life. To embrace something that is so important to you and be excited to embark on her own voyage. To have something in common with her for (hopefully) years to come.  I can only wish that a love of music will be something that connects us even when we don’t see eye to eye.  And I can only wish that this part of me will always be a part of her, even one day when I’m gone.

That 20 minute lesson gave me a preview of what it will be like to watch her learn and grow and achieve, and it made me feel so excited to watch her become a person over the next few years.  And it made me a little sad to know that she is leaving her babyhood behind and starting to grow up way to fast before my very eyes.

But in the meantime, I’ll sit back and hold close to my heart this moment where I saw myself in her for one of the first times.


You’re Missing The Point, Mark O’Connor



So there’s this violinist/teacher/fiddler called Mark O’Connor.  He is a very successful musician and performer and has his own series of method books for students.

The problem, in my opinion, is that he seems to feel threatened by any one else who has found success.  As if the validity of other methods and teachers or musicians somehow threaten him.

It’s insecurity at its best.

Let me tell you a secret about musicians.  We’re terrified of failure.  We’re terrified at someone not approving of us.  We’re terrified that we might actually be frauds deep down.  We struggle with stage fright and feeling like we belong to our musical communities and pray our colleagues accept us, faults and all.

What I find surprising is that a man who has found success and fame and all that still feels all of these things in his heart.  But I guess at the end of the day he is still human.  And still has his own demons.

So why do I care about this man?  How do I feel to know these things about him?

Mr. O’Connor has chosen to attack Dr. Suzuki, the founder of the Suzuki method of music instruction.  The founder of a pedagogical philosophy that at its best creates amazing musicians who go on to perform and teach all over the world, and at its worst creates wonderful little human beings whose families belong to a community.  At it’s worst, it teaches children to work hard and be good at something  because of their own merit, and not to measure their success against the failures of others.  At its worst, it teaches children to play with others and learn from them, and in turn teach them.  At its worst, it teaches children to focus and develop manual dexterity and good memories from a very young age.  And at it’s worst, teaches children to be respectful and loving and kind.

I don’t know his background, but I would think that Mr. O’Connor didn’t have the privilege of studying in a Suzuki program.  He didn’t have the luxury of a teacher who while teaching him excellent technique, also taught him to be kind and respectful.  He didn’t learn to play alongside others without being in silent competition with them.

Because if he had, he would understand that his attack on Dr. Suzuki and his method doesn’t hold any water.  Because nobody cares if he went to this university or that universtiy.  Nobody who truly embraces the pedagogy cares what the details of his education and performance history are.  Because it doesn’t matter.

The reason that this pedagogical method is so successful is because we as music educators have formed a community around the ideas of this one kind, nurturing and genius man.  It works because we share our ideas and help each other to become better at what we do.  It works because when we see a colleague or a student struggling, we come together and help them.  It works because we love our students, and we love what we do.  And alongside all of that, it works because we train constantly not only in technical growth, but in the how of teaching.

And even if Dr. Suzuki was self taught, which he was NOT, I wouldn’t care.  All it takes to change the world is an idea that can grow and the courage to try it. And he had one and he did.

So in the end, I’m not entirely sure what the motivation behind Mr. O’Connor’s attack on the Suzuki method is.  We as Suzuki teachers are certainly not a threat to him and his millions.  And we are certainly not going anywhere.  I can only conclude that either he is simply an unfortunately malicious individual who grudges anyone elses success or is completely ignorant of the objectives of the Suzuki teachers out there.  We are not just trying to make amazing musicians, we are trying to make amazing human beings.

Dr. Suzuki used to say, “Beautiful tone, beautiful heart.”

How’s your tone, Mark O’Connor?



Performance Anxiety

I’m going to tell you a little secret.

I’m a musician who hates performing.  Just call me Barbra Streisand.  But God help me I do.

Last year, when I sang in this competition that I didn’t have a hope of winning at about 1000 months pregnant was the last time I actually enjoyed myself on stage.  Because I didn’t give a shit what people thought, and was able to let go of the anxiety and stress that usually accompanies the performance.  It was awesome.

I know what you’re thinking.  What the hell?  MOI?  Afraid of what people think?  Not usually, right?

But when it comes to having to step up in front of my colleagues, it gets really bad. This is when it’s the worst.  Not because I’m necessarily concerned about performing these easy pieces, but because I’m afraid of not doing a good job for my students.  Of someone thinking that maybe I don’t know what I’m doing after all.  And thanks to this mental distraction, I usually manage to screw at least something up every time. People can judge my playing all they want,  but I am fiercely protective of my skills as a teacher, and I don’t want someone to think that because I’m not  a symphony caliber musician ( which I totally am not, nor ever will be) that I am less a teacher.  Is that weird?

It bothers me a lot, because I really like what I do.  I love teaching. But I am one of those rare musicians who would rather hide in the four walls of their teaching studio and let their students be in the spotlight.

How noble, right?

A little, but mostly because I don’t trust myself enough to not fuck it up.

Yesterday we had the dress rehearsal for our program’s concert this weekend.  And right before my turn to lead, one of my strings pops out so bad that my peg goes flying.  Just in time to make me feel like a total douchebag.  Then I have to try and restring and retune and get up there in time to play this easy song with a thousand fucking notes to remember and all I can think of is “ugh everyone is watching me and I feel like a loser”.  And of course the string doesn’t hold its tune so I’m trying to compensate for my stupid string being flat. Easily the worst moment of my day, crying, clingy, non-sleeping baby notwithstanding.

Fuck. My.Life.

And the funniest thing is, in the classroom, I feel relaxed and happy and confident.  NO questions about who’s running that show.

But out there on the stage?

I want to throw up.


Anyway.  Glad to get that skeleton out of my closet.  Taking suggestions that don’t include alcohol or sedatives.  I need to be able to coordinate my left and right hands don’t forget.

Also, no picturing the audience naked.  These are children, for God’s sake!


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