Several of you requested that I post a vid, well here it is. It is Josh Groban's Broken Vow, it isn't perfect, I can hear my slightly off notes, and I realize that I ended on an up bow. I just got my fiddle tweaked and put new strings on, so it is still settling in. Enough with the excuses........here it is. www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6jTLMRSiNQ
Let me know what you think!
I can't figure out how to get the vid up on my blog, so click the address link.
Almost exactly 1 year ago, I started taking skype lessons from Alex DePue. In that year, I've had about 30 lessons. You might ask why so few lessons, well, I was deployed (I'm in the United States Air Force) to Antarctica for 2 months, and Alex has been very busy with his touring schedule and working on his soon to be released CD.
Looking back on the last year, I am in complete awe. I finished Suzuki book 1 by the end of October 2010, in only 15 lessons!!!! And I am on course to finish book 2, also in about 15 lessons! I know what you're thinking.......it's not about how fast you get thru the material, but how well you can play it. Well, rest easy, because I really can play. I've been think back on where I started and where I am now, and all I can say is wow. I have conquered straight bowing, spiccato, staccato, slurring, bow grip, loose right wrist, intonation, and the list goes on. Alex has told me numerous times how shocked he is at my progress, and I thought that he was just saying it to make me feel good, but now I'm really starting to believe him. Pieces that I thought looked scary and were impossible, are now a reality for me to play! I constantly thank Alex for all his hard work in teaching me and he in return tells me that I'm doing all the hard work, that he's just along for the ride! I guess that is true, but I'm having so much fun practicing and working each piece out measure by measure that it isn't work for me!
This journey has also taught me a lot about myself. I've been healing from the lose of both my parents in 2006, and I thought I was over it, but this past year I've really begun to heal with the help of Alex and the violin. I have so much more patience, and I'm able to clear my mind of the daily troubles to center myself and focus totally on practicing the instrument. I've learned to enjoy the smallest of victories and not to focus on the only on the overall goal. Learning the violin is really a journey in learning about yourself.
What traits does a good teacher posses? How about a great teacher?
I have had about 6 instrument teachers thru out my music career, starting with the trumpet in the 5th grade. For the most part, they were all good teachers. They were patient, communicated their ideas well to their students and for the most part got their students to play the way they needed to. But you could tell that as much as they enjoyed teaching, it was a job. Sure, the great students stood out in their memories, but nothing else.
Now what about a great teacher?
The violin teacher that I currently have, falls into this category. He knows each and every one of his students on an almost intimate level. He knows exactly who practices, who is late to their lessons, who is behind on payments, who is shy, who is outgoing, etc. He takes the time to really get to know his students.
Alex knows when I am getting frustrated and changes things up, or suddenly has me working on a few fiddle licks. When I hit a part or technique that I can't figure out, he takes me thru it as slow as I need. Or even thinks for a second to come up with a different approach to the problem. What makes this all the more incredible, it that he is typically thousands of miles away! Yes, I take lessons over the internet thru skype.
Many people think that the only way to take lessons is from a person in the same room as the student. While this is the best method, great teachers are able to overcome the miles and still get their ideas and methods across to their students.
Alex truly is a great teacher and an incredible friend.
I started my journey with the violin on February 1, 2010 in northern Texas, while at school for the US Air Force. I called all around the area, desperate for a teacher to teach me, but sadly I only seemed to find mediocre ones. My 1st teacher, told me that he could "get me thru the fingerings" alarm bells starting going off. During that first lesson, he did nothing to help me with either of my hands, he just had me play while he played the guitar. That was the one and only lesson I had with him. My 2nd teacher, I thought was a home run, until my 3rd lesson, when I commented that something sounded off and she told me that it was me (I had finger tapes on, and I had hit the note dead on), it was her, Her intonation was poor, along with her left hand position (pancake wrist). That was the end of her. My third and finally teacher, while I was in TX, was a retired gentleman who could play well enough, but he had a very hard time getting his ideas on technique thru to me. I probably took 5 lessons from him. Now I should probably mention, that prior to February 1st, I had ZERO experience with string instruments, although I did play the trumpet and baritone for 8 years until 1999. All 3 of these teachers happened in a span of 3 months. To say the least, I had a very weak foundation.
Then in late May, my violin life changed forever........
Somehow, I managed to get a violinist/fiddler by the name of Alex DePue to be my teacher. Alex has been playing since the age of 5, played Carnegie Hall at the age of 14, has opened for Charlie Daniels, toured with The Chris Cagle Band and Steve Vai, and was nominated for a Grammy in 2009. He is also a state fiddling champion in Michigan, Texas, Alabama, and California, a regular top ten finalist in traditional fiddling contests, including The Grandmasters Fiddling Championship in Nashville and The National Oldtime Fiddling Championship in Weiser, Idaho.
I know this sounds like boasting (well maybe a little), but I bring this up for one reason. At the time, I was an adult beginner violinist from a VERY small town in upstate NY. I would have been happy getting a school music teacher as my violin teacher, but the fact that I found Alex was straight from a fairytale!
Now getting back to the reason for this blog. Up until I had my first lesson with Alex, I thought I was doing awesome. I had been playing for 4 months, had removed all my finger tapes, "thought" my bowing was perfect, and was up to the 12th piece in the Suzuki Book 1 (Suzuki's Etude). I was cruising right along.........
Then I had my first lesson with Alex. I might add that all my lessons with Alex are thru skype, since he is frequently touring and lives in Mexico. During that first lesson, my violin bubble was solidly popped. Alex basically started me all over from scratch again. We went back to twinkle, twinkle and spent at least 2 months working on all the variations. Since then, we have worked on each piece, until they were perfect and all the nuances and techniques that Suzuki wanted the student to master were learned. This sometime meant spending 40 minutes out of a 60 minute lesson working on 9 notes! I have worked VERY hard to get to this point, typically spending 2-3 hours a day practicing, occasionally spending 5+ hours a day.
Fast forward to today.......
I am finishing up Suzuki book 2, and still having a blast!!! I have overcome (at the time) a serious mental block with slurring, that whole rub your belly and pat your head thing. My bowing is now wonderfully straight and true, my right wrist is beautifully loose and fluid, and my left hand is getting faster everyday.
Without Alex's patience and insistance on taking the time for me to really master things, like articulation, dynamics, bow control and left elbow position, I would not be where I am today. I remember getting really frustrated when he had me play the same passage 20 times until it was perfect, but it was what needed to be done.
Thanks to Alex's persistance and patience; and my hard work, I'm going to be joining a community orchestra in the fall!!!!!
I played the trumpet and baritone for 8+ years in high school and I really enjoyed it and I was good at it. I made it to All-County Band 7 years in a row. I picked up the violin last February at the age of 29, after stumbling across a video of Alex DePue tearing it up on the violin. I After I returned back home to NY after a military deployment, I somehow ended up getting Alex DePue as my violin teacher (I still can't believe it). I have been taking skype lessons from Alex for a year now and loving every minute of it. After only a year with Alex, I have almost finished up Suzuki book 2 and everyone seems to think I might have what it takes to do something with the violin. Is it too late for me to get into a good orchestra or group?
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