Reflections from the School Year
Learning is both an active and passive process. Active learning is the doing part: acquiring knowledge and applying this to the desired outcome. Passive learning involves introspection of the active process so we can identify what modalities were most successful in helping us reach our goals. With the conscious use of passive learning, we are able to move forward more powerfully in our work as students and teachers.
I use my summers for this conscious introspection of the learning process and after 20 years of reflecting on my own teaching, I am now in a unique position to reflect as a student having just finished my first year of nursing school. One instructor I worked with this year really stood out for me and was my favorite. I have been thinking about what made him a favorite teacher for me and concluded the following 3 things:
1. EXPERIENCE IN BOTH THEORY & PRACTICE -
My favorite instructor has been teaching for over 20 years and has decades of professional nursing experience. This combination of a background in both theory and practice gives him a deep understanding of the academic subject matter and its relevant application for students. He was able to draw from this vast experience to share poignant stories that ranged from heartbreaking to hilarious. This personal touch made lectures highly enjoyable and helped us as students remember key teaching points.
2. ACTIONS THAT SUPPORT SINCERITY -
This favorite teacher of mine demonstrated his sincerity and commitment to helping students with his actions outside of the classroom. He offered more office hours than any other instructor and he always responded to emails within 24 hours. These actions helped efficiently fill in knowledge gaps to help us succeed as students. Additionally, while our college has the policy to offer a generic online survey to students at the end of the year, this particular teacher went above and beyond to create his own survey specific to his lectures so he could receive direct feedback in an attempt to refine and advance his work as a teacher.
3. ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE WHOLE STUDENT -
This special teacher knew how important it was to address the whole student in the learning process. Nursing school is stressful but thankfully we had teachers like this who always made an effort to acknowledge the challenge we were undertaking, check in to see how we were coping on a personal level and offer advice when necessary. This helped us feel like we had an ally who was invested in our success.
We would love to hear from you - What made your school year special?
Please share in the comments below and you will be entered in a M4YV giveaway contest. 3 winners will be chosen at random on 7/20/2018 and they will each receive a set of 10, S. Suzuki prints mailed to them in hard copy (view here) and a $40 gift certificate to the Music for Young Violinists store.
I moved to Oregon 9 years ago and call it the best-kept secret of the United States because it is so gorgeous. There is only one caveat - winters are raining and devoid of sunshine for what feels like months on end. To make-up for this absence of energy in the climate, I starting adding fiddle music to my studio's repertoire every February and it just kind of stuck.
For fun, I thought I would share a free fiddle tune with all of you wonderful people on the M4YV newsletter list every weekend this month. The free tune will only be up on the FREEBIES page for 24 hours. Join the newsletter list to be alerted to the next fiddle tune giveaway.
To help keep the momentum, all fiddle music is on sale at 50% off all month at the M4YV store including:
10 Boil Them Cabbage Down Solos for Beginning Violin + 9 BONUS VARIATIONS
Folk Music for Beginning Level Violin
I love this Sarah Andersen cartoon because it perfectly captures how we make progress in our art forms by just simply practicing.
It's not a mystery, it's practice.
It's not magic, it's practice.
Not one violinist in the entire world was born playing the violin. Each and every one of us had to practice, practice and practice.
New FREEBIES and reflections from the first term of nursing school.
The title of this blog post reminds me of the start to a bad joke:
"A quote, a lightbulb and a violin duet walk into a bar....."
If you were thinking the same thing then that is fair enough since these are some pretty random things grouped together.
I am on my winter break from my first term of nursing school. I learned so much during those first 11 weeks AND, it was really difficult. I was a straight A student going into this program and now I am just hoping to pass my courses. There is a looming pressure with every exam because if you do not pass a class you are automatically dropped from the program. I had a friend this first term who missed 1 question and this single point was enough to disqualify her from being in the program.
I could easily discuss how my musician training has helped me prepare for the challenge of nursing school, which it has. This has been studied extensively and would be an upbeat and inspiring blog post about the vast benefits of a musical education. Instead, I wanted to share some basic human need for support and bolstering of my outlook with a positive attitude. Even though we are adults, we still need this as much as the young children we work with do.
Just like we need to tune our violins every day (and sometimes multiple times a practice session) we also need to “tune our attitudes.”
Greatness needs failures.
Since my first term of nursing school felt like a giant trial and error experiment, I used the quote posted above to help accomplish this attitude tune-up.
Thomas Edison has a whopping 1,093 patents to his name and is credited with things like the lightbulb, phonograph and earliest motion picture cameras. He knew a thing or too about how to turn dreams into reality and his quote: “I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” shares how he used his attitude to turn his dreams into realities. It is a great reminder of how important and powerful a powerful attitude can be. I feel so strongly about installing a mental foundation with an attitude that yields the highest outcome that both my students and myself sign pledges to each other at the beginning of every school year for each of us to commit to having a positive attitude at every lesson and practice session. See the pledges HERE.
Moving on in explanation of the random blog subjects in the title, the Thomas Edison quote reminded me of the Shinichi Suzuki quotes I had printed up last year and mailed as gifts to express my gratitude to all the musicians who made purchases that year. I loved how they turned out (click here to see). I posted these image files on the FREEBIES page for more people to access and share in the brilliance and inspiration of Shinichi Suzuki. Scroll down on the FREEBIES page since they are nearly at the bottom.
I also posted one of my favorite baroque duets on the FREEBIES page called the King's March, or King William's March composed by Jeremiah Clarke. I think many of you will really love having this to play and/or share with students.
King William's March Violin Sheet Music
Shinichi Suzuki Quotes
I know from decades of experience teaching that nothing makes a young student more excited than being able to play Jingle Bells. Please enjoy this free gift of a LARGE print arrangement of Jingle Bells for beginning violin (with fingerings added) available on the FREEBIES page.
Happy holidays and happy music making!
Happy Holidays! If I had a magic wand and could give all of you the gift that I really want to share with everyone reading this, it would be an event that drew us together into a *giant play along of holiday music with plenty of time scheduled for getting to know each other and eat cookies.
How exciting would that be?
That is currently impossible for me to organize, BUT, I can share some of the most favorite tunes from the holiday season with you so that you can play music and of course, eat cookies. Please enjoy some free downloads of Jingle Bells sheet music arranged for violin: a duet version and a LARGE print with fingerings for beginners version. These are currently posted on my FREEBIES page.
There is no shortage of ways to be musical and connect with this great joy that we share:
So, please head on over to the M4YV FREEBIES page to download a Jingle Bells duet from the Holiday JOY! collection. I made a slight change in this from the original publication so you may want to download again if you received the original arrangement 2 + years ago. I created this duet for my studio and it is designed to have a majority of players play the melody so the accompaniment part may sound a little overpowering with just 2 players.
Also on the FREEBIES page is a LARGE print version of Jingle Bells for beginners. This is featured in the LARGE Print Music for Beginning Violin collection. An enlarged format is perfect for any musician who is new to reading music since it makes it much more accessible.
BONUS - Both of these collections are on sale at 50% off thru the end of the month.
Happy music making and thank you for your support!
"The sound of over 4,000 violinists playing together in harmony was like nothing I've ever experienced, and it was made all the more amazing to think that the last time anyone heard a sound like that was over 80 years ago, when the last record was set in at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1925."
Flip your instrument to the other side (violin on the right and bow on the left) to be a beginner again and truly understand what your students are experiencing. This is the best way I know of to assist in breaking skills down into micro progressions so that you can fully convey a concept to a student. This simple act of changing sides was a revolution to helping me improve how I taught vibrato to young children.
Play along to the 10 easiest violin songs here on this youtube video:
I spent the past 20 years teaching the violin and most of that was using a Suzuki Violin curriculum which begins with Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star & rhythmic variations. In my opinion, this is is a difficult piece to begin with since it has 4 sections in A-B-B-A form and uses 6 pitches. I always had to break it down into smaller songs like the Flower Song and Monkey Song in order to teach it to young beginners.
This got me thinking about how I might teach beginners if I were to use a different curriculum so I created the list below and a violin sheet music collection of what I think are the 10 easiest violin songs.
3 Note Songs:
4 Note Song:
5 Note Songs:
6 Note Songs:
Lastly, for clarification, there is a slight error in calling this a list of songs because the definition of a "song" is a piece of music meant to be sung with the human voice versus a "piece" which is composed for an instrument. As you can see from this list above, Spring from the Four Seasons is technically a "piece" and not a "song".
What songs/pieces would you include in this list? Please let us know in the comments below. Thanks!
Finger patterns are a fantastic way to help students understand half/whole steps and key signatures plus finger patterns will help violin students play better in tune.
I like to teach them in the sequence displayed above and include the less common finger patterns of 1-2-3 and 2-3-4 together as will as all fingers together (half steps) and all fingers apart (whole steps).
This chart is available as a free download on the FREEBIES page and comes in an unlabeled version to accommodate your teaching needs.
For more information on finger patterns and a sequence for teaching them please view the video below.
Will you be incorporating finger patterns into your teaching this school year? Please let us know your tips for teaching violin finger patterns in the comments below.
From Pygmalion in the Classroom by R. Rosenthal and L. Jacobsen (2007):
Experimenters told teachers that 20% of the children in a certain elementary school showed unusual potential for intellectual growth. The names of the 20% were drawn by random sample. Eight months later these unusual or "magic" children showed significant gains in IQ than did the remaining children, who had not been singled out for the teachers' attention. The changes in the teachers' behavior towards these allegedly "special" children led to changes in their intellectual performance. These children did better not because they were any more intelligent than their classmates but because they were expected to do better by their teachers.
I believe this study is a wonderful reminder for what we already intuitively know. When we vision our children achieving their potential and consistently expect greatness from them, they will be able to reach their highest levels.
Link for the book on Amazon.
Learn more about this on Wikipedia.
Hello - It has been a while since I posted here on the blog and that is because there are so many changes going on behind the scenes. I am excited to share that I will be going to Nursing School in September. In an attempt to honor, celebrate and archive all the special parts of being a violin teacher for the past 20 years I will be completing several parts of this project between now and then. Expect the following additions over the course of the summer:
NEW VIOLIN SHEET MUSIC COLLECTIONS:
1- Fiddle Duets - A collection of my favorite fiddle tune arrangements plus a couple of duets I composed in a folk-fiddle style.
2- Folk Music for Beginning Violin - 10 beautiful and simple folk tunes from around the world to help beginners grow their skills and experience the joy of playing.
3- Teacher's Toolkit - My best teaching materials inspired from 20 years of working with young musicians designed to help students practice independently and make the most of their home practice sessions.
4- Welcome Packet (FREE) - 4 Samples from Music for Young Violinists available free to all on the newsletter list and new members who sign-up.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT/PARENT SUPPORT:
I am creating 11 more videos for the Teach with PASSION series. These are short (2-5 minutes) and informal videos designed to help you re-charge your violin teaching battery and give parents of young musicians some guidance on this journey. Learn more HERE about what makes these so special.
* Blue Jello Cards giveaway coming later in July.
* Inspiring story about a local man in my area who attempted to beat the Guinness World Record for most burpees in 12 hours. He came and shared his story with my studio and I think when you learn why he did this you will feel motivated to make your dreams come true.
* Teaching Materials for SALE - I had to move out of my studio and do not have room to store things so am selling lots of great materials are low prices.
* Studio Smarts - This is a page here on the website that will be sharing some ways to run the business portion of your studio in the most streamlined manner so that you can focus as much energy and creativity as possible on your teaching.
Thanks and stay tuned for all of the exciting growth on this project this summer! Heather
For the Winter/Spring 2017 free *seasonal download (available here thru June 2017) I decided to do a small collection of folk tunes. After years of being immersed in complex compositions by composers such as J.S. Bach, D. Shostakovich and C. Debussy what captures my attention now is the simplicity of folk music. I don't know why I like these so much - is it because I value simplicity in all areas of my life? I have also speculated that after doing music for so long (37 years) at this point even the most complex sounding compositions always have simple formulas behind them and I like the puzzle of trying to de-code what this simplicity is.
Probably the most unique tunes in this collection are the Icelandic folk songs. I had the opportunity to teach in Iceland one summer and loved that their folk music and children's songs were in mixed meter. This was so different than my early musical exposure and even inspired me to write a piece called Reykjavik Shines for String Quartet in 3 Movements. If mixed meter music thrills you as much as it does me then feel free to view the score of this really quartet by clicking HERE.
WHY ARE THE COUNTRIES SO LIMITED IN THIS PACKET? Maybe you wondered why I did not include more diversity in the pieces in this collection. I really wanted to and even began drafting some other tunes but the limiting logistics of time and energy were a factor. Also, certain traditions of music do not translate easily. For example, my favorite thing to do in my free time is capoeira which is a Brazilian martial art that combines music and movement. I know dozens and dozens of songs from this portion of my life but struggled to find ways of transcribing them for this little collection of folk music - maybe in the future?
WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD SOMETHING? If you have a PDF of a folk tune that is not copyrighted and would like to post it on the FREEBIES page here at Music for Young Violinists please send me an email. Sharing is fun :)
* This is the 2nd to last free seasonal download I will do. The final one will be published in Spring 2017. I would be so grateful if you passed this good news on to your friends while this opportunity exists - thanks in advance!
"Knowledge is not skill,
In an attempt to help her master down and up bows, I created the 7 Bowing Studies for Beginning Level Violin in the Keys of A,D & G Major. Since the focus of these studies is bowing they are kept to one octave and done 3 times in keys with parallel finger patterns (A, D & G Major) for ample repetition of the bow strokes and to keep the left hand as simple as possible.
These exercises can be used in two ways:
1- Individually to help with a specific technique needed in repertoire.
2- As a series for students who need more support organizing their down and up bows.
Features of this resource include:
- Each measure in all of the 7 bowing studies begins with a down bow for consistent training of this motion.
- The pages are designed to flow with the first exercise supporting the second on the page and so forth.
- Technical elements that are covered include string crossings, slurs, rhythms, marching with feet, circle bows (lifts) and stopped bows.
To WIN simply write in the blog comments below what your favorite shoulder pad(s) are and why. Winner will be chosen at random November 20. Thanks!
To Visit the Poly-Pad website click HERE.
1- PRACTICE LAYING DOWN:
This is silly and awkward BUT highly effective. The laws of gravity will help a violinist feel a naturally aligned state in their body when they play laying down. This is an incredible tool for teaching the neck to release, support the shoulders finding the base of their sockets and even getting the knees to soften up. Young children especially love this because it feels like a novelty however this practice technique is appropriate for players of all ages and levels. It will create a very unnatural feeling in the bow arm and compromise the sound but the long term results of alignment and awareness are more than worth the short term compromises.
2- TIGHTEN UP:
Go to the extreme to build awareness. Tighten up the shoulders as much as possible for 5 seconds and release. I tell my students to "put their shoulders in their ears." After this intense use of muscles the shoulders will respond with fatigue and rest by staying down in the bottom of their sockets. They may not always stay down for the rest of the lesson or practice but this exercise helps develop the necessary awareness to address tight shoulders. In addition to creating a muscle fatigue and natural inclination to release, this also helps the student realize the extreme of an action so they have more control in choosing where their shoulders go when playing.
3- EVALUATE THE CHIN REST AND SHOULDER PAD SET-UP:
When was the last time you changed their *chin rest and/or shoulder pad? Not only do young students with growing bodies have different proportions in their neck-shoulder-arms approximately every 6 months but their playing needs are also growing. Chin rests and shoulder pads need to be re-evaluated for younger players on a regular basis because of this continual physical and musical growth. Most of us do not live in a major metropolitan area with a large string supply store to experiment with a variety of gear for our violins. In lieu of this, stay up to date and informed of the great variety of chin rests and shoulder pads by subscribing to string catalogs (some links below).
Also, look into the Poly-Pad which I have featured on the “Things I Love” page. This economical shoulder sponge has extra curves than competitors pads and is one of my favorites. When I moved to Oregon 9 years ago I purchased a Poly-Pad in each size and it really helped me individually fit all of my students.
* Click HERE to read why “chinrest” is a misnomer.
WANT TO WIN A COLLECTION OF POLY-PADS?
It’s easy - Click HERE to enter.
Join the conversation-
How do you help your student keep their shoulders relaxed when they play the violin?
The FREEBIES page is always rotating in new material so please check back often.
Some of the items listed here are things that have stood the test of time and worthy of praise such as my Korg metronome which has been dropped 100 times in 15 years, rarely needs a battery replacement and still works fine. Other resources may be lesser known products worthy of spreading the good word about like the Poly-Pad shoulder sponge. This page will be growing on a regular basis so please check back soon.
Featured on “Things I Love” is Helping Parents Practice (Ideas for Making it Easier) Volume 1 by Edmund Sprunger. This is HANDS DOWN my favorite resource to use in supporting parents practicing with their children. I appreciate this book so much that I have practically underlined every sentence in my copy because it is so clarifying and poignant.
Sprunger combines decades of experience teaching Suzuki violin with his formal training in psychology to offer wise and compassionate perspectives that will elevate a parents understanding of why their child is responding or behaving in a certain way. He also offers solutions that are effective and healthy for addressing these specific situations.
The book is divided into sections by practice topic and then further broken down into 2-5 page solutions for specific scenarios that a parent would encounter while helping their child practice. This concise organization was done with the busy teacher/parent in mind and makes it an especially convenient tool because you can look up your immediate situation without having to read an entire book.
Thank you Ed and please let us know when Volume 2 is available. Learn more about Ed Sprunger and his resources HERE.
To celebrate this new page we are giving away Ed Sprunger’s new book: Building Violin Skills: A Set of Plans Designed to Help Parents and Children Construct Positive Practices.
To enter, just list one “Thing You Love” for your teaching and music making in the comments below. Winner will be chosen at random at the end of the month.
STUDENT: “I have an audition in 1 week and I have to sight read for the first time ever.”
OLD ME: (trying to stay calm) “OK, let’s see what I can do to help” meanwhile I scramble to find appropriate supplemental music on my shelf to practice this new skill, think of how to break down sight reading into layered steps for a young student to grasp in a 30 minute lesson and am in frustration wondering why I did not know about the audition until today!?!?!?!
Ms. Heather NOW:
It helps to live in an area for a few years and learn the rhythms of local auditions. Now I have my students tell me months (and sometimes 1 year) ahead of their audition plans and they must print out 2 copies of the audition requirements: 1 for me to keep on file and 1 for them to have in their folder.
STUDENT: “My audition is in 3 months and I have printed out the requirements for you to look at”
NEW ME: “Fantastic, this is going to be a great experience and I love teaching how to sight read! It can seem scary to have to play the unknown for your first time in front of judges but when you know the process for how to prepare in your head you will have a successful & empowering experience. Also be sure to sign-up for the *mock auditions we are hosting next week so you can practice your audition.” and I pull out my new and nifty sight reading packet and we get to work.
Download a sample version for FREE HERE thru DECEMBER 2016
Can anyone relate to this experience? That was me in my early teaching years and I now love teaching sight reading. I break it down into these 5 steps:
#1 - Evaluate the key signature and touch the scale on your fingerboard. In lesson and at home actually play the scale out loud.
#2- Do a rhythmic analysis using Music Mind Games “Blue Jello” words (or whatever you use in your studio). In lesson and at home actually tap the rhythm on the music stand.
#3- Look at the shape of the melody: Scales or skips? Ascending or descending? Are there any accidentals? Bonus points for assessing dynamics, articulations and bowings at this step.
#4- Play/sing the first phrase in your head.
#5- Play on your violin.
At an actual audition the first 4 steps happen in about 30 seconds but in the lesson and home preparation this takes several minutes. Lastly, I tell my beginning students new to this process that if they forget all of the above steps then at least remember not to dive right into the sight reading - give it some mental time before actually playing on the instrument.
* IDEA: Collaborate with colleagues to offer your students a mock audition before your local youth orchestra audition. Last year I did this with some colleagues who also happen to be parents in my studio and it was a huge success. We contacted the local youth orchestra to learn how they conducted their auditions and did our best to imitate this including having an adjudicator to bring the students to the audition room. We also wrote comments for the students so they had some feedback and focus points.
How do you teach sight reading? Please share with this global group of music teachers in the comments below, we would love to learn from you!
The world needs your talents!
We live in an ever changing world of incredible contrast and sometimes us humble violin teachers can feel overwhelmed and defeated as we navigate the ups and downs of owning a small music studio business in 2016.
Please never question the importance of what you do and never doubt the value and impact of your contributions to the world.
If you are ready to grow your studio this school year and deepen your impact in your community then I would like to introduce to you Bree Lewis:
I consider this such an incredible feat since it took me years to fill my studio when I moved to Oregon. I know of no other teacher having this amount of consistent success building new studios so frequently and feel very grateful that Bree took the effort to collect her studio building strategies into a handbook titled:
MARKETING STRATEGIES for MUSIC TEACHERS: 88 Free and Low Cost Ways to Book Your Studio Full
This downloadable book does exactly what the title says. I was surprised at how available some of the strategies she uses are and think you will also find many solutions for how to grow your studio this school year.
Thank you Bree for sharing a $20 off coupon (code AUGUST) with the Music for Young Violinists community valid only until the end of August 2016. To use this discount go to her store (HERE) and type code AUGUST in at the checkout.
Best wishes to all violin teachers all over the globe building your studios and continuing the excellent work you do in this world.
May this be you best teaching year yet!
Art & War
Beginning Violin Music
Blue Jello Cards
Boil Them Cabbage Down
Easy Violin Music
Free Gift With Purchase
Free Holiday Music
Free Sheet Music
Free Violin Music
Inspiring String Players
Jingle Bells For 2 Violins
Jingle Bells For Beginning Violin
LARGE Print Music
Make Practice Fun
Music Mind Games
Sarajevo String Quartet
Sheet Music For Violin
Twinkle Little Star
Violin Sheet Music
Violin Teaching Tip
Hi! It's me, Heather. I absolutely love working on the Music for Young Violinists project and all the many facets: blogging, website, music, teaching materials, freebies, videos, newsletter and giveaway contests. The best part is connecting with you so feel free to drop me a line. You can learn more about me on the "ABOUT" page. Thanks!