Group classes for adults?
An old orchestra friend of mine has been doing something that I consider to be an absolute mitzvah (and also a potentially genius idea).
The idea was inspired by a conversation with a woman who was a hot-shot violinist through childhood (like Lydia!) and hasn't touched her instrument in years because starting again is so daunting. Moved by this woman's plight, he started a group class for adults who want to restart the violin.
My sense, based on his description, is that it's part master class, part group therapy, part Suzuki-for-grown-ups: they start at a basic level: how do you play a scale? an open string? how is your basic set-up, and can you play without pain or tension? They play things together and separately, work up something for a final recital (albeit not super formally) and inspire and encourage and teach/learn from each other. He considers his job done if he manages to launch them into a community orchestra or chamber music group or private lessons--some kind of return to regular playing. He's doing it for an extraordinarily low price because he didn't want cost to be prohibitive.
He and I spent a long time brainstorming about what a similar course could look like for more regular players: those who are not taking lessons and maybe don't have an effective/regular practice routine or well-established goals, but who are still playing at some level (e.g. in a community orchestra, or at their church/synagogue) and hoping to improve. His original concept for this next version was to help people establish more efficient "adult" practice routines and work up enough new material for a short recital. I think he's still refining his ideas, though.
I was personally enchanted by the possibilities of such a class. There's something so appealing to me about the idea of helping and being helped by a group of people, each with a goal in mind. It's like a lesson in that you meet regularly and have an incentive to make progress and practice, but also social and collaborative like orchestra. We all have different struggles and can learn from each other. One participant might be keen to finally polish the last movement of a concerto they kinda-sorta learned in their youth. Another might want to work on bow control in a slow piece. Another might want to rework their vibrato, or try playing without a shoulder rest.
It occurred to me that it would have some similarities with the online community that you've built here.
What do you think?
Could it work?
Is it already working, somewhere?
Teachers, is this the kind of thing you could conceivably embrace?
Fellow adult violinists-without-teachers, would you sign up for it?
How much time would you commit to something of this nature, and how much might you pay?
What are the potential pitfalls? (assuming that the teacher knows his stuff, which he does)
I don't have too much to say. This sounds like a cool idea, and could work with multiple seachers and no more than three in a private work group of students playing at a similar level with similar goals, strengths and weaknesses.
Yes, I think it's a great idea. However, in general, I'm a lot less worried about those who were childhood hotshots and want to pick it back up than I am about those who want to learn from the ground up in adulthood. There are vanishingly few resources for the latter group of people.
I think that community music schools in major metro areas often have group classes for true adult beginners, and that many returnees who have totally lost their skills would probably be comfortable in such classes.
It sounds like a good idea, especially the supportive aspect of the group is definitely going to attract members. I'm thinking out loud here. There are a few things I don't know how this will work out.
Adult restarters might differ greatly in terms of playing ability. Then there will be the rather tough reservation against adult beginners. Generally how would you define a restarter. Without factoring in resources and availibility of intetested people, i suggest a longish session, broken up into equaltime slots (45 mins, hour, 1.30...etc). Say, saturday 3-4 beginners, 4.15 to 5.15 intermediate (whether rebeginners or those who graduated from first sesion), 5.30 to 6.30 more advanced. Kind of like what happens in a salsa dance teaching situation.
I think there's nothing really wrong with it in principle, but in a lot of areas there won't be critical mass to do this. And I agree with Tammuz that playing ability -- even if everyone is a raw beginner -- will vary greatly after the third or fourth session. You could skim the cream for your private studio...
Probably truly major metropolitan centers have a lot more such resources, but even here in Indianapolis (which is obviously not Chicago, NYC, or LA, but it does have a population of 2 million and we also have IU a stone's throw away), it's not easy to find group settings for adult beginners. It's not that they don't exist at all, but just that there aren't that many.
The concept sounds like the studio classes that some teachers already host for their students. It's not quite a masterclass (not open to the public). The format varies. Some are just performances with the teacher's feedback, and others are like workshops where participants critique each other.
I see this more as a group rehearsal, which should be supplemented with private lessons if any significant progress is to be made. Face time with the teacher in a group learning is very limited, perhaps 10min per hour if not less. It may seem inexpensive but if you calculate cost per min with teacher's attention, I'd be surprised if it isn't more expensive actually. The group context on the other hand can be motivating for adults, especially those who seem to only thrive in a social context and have difficulty staying motivated on their own.
Katie, it sounds like you were just dealing with a jerk. I don't think lesson cost necessarily correlates with quality of a lesson, but I can't imagine that someone that is okay with wasting your time to that extent would be conscientious enough to be able to effectively teach. In my case, my teacher and I keep a pretty flexible schedule, and a 5 minute or so adjustment on the start time isn't typically a big deal, although maybe my schedule is flexible enough to work for her, but she fits me in. I think a teacher making it seem like they are doing you a huge favor is a big red flag, and that other teachers will be much more respectful of your time.
Some teachers are just bad at keeping to schedules. Note that lessons that don't start on time wreak havoc with kids, too, who are often crazily over-scheduled and need to get to baseball practice or whatever on time.
So - what I read above is full of valid ideas, I think! But if you are going to arrange something like this you need to have agreement among the student participants as to which approach will work for their desires (the teacher will determine their needs).
I am an adult returner. Played all through grade school (13 years), then stopped playing for 10 years (undergrad, law school, early career). I only began playing again a couple years ago once I had moved into a detached home, so I wouldn't bother the neighbors practicing. Now I play in a community orchestra every week.
Of course it could work. As others have said, private lesson supplementation is an absolute must. One way to make things perhaps slightly easier from a scheduling standpoint is to simply have an all-ages beginner group class as an option. Space at community schools can be tight. That way you don't need to always worry about separate rehearsal spaces and times for classes taught for the same skill level, but different ages. Allow students to test out as needed on a rolling basis.