Games for Levity and Community - Violin Studios in the time of Zoom

April 18, 2020, 8:19 PM · Is it just me, or does the time of Covid-19 online learning come with some surprising and exciting opportunities? Zoom lessons have required a lot of patience, for sure. To my delight, however, zoom has also brought some levity and community to the violin studio at VCU where I teach. Every Friday, string professors and their students celebrate another week in studio class happy hour.

It is not a formal requirement for our University studio class, but it has been an important part of all of our lives over the last month. Students look forward to it, and we have even had students outside of the University ask to join. The only rules for happy hour have been: bring your violin and an age appropriate drink of your choice (for toasting the end of the week). Pets optional but highly encouraged.

Along the way we are learning about ourselves, each other, and of course the violin. Games are front and center at our Friday Zoom gatherings. If you are looking for some violin games for gatherings of students or colleagues, below are some that we have had fun with:

Concerto Bingo à la Heifetz Party Game:

In advance of your gathering, send out concerto bingo cards like this one - you can make your own with an online bingo card generator.

During the happy hour, any teacher or student plays the first - ONLY the first two - notes of any of the concertos on the card - but as convincingly and performance-like as possible. Keep passing the bingo master until all concertos have been played or someone yells “bingo”, whichever comes first. If no bingo is called, start anew with more notes: performers play the first three notes, or first four notes, or more….

Name that Bach:

Students and teachers take turns performing the first phrase of any Bach Sonata or Partita they know, but muted in zoom. Participants perform silently, so that everyone can see them, but not hear them. The rest of the gathering has to guess what movement and piece it is. Clues and collaboration encouraged!

Ling Ling Playing Challenge à la TwoSet :

All players should come prepared to play the introduction of their solo repertoire. Challenges are collected in the chat room (everyone contributes one challenge, like “play at 2x speed” “one octave up”, “play while dancing”, “play left handed”) etc. Then it’s performing time: The challenges can be dished out in alphabetical order or a facilitator can pull names out of a hat. Participants perform (with sound) ….applause!

Adopt a player:

Before the group class, ask students to post two videos: The first is a youtube link to their current favorite player and the second is a video of themselves playing in the style of that player (any repertoire or the same piece). Their “job” is to copy everything about them - left and right hand mechanics, facial expressions, body movements etc. We use padlet for posting video links, but links can also be posted in the chat function if you want it to go out live. Playing videos through zoom doesn’t really work, so links should be played on participants native computers while they are in mute. Rounds of applause encouraged :)

No game is too silly in the time of zoom, and I think the virtual backgrounds and mute mode in zoom have some untapped potential! Do you have Zoom group games and challenges that you can recommend for group settings? Please share below. We all need a little levity and community building while we are at home. Happy zooming and as always, happy practicing.

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April 19, 2020 at 05:35 PM · What an incredible level of fun/skill! Sounds magnificent.

April 19, 2020 at 06:07 PM · I just love this idea, Susanna, and thank you for sharing the games that you, your colleagues and students have invented. This is wonderful inspiration, also, for us teachers who would like to invent some games for younger students. It's important to stay positive these days and tap into that ability to "think outside the box" - thanks for showing us it can be done!

April 19, 2020 at 07:58 PM · thank you! It's been fun for us as teachers - I convinced Simon (my violin colleague) to be the one to demonstrate the opening of Stravinsky! We pick a combination of things that we know students will know and things they won't know, so as to expand the box and get them interested. Of course, it sometimes means going out on a limb ourselves, which is what makes it exciting for us teachers too.

April 22, 2020 at 10:39 AM · Hi Susanna, thanks for this article! I'm also a violin teacher, especially for 8-12 year olds. For the younger ones and group zoom games, I do something completely non-musical. I ask a series of "questions" and they need respond as quickly as possible with a prop, or something in the room. Such as 1) Your favourite thing, 2) Something that doesn't make sense, 3) A music instrument that isn't my violin, 4) If I was 1cm tall, this would be my home. You'd be surprised how fun and funny this challenge is, and it keeps them entertained and laughing, which I think is great for this time of our lives!

Thanks for your ideas, I'll definitely adapt them to my younger ones.

April 25, 2020 at 01:14 AM · I love that - especially the as quickly as possible and with a prop! Thanks for giving me more ideas!

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