I learned recently that the director of orchestras at Memorial High School in Houston's Spring Branch School District has mandated that all violinists and violists must use a shoulder rest. He claims that playing without a shoulder rest is injurious and that this is for the benefit of the students.
Memorial High School is known locally for its huge orchestra program spearheaded by a teacher with no known string playing experience. The school is located in the heart of one of Houston's finest residential neighborhoods. The demographics of the neighborhood are fully reflected in student achievement.
I am well known on violinist.com for my advocacy of clenchless playing which in my mind is best achieved with no shoulder rest. I believe that all students should (with the assistance of their private teacher) be permitted to choose whether they should use a shoulder rest. I am appalled at the arrogance of this teacher for mandating shoulder rests. I don't know any private teachers with students at Memorial High School but if I were such a teacher I would demand my student's withdrawal from this program. It is educational arrogance and malpractice at its worst.
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