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Bronwyn  Edwards

The Importance of Being a Violin Teacher by Bronwyn Edwards

October 29, 2012 at 5:05 AM

Now I could add a lot of extra words to this phrase such as, the importance of (difficulty) of being a good, encouraging, flexible, inspiring, friendly, patient, happy, knowledgeable, problem solving, technically indoctrinating, critical but kind, fun, teacher! Yes that is what is expected of us! My first teacher had the luxury of a student (myself) who would do anything he asked even all those technical books such as Sevcik, Schradieck, Flesch and exam work. If I asked any of my students now to do any of these books they would run away screaming never to be seen again. So teaching the vioiln has changed from when I started back in the 70's.
The majority of students these days play an instrument for fun and expect to be taught accordingly which makes the teachers life difficult when they ask the student to play even a scale. "No I hate scales", they pout, even when you explain why the scale is good for bowing, intonation and fingering. Studies receive the same attitude.
At the school where I teach, the music student population is suffering depletion of numbers. We can't compete with agriculture which is offered as well as music. Paddling around in manure and trimming grape vines is so much more fun and cheaper than playing an instrument. So when I get a student I have to inspire him/her to enjoy the violin. Unfortunately this happens to the detriment of the repertoire that is taught. I still teach scales and studies but know that the only thing that may be practiced (if the violin is taken out of its case between lessons) will be the pieces. Now the pieces are another problem. Most students want popular music so I have quite a collection of music such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Twilight, Sound of Music, Jigs, Reels,even The Devil Came Down From Georgia and much more.
Then there are the parents who don't want to pay for anything. Money for instruments, lessons, books, and other items is squeezed out of unwilling parents who don't deem learning the violin as important.
OK, so where does all this leave a violin teacher? We have to compete with all the other choices students have so we have to be marketable/competitve. We are at the mercy of the students and parents! Very different to when I learnt, I knew back then if I didn't practice my teacher would probably cease to teach me. These days if a student doesn't practice I just smile and conduct a lesson of practice for them with plenty of praise and encouragement. I know that wounds wrong but compromise is the only way to go.
Even though I paint a bleak picture I still love my teaching for when I get those students who want to be there. They make it worth all the preparation work.
I have been a violin teacher for 34 years and am teaching students who range from barely interested to very keen. I am a chameleon and change with each student to supply what each individual needs. The more enthusiastic students do get the more traditional and thorough technical approach wheres the other 'barely there' students get more 'fun' repertoire.
The importance of being a violin teacher is to try to keep alive the love for the violin through any means possible. Compromise, enthusiasm, enjoyment, and encouragement are our weapons now to keep the violin part of this competitive world which is full of so many other choices.


From Diana Dow
Posted on October 30, 2012 at 4:42 AM
So it's not just me! Some kids seem to be driven while others, like you say, are in it for fun. It may be that you were the driven kid your teacher knew would work hard so you were given the scales and the studies. He/she may have had other students that were just in it for fun making it necessary he compromise as well. Recognizing the student's goals and interests or, as you said -- being the chameleon, is what makes a great teacher.
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on October 31, 2012 at 3:35 AM
Very interesting and enlighting blog! Thanks,
Anne-Marie

I am also a quite driven student (well, ex driven student who still is pretty driven for a non musical university student. My teacher won't compromise and I know I'm better when she says less bad things about my playing...not because of undue praise :)

From Rebecca Darnall
Posted on November 2, 2012 at 12:38 AM
I totally relate to this in every way. Great article. I am so glad it's not just me. I am still a young person (26), but I had more of the same experience you did growing up. Now it's just "I do this for fun and I don't want to work at it". Even some of my best intentioned students who are so happy to have in lessons often do not practice. Their lives are crammed full and they cannot process anything anymore.

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