Finding the next student

October 4, 2016 at 02:46 PM · First and introduction: I’m a late starter. I was 30 when I first started to play the violin – the long wait is another story – suffice it to say I did not have the opportunity to get an instrument and lessons when I was young. That is important because I want to assist others who, due to financial or other issues cannot get lessons when they first realize that they want to play the instrument. My profession was (I’m now retired) was Operations and Supply-Chain Management. I’m now approaching 70 and have taken lessons and played in local amateur orchestras with a 12 year period toward the end of my professional career of no playing or instruction where Bell Labs had me on the road 80% of my work time. I no longer take lessons as my goals now are to pass along what I have learned as well as play for my own enjoyment.

Two years ago we were asked to pick-up the neighbor’s children from school. One of them was carrying a violin case so I asked him to come over and play for me. He was excited to find and adult who played. My heart sank when I saw the way he held the instrument – straight out from his chin directly in front of him, left had flat and holding the bow like a kitchen spoon. (The music teacher in the school was enthusiastic but clueless I later learned.) I asked him: “Do you want to learn how to properly play that instrument?” His answer was an emphatic “YES!” So, I took on the task of teaching him. (I can hear some of you cringing.) Fortunately, the method I was taught (Doflein) is still in print and I ordered the first book and we started lessons. He developed pretty fast and I got him an audition with the local youth orchestra (Lakeland Youth Symphony Orchestras - there are four graded orchestras).

Last spring he played the Rieding Op. 35 as his audition piece for the next season and he moved from 2nd chairs the most junior orchestra to 1st chairs in the next orchestra. He is doing well and I still have things to teach him although I can see the day on the horizon when I will have to pass him along to a better teacher. He is well into book two of Doflein as well as learning third, half, and second positions. Together we are working on the Mazas duets Op. 38 just for development and fun.

I don’t charge for these lessons – I don’t want a transactional relationship. (I do accept gratuities from the parents if/when they care to do so.) I do expect the parents to purchase a good instrument and set aside at least part of what they would have had to pay so that they have the cash for better instruments and future lessons that will cost them money.

Here is my problem: I want to get one or two beginners with a similar desire and bring them along. However, the school system has a new head of the music program who has killed the string introduction classes. As she is also the director of the HS bands, she gave me a flat-out opinion that she considers any student that doesn’t play a band instrument but plays a string as a lost band member – she won’t help me find that next fourth grader (Doflein requires a slightly older student than Suzuki). She considers me her competition.

So, how to get the word out that there are two scholarship offerings available? I was thinking Churches, social service agencies,… Any suggestions?

I’m doing this out of love for the instrument and the conductors of the youth orchestras (all professionals) are well pleased with my teaching skills. Unfortunately the LYSO is based on a Suzuki program and the parents there only want Suzuki method (also they tend to be very well off – only my student comes from a less affluent family). So please try to avoid being critical of my lack of conservatory training. My academics are formidable but not in music.

Replies (7)

October 4, 2016 at 03:50 PM · The advertising methods listed are good. What if you simply approached another local school as well? Is said director some sort of superintendent of district music programs? You may also want to consider taking students younger than the average fourth grade age if they are advanced cognitively. Just specify on your ad which developmental milestones or academic level you are seeking, and have each student do a trial lesson to see if they are ready.

October 4, 2016 at 05:05 PM · It's also worth noting that there's nothing about Doflein that inherently demands an older student, as far as I know. When I was a child, my Suzuki teacher also supplemented using Doflein, and I think I was 6 at the time.

String players benefit from getting started earlier.

October 4, 2016 at 08:01 PM · Lieschen, Lydia, et al.,

Thanks for the replies.

"Is said director some sort of superintendent of district music programs?" Exactly, she is the director of all arts and music programs for the school district. I do want to keep this in my town because we are surrounded by much more affluent communities where the parents can afford to pay for lessons. They simply aren't my target group.

Fourth grade is slightly arbitrary because my wife and I are child-free and dealing with children much younger isn't our/my strength. I also had hoped to piggy back on the introduction to instruments string program because I'd have a better chance of finding a young person who, having had some contact with the instrument has a desire to learn it instead of just get the feel of it.

I did exhaust the neighborhood exposing many of the young people to the idea of playing the violin. While some liked the idea of playing with a violin they really didn't want more than a diversion - no real interest in study.

If anyone else has an idea I will appreciate reading it.

October 4, 2016 at 09:44 PM · Try going through the youth orchestra. They most likely know of deserving but poor students.

October 5, 2016 at 12:58 PM · Youth orchestra is a good option but it's only one option. There are other places to find lots of kids, many of whom might be financially disadvantaged, and those include churches and Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. For example you could offer to hold a free seminar on violin playing and violin lessons, for parents and their kids, at a church. You would explain what violin playing entails and you could be even-handed about how they can get involved. With the scouting groups you could offer to help a boy or girl earn a badge.

October 5, 2016 at 09:07 PM ·

October 5, 2016 at 09:11 PM · Paul, et al.,

I like the idea of the seminar/workshop. That may provide the opportunity for my current student and I to play something in public and he may well be the best "advertisement" I have. I had never even thought of scouting (I was never one myself - same problem as the violin - parents could not afford it.)

I wish I could do this with the school system but the Director of Arts and Music has already made it clear that string are not welcome in her program.

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