What's the hardest thing about playing the violin?
The technique of using the bow is much harder than the left-hand fingering—which a lot of people find surprising. But the left hand's job is only to establish the pitch of the notes and add tone color with vibrato. Sometimes the fingers move fast, but so does the bow, and it's the bow that creates the sound, in all its variety and nuance. But that's just the physical. Many players would say that the hardest part is making beautiful music.
What ages do you teach?
Four years old to adult.
How long are lessons?
Between 30 minutes and 60 minutes.
How much do you expect a student to practice?
It depends. I'm more interested in quality of practicing than quantity. I spend part of the lessons teaching students how to practice effectively. It's better to practice a little bit every day, rather than none at all!
Do you have group classes or recitals?
Once each winter I hold a master class for all my students, which is an opportunity not only to play for other people but also to hear others play. Comments are given from the audience—not so much from me, since my students hear what I have to say every week in their lessons. There's also a student recital sometime in the late spring or summer. Both events are held in my home and are followed by refreshments.
What is your educational background?
I grew up with the Suzuki method and played in a performing group in the Chicago area. I have a bachelor's degree from Indiana University in Bloomington. I attended teacher training at the String Academy of Wisconsin with Mimi Zweig and Darcy Drexler.
Is your degree in performance or education?
What's the difference between a violin and a fiddle?
The instruments are the same. The music they play is different.
How long have you been teaching violin?
Actually, since high school.
What materials do you use?
The Suzuki books as well as various technique, scales, and etude books, which are geared both toward age as well as level. I also teach music theory and rhythm as part of the lessons.
What is the parent involvement?
Parents of young children usually learn the basics on their own full-size violin right along with their child, so they're better able to help once the
student graduates from their "starter" violin. The parent is responsible for "helping" their child practice regularly. It works best if the parent is encouraging and supportive and establishes a loving environment in which the student feels comfortable.
Do you like any music besides classical? Do you like rock?
Musicians like music. Not everybody likes everything, but as a group we like most music. I like some rock, some bands, some songs, but not all. The same with classical music.
I get nervous at auditions. Will they take that into consideration?
Auditions are awful, but they're a fact of life in the music business. And everyone gets nervous. But ask yourself: if you were hiring, and one candidate sounded nervous and shaky and the other had nerves under control, all other things being equal, which would you hire?
Do you help your students prepare for auditions?
That's one of my favorite parts of teaching. Since I've played in orchestras for many years, coaching auditions is one of my strong points.