I was talking with a young lady the other day about returning to school for the Fall semester. She took up the violin last year, and she had been really excited about playing. But when I asked her about what she had done with her violin over the Summer months her response was that it had resided in its case in the corner of her room. She hadn’t played it once.
When I asked her why she hadn’t played her instrument she told me that it really wasn’t fun now. It seems that toward the end of the semester her teacher had decided to try to build some skills with the hopes that the kids would use them over the vacation months. The method used was to emphasize etudes and scales. At least with this young lady that was exactly the wrong thing to do! And the tragedy is that she isn’t looking forward to returning to orchestra this Fall!
I tell folks all the time that playing violin should be exactly that…PLAY. Every time we pick up the violin we should spend a part of the time playing music that we really want to play. Does that mean that we completely neglect scales, etudes and other technical studies? Absolutely not! But we need to spend some time on a regular basis doing something we enjoy as well as working on the hard stuff!
Play some Bluegrass or Country like Mark O’Connor! Dance around like Lindsey Stirling! Get into Rock like Mark Wood, Bridgid Bibbens, or even Rachel Barton-Pine! Or if Classical is your thing, and you really want to work on scales go right ahead. The whole point is that we need to do something with the instrument that makes us smile.
And if teachers forget that a major part of teaching the instrument is instilling that joy into new students and then helping them maintain that joy they are failing the entire strings community!
Give your students something hard and technical to work on, and then help them to see how to use the skills that you are nurturing in the music that they really want to play. (And that probably isn’t Wohlfahrt or Kreutzer.) It’s great for the kid! It’s great for the community at large. And in this time of economic difficulty, it’s job security.