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Pauline Lerner

March 21, 2005 at 2:24 AM

One of the fun things about teaching violin is meeting interesting people. I recently got a new crop of adult beginners. One has a substantial musical background. She has been playing piano since the age of two and guitar for almost as long. Now she composes. She has composed several pieces for string quartets and she decided that it would help to know how to play violin. Another student lived in Ireland for a while and wants to play Irish fiddle music. She played violin a la Suzuki as a kid, and she remembers some of it. Another new student studied violin through high school and put it aside when she started college, had a family, etc. She always wanted to resume playing and, when her boyfriend gave her a violin as a present, she came to me. Yet another student, who also plays guitar, worked at a Friends (Quaker) camp last summer, where she heard kids learning to play fiddle, and she just had to do it, too. One more student, with no previous training in music, loves classical music and wants to learn to play it on the violin.

My adult beginners tend to get more frustrated than my kid beginners. That’s because they’ve heard enough music to be aware of how bad they sound at first. Actually, they don’t sound that bad. You don’t have to put your hands over your ears and duck for cover when they play. It’s just that moving the bow smoothly and steadily across the strings is a lot harder than it looks. I have to reassure them that this is tough for beginners and that it will get easier with practice. They all tell me that they’re excited about playing the violin, and I want them to continue to feel that way.

Some of my kid students are doing really well. At a certain point, everything they’ve been struggling with comes together and – bingo – they sound really good. Now I have to work hard to find new pieces and exercises for them, always trying to balance challenges and instant fun.

I always feel sad when a student leaves. I’ve had a couple of boys, ages seven to ten, quit. They have talent and learn quickly, but they don’t see the value incontinuing. They have other classes and other extracurricular activities that they’d rather spend their time on. I really miss one particular fellow whom I’ve taught for about a year and a half. He’s smart, talented, and a nice, good natured kid. I got to know his family and I like them and miss them, too. I don’t have any family of my own, and that makes me more sensitive to other people’s families. One of my adult beginners is leaving, too. He got an offer for a job in California that he couldn’t refuse. He wasn’t even looking for a job. The job found him. He had no training in music before he started taking lessons with me. He had traveled in Ireland and fell in love with Irish fiddle music. As soon as he started to play, he sounded great. He has a lot of talent and he loves playing. He only studied with me for about three months, so he has only begun. He intends to take lessons in California, and I was able to get him a recommendation for a good Irish fiddle teacher near his new home.

The beat goes on.

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