Does your success and the success of your students depend on how much money you spend to fill out your violin-teaching pedigree?
I think the answer to the question, “Do you need a college music or pedagogy degree to be a high-quality violin teacher?” used to be a resounding yes. Now, times have changed.
What hasn’t changed is this: In order to be a high-quality violin teacher you need to be around high-quality violin teachers.
In times past, in order to learn from a master teacher, you had to get yourself to wherever that teacher was and pay a lot of money. Sometimes in an academic setting, and sometimes not. (And if you can, this way is still a wonderful way to go.)
However, many of us cannot do that. You may live in a remote area, and not have access to amazing teacher-mentors. Maybe you are like me and have small children, and can’t devote the time required to get a degree (or further degrees.) You may not have the finances to drop tens of thousands on conservatory education, and want to avoid student debt.
I, for one, think a graduate degree in Suzuki pedagogy would be amazing. But I can’t right now. And more importantly, I don’t want to. I love being the boss of my own schedule. (My kids are the board of directors.) I love not having to commute. At all.
You and I, we’re already in the trenches. We’re teaching and, if you’re like me, you wonder, “Am I providing the best violin instruction I can?” “Wouldn’t my students be better off if I was more experienced?” (Or more knowledgeable, or had more connections, or a more skilled performer, or whatever it is.)
But guess what? We have everything we need right at our fingertips. Yes. You are looking at the answer right now. Your computer, your tablet, your phone. The wisdom and knowledge of master teachers is right here on the internet.
Here are the internet resources you need to give yourself a high-level violin pedagogy education:
1. Stringpedagogy.com. Due to a recent donation from Thomastik-Infeld, Mimi Zweig’s membership site is now free. Yes, I said free. (If you don’t know who Mimi is, check this out…) There are hundreds of videos of Mimi teaching and text explaining what she’s doing and why. It is all laid out from the foundation up through the student concertos. It’s comprehensive and invaluable. There is also information about Teaching the cello by Susan Moses, though I’m not as familiar with that.
2. Coursera has a free course called Teaching the Violin and Viola: Creating a Healthy Foundation. It is taught by Stacia Spencer, professor at Northwestern. There is a little bit of overlap with Mimi’s materials, but repetition is the foundation of learning!
3. I think taking lessons yourself is one of the best things that you can do for yourself as a musician and teacher. If you don’t have teachers nearby, or if you have kiddos and no money like me, you can study with master teachers privately online. Nathan Cole, First Associate Concertmaster of the LA Phil, teaches video-exchange lessons through Artistworks (which is incredibly affordable, this is what I am doing right now, and I’m loving it!) They have other amazing teachers as well.
4. Violinmasterclass.com is run by Prof. Kurt Sassmannshaus, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and has wonderful resources and video-explanations of complicated techniques like vibrato, sautille, harmonics. You name it, it’s there. They also offer live internet lessons or video exchanges (but it is a little more expensive than Artistworks.)
Obviously, one of the best ways to become a wonderful teacher is to take lessons and attend Suzuki teacher-training. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for a summer session, or travel far, to improve your teaching today! Continually filling your mind with high-quality information will inspire you as a teacher, and help you stay motivated. And we all know how difficult it is to stay motivated!
With all of the knowledge in the world accessible to us, the thing that will make or break you on your journey will be this:
Are you the kind of person who thirsts for knowledge? Are you a self-starter? Are you curious?
If you can’t answer these questions with a strong yes, don’t despair. Start viewing yourself as a life-long student, and get to work!
Keep in mind, most parents and students aren’t looking for someone with a prestigious background. They are looking for the best teacher for their child. I recently polled my friends and acquaintances wondering, “What do you look for in a violin teacher?” Experience was only one of three essential qualities.
And if you think you are off the hook because you already have degrees, I hate to break it to you–you’re not. Violin is such an all-encompassing, brain-consuming, detailed, nuanced art we probably will never know all there is to know. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!
I’m on this journey with you, so I hope it’s not too presumptuous for me to assign homework, but I’m gonna do it anyway.
Here it is:
Your homework today is to pick one of these four violin-pedagogy resources and become a student of the teachers there (either by paying for lessons, or just soaking up every iota of free material.) Make a plan and schedule for yourself so you don’t get overwhelmed trying to learn everything at once. Comment below with your plan for furthering your violin education today.
Do you have any resources you would add to this list? Please share so we can all benefit!