Shoulder rest or not for my daughter?

January 24, 2007 at 09:49 PM · I need some advice for my daughter. She has played violin for almost 5 years, since she was 7. Her instructor uses the suzuki method and she has done really well. She is at the end of book 2. Here is the problem. She is just now starting to take orchestra class at school and her teacher wants her to get a shoulder rest. She has a 1/2 size violin and has never used a shoulder rest before. The teacher made her try one of someone elses and she doesn't like it. She says it feels funny and she feels like she can play better without it. Her private instructor is against it but the orchestra teacher keeps telling us to get one and my daughter is in tears because she really doesn't want to use one but doesn't want the teacher mad at her. Is there some reason I should make my daughter try to use the shoulder rest or should I try to reason with the teacher about her not using one? I guess what I want to know is if there is a real benefit that she will get from the rest that would make it worth her trying to get used to it? Right now she loves the violin and I would hate for that to change because of this. Please tell me what you think.

Thanks,

Christy

Replies (60)

January 24, 2007 at 10:26 PM · Christy,

You answered your own question: "Right now she loves the violin and I would hate for that to change because of this."

Especially when her actual teacher sees no need for one. A conductor has no right to infringe on an individuals teacher.

'nuf said.

Preston

January 25, 2007 at 12:21 AM · Amen, Preston.

Go with the Private Teacher. Private teachers trump orchestra teachers in most situations---so make sure you've got a good private teacher.

I don't know what possessed me, for a minute I forgot myself, sorry everyone. I cut out my not nice words.

January 24, 2007 at 10:54 PM · Greetings,

in general v.commie members are excessively polite. I fail in this department as well as many others.

Tell the orchetral teacher to butt out pronto.

This is nothing to do with the unending shoudler rest debate. If your daughter has a medium to long neck she might even need a shoulder rest (although just a litlte foam is usually enough for kids). This is not the point. Otchestral teachers in school have absolutely no business telling studenets what to do without the prior knowledge and cocnest of the private teacher as well as the parent. It is unprofesisonal.

It is also ignorant because judgements about whether or not a rest is needed cannot usually be based on observation in an orchetsral setting. Who know which factors are being adressed at a given moment? Only the private teacher. There may be all manner of things going on thta she is juglging with that an interfering music teahce rmay mess up.

Draw a line quickly and if you daughter becomes confuse dor upset complain loudly and often.

Cheer,s

Buri

January 24, 2007 at 10:53 PM · Don't worry Kimberlee, you have every right to your own opinion.

I very carefully fit all my students with or without shoulder rests or pads as appropriate and I am very careful about exactly how each one fits. Just to tell a parent to "get a shoulder rest" is like a medical person saying "just go get some drugs" without specifying which ones and how much.

Ms. Sanders, I would advise you to first trust your teacher with whom you have a long standing relationship unless there is some other reason not to. It would be nice if your teacher could contact the orchestra teacher but that is sometimes awkward. The ideal situation would be for you and your daughter to meet with your daughter's regular teacher and the orchestra teacher all at once. A five or ten minute discussion should resolve the issue. It is really not that complicated. The issue right now seems to be who is in charge of what.

January 24, 2007 at 11:02 PM · Bravo Brivati!

January 24, 2007 at 11:18 PM · i think the issue is not who is right or whose right it is to go which way.

simply get in contact with the conductor and chat!:)

listen to his side of the story and then offer yours. a little give and take,,,end of problem. there are many ways to have your way, but the conductor does not need to be told: hey, you are not the private teacher. never, never put your child in the middle of a potential turf war. start peace talk now!:)

what is interesting is that USUALLY teachers start young kids with shoulder rest, so i am surprised that your daughter has got so far without it. one of the early exercises is to learn to hold the violin with a good posture without holding it with hand,,,unless her neck height fits perfectly, not an easy thing to do for a beginner without shoulder rest.

good luck.

January 25, 2007 at 12:07 AM · Greetings,

al, probably the firts time I have ever compeltley disagreed with you. No offenc eintended. I agree with you that it is often the wiseset course to seek peaceful channels of communication to resolve issues. However, I am sure you recognize there are occassions in life when somethign is clealry wrong and a clear and unambiuous `Stop it immediately!` is necessray. This is one of those ocassions. The teahcer is crossing lines and causing trouble. The little girl is already upset.

I note thta you move the argument into the `rest or not arena?` with your closing point. That is what need sot be avoided. The primary issue is one of unprofesisonal and harmful interference.

That is the only issue here.

Incidentally, it is not true that most teahcers sbegin children with a shoulder rest. I would cite Paul Rolland as one of the most influential and importnat teachers of the 20c in the childrens arena who did not. He also note dthat although it takes a child sometime to find the means of balancing the violin without a rest (often using faom for support). When one makes this kind of generalization there tends to be an implication that a teacher such as myself who start kids off without rest are less competent or eccentric compared to the mainstream. There is also the hint of a suggestion that maybe the child in questions teahcer is perhaps not doing the right thing for the child compared to the big picture. This is a serious thing. There are good teachers and bad like in everythign else but one has to have the courage to trust them after a certain point.

I actually fele kind of bad writing this to one of the most polite and sensible guys on the list but I think one of the reaosns you are really in the wrong ballpark is you don`t actually teach the violin for a living.

Cheers,

Buri

PS just bene sitting on the bog thinking about the lkast sentence. Please don@t interpret it to mean I am suggesting you are ignorant in this matter. What I was tyring to suggets was that becasue you are not involved in teahcing the insturment on a daily basis you are not necessarily attuned to the kind sof tacit rules and understandings that many teacher stend to have about the wya things shoudl be done.

January 25, 2007 at 12:14 AM · I agree this is *not* about whether a shoulder rest is better/necessary. Many fine violinists don't use them, many fine violinists do. We are all built differently (an issue that I wish was addressed better and more thoroughly with beginners of all ages!) so what works is going to be different as well.

Anyway, what *this* is about, is who has the right to make decisions about your daughter's playing. It is (or could become) a turf war.

If it was my daughter, I would politely tell the teacher that she is taking private lessons and her private teacher will be making all decisions about such things. End of discussion. If the orch teacher takes the stand that "my classroom, my rules" well, I'm sorry but there are other orchestras (disappointing though that would be to your daughter).

However, I'd say chances are that, once you explain to the orch teacher that your daughter is, in fact, taking private instruction and this is a decision that has been made by her and her teacher (rather than just a kid's whim based on not understanding how to play), the orch teacher will be fine with it.

Please don't leave it up to your daughter to do the explaining. The status difference between her teacher and her will make her very unwilling to say, "Sorry, but no". This is a job for mom or dad.

Strings must run into this type of problem more often, and earlier, than other instruments. Piano (the other common 'private lesson' instrument for younger kids) isn't really an ensemble instrument in the same way. I've known college voice teachers and college chorus conductors to really get into it about how a student is being asked to sing.

January 25, 2007 at 12:28 AM · True . . . or maybe the private teacher should give a quick call . . . I've done that on numerous occasions. Orchestra teachers are usually very accomodating when it comes to kids who study privately.

January 25, 2007 at 12:10 AM · buri:)! i would stick a fraction bow out to speculate what the conductor has in mind:

1. hey, everyone is using a shoulder rest, so should you. there is a new sheriff in town and it is me.

2. i don't like your posture. what? not using a SR? get one! there is a new sheriff in town and it is me.

can't say which one is which given what we know so far.

a chat will probably get that info out of the conductor. if 1, relatively easy. relate the history of not using SR,, and if done tactfully, the conductor will probably let it slide without any ego bruise. if 2, a toughie because the conductor may think he knows better, and can play when in rome, do what the romans do or else.

more likely than not, the conductor knows less than the private teacher. precisely because of that, it is a setup for a power play where FEELINGS, nothing but feelings (imagine i am singing to it), can ride over the real concern, which is, the girl's well being.

if it is up to me, knowing that my daughter's happiness can be out of my control during those orchestra hours, i would not confront or even try to educate the conductor, but befriend and understand him. after all, i have to assume he is well meaning enough to try to help. from there, it is easier to negotiate and compromise.

but:), if i really want my daughter to have an early taste of what real life can be, i would go up to the conductor and say: excuse me, you know, her private violin teacher disagrees with you.

January 25, 2007 at 02:03 AM · Did the conductor explain why he insists on a shoulder rest? Are there any technical problems that your daughter may have that the conductor thinks a shoulder rest may help? We had a similar experience. Our conductor wasn't so insistent but he mentioned a shoulder rest once or twice. The conductor was a professional violinist and thought a shoulder rest would help.

Ihnsouk

January 25, 2007 at 02:31 AM · Supposing your family doctor said that your daughter must have a certain medication, but at school the homeroom teacher told your daughter not to take it. How would you feel? What would you say to the homeroom teacher? I think that the situation you describe is a similar one.

January 25, 2007 at 03:08 AM · Greetings,

al, from this

>if it is up to me, knowing that my daughter's happiness can be out of my control during those orchestra hours, i would not confront or even try to educate the conductor, but befriend and understand him. after all, i have to assume he is well meaning enough to try to help. from there, it is easier to negotiate and compromise.

I see we really are looking ta it from a different perspective. You are good natured enough to see it as well meaning. Isee it as flagrant and unethical interference which also reflects incompetence that has already caused the student and mother distress. Probably the teacher too.

I have a lot of respetc for you for holding and maintaining this position. More than I had for generla Custer although there are similarities ;)

Cheers,

Buri

January 25, 2007 at 04:29 AM · buri, here is a curve ball...

you, buri, one that is well read and versed (not the typed written part if i may add:) can probably march into the conductor's office, with a british/japanese accent, say whatever you wish and walk out with the conductor agreeing willingly with you.

on the other hand, reading the same script, delivered by another person, can be a total disaster.

i just feel too much at risk here:) there are lots of people in this world you simply cannot reason with, but, you still have to play ball with:)

January 25, 2007 at 04:51 AM · Gotta' side with Al on this one. Why make trouble when you can make nice?

We don't even know exactly what the conductor said to the girl, nor what tone he used to say it. We are hearing this story from the parent, telling us what his daughter said the conductor wants. To much grey area in there.

Have the chat first, but be ready to put the guy (politely) in his place if he doesn't come around.

January 25, 2007 at 05:00 AM · Buri,

With great respect and admiration (and I hope you know I mean it), I think when issues come up where a child is involved, we grown-ups must always act in the best interests of the child. If this is agreed, then the question of how to do so becomes much simpler.

January 25, 2007 at 06:35 AM · Greetings,

Yixi, you say side with the best interests of the child. I agree with you absolutely. Look at the original post. The child is distressed to the point of being in tears. Do we call that best interests? Her relationship with the private teacher is being messed with. Is that INTBIOTC? The child is now going to be confused about the best way to play . She may lose faith in her teacher. Is that INTBIOTC? She is going to see the music world as one in which poeple interfere and pressure (the turf war has already been created by the music teacher)you instea dof allowing you to enjoy yourslef and find your own way with the guidance of a reliable teacher .

There is no grey area here if one pays attention to what has been said. There is interference at a very deep level (perhaps those who write in support do not have the expereince to fully understand the implications of playing with or without a rest?) and I don`t know how much more strongly I can say this is utterly out of order. There is no grey area. There is no consultation. That personn should butt out.

Al, Allen, if you want to argue for doing it in a constructive and positive manner I think that is valid and sensible. Of course there are ways of communicating in which one can express genuine feelings and stating what you wnat very clearly without causing too much offence. One can still listen to the othe rpersons point of view, pracitce empathy or whatever caring communication tehcnique son wishes. But thta will not change the bottom line one whit.

It is perfectly clear that this teacher is an egotist who bullies young children and is potentially creating a situation inwhich the child may dislike music. Those of us who teach violin, and I apologize profusely because I know this sound patronizing, do know better than those who don@t how bad this situation is. A private teacher is very personally involved with the welfare of their students and usually has very clear ideas about what needs to be done. It is for this reason that it is quite rare for music teahcers ot interfere to this extent and why it should be called what it is immediately.

Only -that- is in the childs interest. It is as black and white as Oliver has suggested in his very succinct and accurate post.

Cheers,

Buri

January 25, 2007 at 06:50 AM · Greetings,

notice the differnece in Ihnsouk`s case. That is a conducter who isplacing the interests of the child first by making a suggestion that can be taken as just that. Not a case of wanting someone to change so that they (the changer) are gratified.

Cheers,

Buri

January 25, 2007 at 12:04 PM · quote: "It is perfectly clear that this teacher is an egotist who bullies young children and is potentially creating a situation inwhich the child may dislike music"

No, it is not perfectly clear, and that was my point. It is somewhat likely, but NOT clear. You are taking the word of a concerned parent, himself interpreting the words of an emotional child. -A child who may have taken a fairly benign suggestion and blown it out of proprtion in her mind. You dont' admit that that's a possibility?

Find out first, THEN beat the guy over the head with a large sausage if the situation is truly as it seems.

Remember also, the parent only has to deal with Herr Concertmonster once, but the child will have to interract with him every day for the next several years.

Prunes, PRUNES I tell you!

January 25, 2007 at 07:28 AM · To tell you the truth, I'm a little jealous of the child learning without one.... I've been back and forth several times, and agree it is confusing.

It came to mind though that maybe the Orchestra teacher saw something that the Suzuki teacher can't see because of routine contact. When kids start that distal growing thing--arms--legs, it can be sort of profound from what I understand. I'm 4(x), and still remember feeling like gumby at that age (though Sharon loved me even then Buri).

So, I'd stick with the private teacher, inform the orchestra instructor how it's going to be, then educate the child after getting past the trauma that a shoulder rest is an option down the road. She may discover the advantages and disadvantages as she matures.

And tell her that violin people from all over the world are on her side--that'll help with the ouch!. I had a teacher at about her age that had a lasting effect on me with a single comment, so get her to talk about it as well.

January 25, 2007 at 07:34 AM · I suspect all of you all have it wrong. The conductor is a trombone player who automatically slaps a shoulder rest on 'em, because he figures it makes it easier for them to sound good. Either that or he's a part-time violin teacher who does the same thing. There is no problem here. It's barely a concern. One call from her teacher to the conductor will solve it. One way or another. The teacher might say use a rest from now on.

January 25, 2007 at 07:54 AM · I remember once a young boy arriving for the first time at the junior orchestra that I conduct with a violin two sizes too big that he tried to play using the most terrible position.I felt it only correct to point out to his mother that he was facing huge hurdles trying to play such a large intrument which he could't even hold properly.The mother was surprised as the childs teacher had told her to buy that size and there was a younger boy in the studio who had an even bigger violin.Ethical or not the boy subsequently is now my pupil and I am still unravelling the damage done in those early years which is a pity as he is a talented boy.

January 25, 2007 at 12:02 PM · Hi,

I think that passing judgement on the conductor vs teacher could be presumptuous. After, the conductor could have been at one time an excellent violinist who changed paths for any number of reasons for all that we know.

I side with asking for a meeting and discussing why it is that he is suggesting that the girl get an SR and thank him for his opinion. This can be discussed with the teacher, and if the problem persists, perhaps the teacher and conductor can discuss the problem - calmly.

Rash judgements in situations like this (like telling someone to bug off without seeking the reasoning behind a statement) usually provokes more harm than good.

Cheers!

January 25, 2007 at 02:31 PM · This is a school orchestra for young children. I am sure the conductor wears many hats. One of them could very well be teaching violin. Would he make a reference to a rest if he was not a violinist himself?

Janet - We went through a similar experience. My daughter switched from 3/4 to full at 9. I had a feeling it was too soon. But the teacher wanted her to get it. My daughter couldn't resist owning a better violin. I compared a full size to 3/4 many times and finally got one. It was big and but more importantly it was harder to play. She was working on Bach double, the second movement. She couldn't produce a beautiful tone for that beautiful piece with her beautiful instrument. One of my biggest regrets.

My daughter got along with her teacher superbly and it wasn't until a couple of years later when we move up(?) to another teacher. We had our share of frustrations but my daughter's playing seems to have survived most confusion.

Ihnsouk

January 25, 2007 at 02:48 PM · to side with buri for a moment, if i were the conductor (ouch) i cannot imagine for any reason that i will tell a violin player to start using a SR, particularly if i have not inquired whether the kid has a private teacher and his position on that, or to consult with the parent first. can be an ego thing, or poor judgement or simply overzealous about being helpful.

yet, the whole set up reminds me of an incident that i know. a client is a highway patrol cop in new york (yes, that hard azzed guy who has no interest to hear your sob story) and he was driving very fast in a civilian car on vacation through Georgia. he was pulled over by a local traffic cop. instead of playing it nice and courtsy, he played tough and informed the local cop of his job. you can just guess what happened afterwards:)...when the local cop was given the attitude.

January 25, 2007 at 02:32 PM · Al - A few children's orchestras I know require that kids take weekly private lessons to join the orchestra. I would assume the conductor expects that she had a private teacher.

Also, in my daughter's school, starting at 5th grade or age 10, most school communications are directed to kids. Parents are expected to get involved only from the distance. Both for empowerment and resposibility. Telling the kid to get a rest, not to parents doesn't seem odd to me.

I am not siding with or against anyone. Just different perspective from my own experience. Our teacher was great. My daughter wouldn't have started violin without him. But I also feel that I shouldn't have followed all the advise from the teacher.

Ihnsouk

January 25, 2007 at 02:51 PM · ihnsouk,

"Also, in my daughter's school, starting at 5th grade or age 10, most school communications are directed to kids. Parents are expected to get involved only from the distance. Both for empowerment and resposibility. Telling the kid to get a rest, not to parents doesn't seem odd to me". thanks for that perspective, i plead ignorance on that:)

and i identify with your feelings toward the "teacher" in that you are grateful for the positives but also realize the situation could have been even better. i know what you mean:)

January 25, 2007 at 05:54 PM · Just do as Christian says. Notice that he neither presumes, nor pontificates, but merely speaks quietly but with great authority and kindness.

Buri may be right, but we are all armchair quarterbacks here!

January 25, 2007 at 07:22 PM · Whew! You all are marvelous and thank you for all the input. So how about an update? First a bit of background. My daughter has been taught by the Suzuki method up to this point and one of the first things she was taught before she even picked up a bow was how to hold the violin with and without hands. She can hold her violin up and play it without using any hands and it doesn't slip. Of course only open strings. :) The started at school this semester after being allowed to skip the first semester because of her experience. Our town has no instruments in the school until 6th grade. So, I went to talk to the orchestra teacher. The first thing she told me when I walked in the room was that my daughter plays wonderfully (without the rest mind you) so I asked her why she wanted her to get the rest, if she was holding it improperly. Basically what I got from her was that everyone in the class was expected to have one and it would help her. Keep in mind the rest of the students just started in September and have never played before. I respectfully disagreed and told her that my daughter felt awkward with it and that she is a small girl, 4'6" and 80 lbs. and she felt like she was having to stretch her neck out to get it in the proper position on the chinrest. She said that at some point she knew that she would need one once she starts more difficult bowings and she wanted her to try one as she would get used to it. I tried several times to ask her to please give her a few weeks to prove herself before she requires a shoulder rest but she kept insisting. I knew that I was getting no where and I was afraid that it would be taken out on my daughter. She has 3 years with this lady as the only orchestra teacher in this school. Unfortunately I have heard from my daughter's private instructor that most if not all the orchestra teachers in our town are really adamant about shoulder rests. Power trip maybe?? Anyway in order to keep a good relationship with the orchestra teacher--especially since it is the only way my child will get to play in an orchestra and go to contests--- I have agreed to a compromise. There is a strings store in town where the owner told me he has played for 45 years and told me he will look at my daughter and recommend something minimally invasive that would still be comfortable for my daughter and I have agreed that she can TRY it. If she doesn't like it I suppose I will have to become the mother bear and fight for my child and if so, I will. I just want the best for my daughter and if she or another teacher see that she is having problems later on and think a shoulder rest would help I would not be against it but I just don't feel a need for it right now. So what do you all think? Did I do the right thing.

January 25, 2007 at 07:43 PM · i think you should run in 2008 instead. great job. A+++.

consider asking a local artist to draw a shoulder rest to the back of the violin if the modified one is still too high.

January 25, 2007 at 07:46 PM · LOL, I like that idea. The orchestra teacher mentioned a foam one so I told my daughter we could get one and I will carve it down really low so she barely has one. It would still be a rest..... At least it made her smile. :)

January 25, 2007 at 08:03 PM · don't forget a thank you card to the conductor with the following beginning...

rest assured that the rest issue has been put to rest...

ps, isn't it amazing a simple issue like this can take away 5 days of your life? let this serve as a warning to future parents!

January 25, 2007 at 08:01 PM · Hi Christine,

I don't think "difficult bowings" have anything to do with whether a shoulder rest is being used or not.

If you must play ball with this conductor, try one of those round pink cosmetic sponges. You can attach them to the bottom of the violin with a rubber band.

Shar also sells "Fiddle Friends", which are really the same thing, but they come in neat-o animal shapes.

I don't like what this conductor is saying though.

I will say "Dogmatic Dork".

January 25, 2007 at 08:20 PM · That's nice that your trying to be respectful of the orchestra teacher, but really if your daughter doesn't need a anything don't force her to try it. If she is comfortable the way she is holding her violin that is great.... there are so many violinists out there who are uncomfortable... if she isn't bothered leave her alone!!! All this "experimenting" might make your daughter think she is doing something wrong.... Secondly, the owner of a music shop is not really qualified to suggest a shoulder rest. Furthermore, this whole situation is ridiculous. Do not force anything on your daughter that she doesn't want. Who cares what this orchestra class teacher thinks! Maybe your daughter would be better off getting chamber music experience by finding some other kids to play with in a quartet...

January 25, 2007 at 08:32 PM · "Dork" was rude. I am sorry.

Can the private teacher do anything?

January 25, 2007 at 08:39 PM · the more ridiculous it is, the better the opportunity to teach the kid about reality and politics and put them in good perspective.

you can avoid the bully or find smart ways to deal with it.

at this juncture, it is 50/50 chance that the kid may love the added thin cushion.

January 25, 2007 at 08:44 PM · Greetings,

Allan to me it is perfectloy clear that this kid is being pressured. The -only- issue of significance here is someone interferring with the teaching of anotehr teacher without being asked. All the issues that are involved such as "not strating a turf war" "maybe a shoulder rest would be better" are irrlevent. Seems to me you are more cocnerned with flip remarks like "beat over the head with sausage' than the actual content of the original post which -clearly-states that an transgression of teahcer ethics is taking place as a result if which a child is sufficeintly upset as to be in tears. You want to call that 'taking the word of an eotional child and concerned parent" or whatever. Fine Absolutley true. That"s right. Upset childre n -are- the most important thing and prents should be -very- cocnerned. The reasons why teachers are almost always highly cautious and sensitive (IE apply profesisonal ethics) in giving any kind of advice outside there own purview is taht teaching the violin is a complex and emotive busines sand it is so easy to put a child off.

This is how I woudl respond as a private teahcer to having a parent come in with a bothere dchild in this kind of situation. I would talk to the parent privately and explain that one doesnot mix diffent styles of teahcign and ideasand that my teaching is base don trust in what I do.This is what she pays for. I would offer support in the form of a polite letter requesting the child be left alone. If the parent require dmore support I woukd offe rit. I would not accept position in an orchestra as an excuse for changing the way I teach and if the parent decided they had to go with this then I would automatically find that student a new teacher.

Cheers,

Buri

January 25, 2007 at 10:26 PM · Buri,

I agree NOW (after Chistine's follow-up post) that the issue is clear. Time to assemble some large, blunt objects (I still vote for the sausage)

Chistine, you might want to dig up previous threads here regarding shoulder rests, and show them to this conductor. IIRC, perhaps 40% of the member here do NOT use one, with the largest amount of users being young (probably because the idea was forced on them by teachers.)

You could also politely mention all the famous players today who don't use one.

January 26, 2007 at 01:05 AM · I agree with Buri now.

January 25, 2007 at 11:15 PM · Buri - Wow, that's why I get worried when our teacher wants a talk. Compared to teachers' devotion and single-mindedness, I feel impure and a bit degenerate allowing myself undignified compromises. I wouldn't know what I would do if I were the parent in your made-up situation. Fortunately, we haven't had any major disagreement with our teachers and conductors.

Ihnsouk

January 26, 2007 at 06:55 AM · Well, for a few years I taught strings part time in my local area (I was rung up out of the blue and offered a job teaching. There was a shortage of string teachers and I accepted the job).

Absolutely everyone in my area here who teaches violin uses a shoulder rest, and all of their students have to use one, too. That is final; no negotiation will be entered into (forgive me anyone out there in my area who doesn't fit this description, but I haven't heard about you, and you certainly don't work for the Ed. Dept.). You go along to a strings workshop and all the violinists and violists use rests (it has to be the commercially designed kind; not a piece of foam).

Needless to say, I thought all of this was silly. But my attitude cost me. I got shouldered out; sidelined. Finally, I got the chop (the Dept chose not to resume my contract. I got the distinct impression the relationship was terminal).I was too different to survive as a strings teacher in my area. The other strings teachers must have felt I was too unprofessional because *some* of my students were allowed to play without shoulder rests or pads.

So I washed the dust from my feet and I moved on. I now work in another industry. I play violin in my spare time.

My point?

A lot of school music teachers (all, in my experience) will demand the use of a shoulder rest. There should not be a rigid, unthinking prejudice against going without a shoulder rest. This problem is particularly bad here in Queensland, Australia.

PS the other issue plaguing that particular job was an entrenched anti-male bias at many (but not all) schools. Men teachers (and, significantly, male student teachers) and their 'failings' were open season in the staff rooms. And I'm not talking about good-natured jest. I'm talking about seriously nasty, unsubstantiated gossip, in some cases condoned by principals. Women teachers and women student teachers were consistently given the red carpet treatment. In some primary schools, I was the only male teacher there. I wrote a letter of complaint to one of the principals and must have been blacklisted for it. But that is another story. Live and learn!

PPS the other thing that happened is that one day in 2004 I discovered Violinist.com, and learned that there were other souls like me out there who wanted to play and teach violin without the oppression of ignorance holding them back.

January 26, 2007 at 04:46 AM · Okay, here's the latest. I took my daughter to the violin shop where the man told me that he could look at my daughter and tell me what kind of rest would work for her because I wanted to be able to say that I had done everything the teacher asked so that I could politely-- as someone said--tell her to bug off. You all had given me the courage to do that, now I needed more ammunition behind me. :) The man asked my daughter to put the violin on her shoulder as if she was going to play and she popped it up there and dropped her arm. As she stood there he looked her all over and under the violin for quite awhile then said she doesn't need one. He told me that my daughter held the violin just right, that it fit perfectly and that any additional space would only harm her, physically and her playing. I said a great big hurrah and you should have seen the smile on my child's face. He said the only thing that she could get if she wanted was a very thin non-skid pad (like what you put under a carpet to keep it from slipping) but that he would not sell us a shoulder pad of any kind and he is in the business to make money... The best part was that as we were getting in the car, my daughter said, now I know I was made to play the violin because it fit perfect. She is so confident now that I think if the orchestra teacher says something now she might even speak up... Thank you all so much. In my heart I knew I was right but sometimes it helps to have someone verify it for you. Now I will just have to dig in and fight for my daughter if I must and I know that if she will just listen to her play and put away her predjudices, that will speak volumes.

January 26, 2007 at 05:12 AM · And now, everyone, lets all join in with three big cheers for the victory of wisdom, open-mindedness and honest observation triumphing over unthinking prejudice.

January 26, 2007 at 05:13 AM · I just read Jon's message and that is so sad that you did what was in the best interest of your students and treated them as individuals and were punished for it. Apparently that seems to be the standard in my town too so maybe I will be the one to buck the trend. Wish me luck!

January 26, 2007 at 05:14 AM · Christine said: "The best part was that as we were getting in the car, my daughter said, now I know I was made to play the violin because it fit perfect."

Believe it or not, even though it routinely whupps up on me, I feel the same way... That was so nice--it made my evening.

January 26, 2007 at 05:26 AM · christy, i wonder if you may want to get a written opinion from the shop. that way, in case the conductor questions it you have something from a third party.

i am smiling for you:)

January 26, 2007 at 05:30 AM · Me too, Albert.

(Except its mid afternoon here).

January 26, 2007 at 05:34 AM · Thanks for your kind words, Christine.

The odd thing about the school teaching business is that school teachers want to be seen as professionals. All the uni Ed departments are really pushing for this. Oddly enough (seriously so), I have never seen so much unprofessional goings on as what I have seen in schools, both public and private (and in university Education faculties, too, bigtime).

The m**xists and post modern revisionists have grabbed Education in a very strong grip. But that, also, is another story. Nothing to do with shoulder rests of course.

January 26, 2007 at 05:51 AM · Jon, if you like teaching, teach on the side. Never let anyone permanently take something away from you, unless you choose, that it was not for you.

January 26, 2007 at 06:26 AM · I think, one day, when the time is right, I'll hang a little shingle outside my front door.

The shingle will read: "Mr Jon O'Brien. Violinist and teacher. Reasonable rates and professional service. Enquire within".

January 26, 2007 at 06:20 AM · Mine'll be, he fought many windmills to play competently!. CD's available!. :0)

January 26, 2007 at 07:13 AM · "Life is a fight!"

-Zino Francescatti.

But a good one, and worth it (me).

And who was it who once said, "I have fought the good fight..."?

January 26, 2007 at 07:36 AM · So Buri had sussed out the situation.

What a stupid orchestra teacher. Well, not the only one, as Jon's disheartening experience tells us. Jon, by the way, in the infant/primary section in my kids school, there are only 5 or 6 male class teachers (total 45) but they are soooo good, totally devoted to their profession and excellent teachers: I arrived to the conclusion that to tach children is a matter of course for women, so you get all sorts, but for a man to do it, he really must love teaching them!

Back to conducting, does a "real" proper orchestra conductor tell people how to set their instruments? Hey, change the ligature on that clarinet, etc etc.

Christian, your daughters comment is so heart-warming! The orchestra teacher seemingly cannot appreciate people who actually love to play their instrument.

January 26, 2007 at 09:42 AM · Yes Parmeeta, I agree with you. I have the highest regard for the wonderful school teachers and principals that I have had the pleasure to have worked with and known. A great teacher is an inspiration for life.

January 26, 2007 at 11:15 AM · Christine Sanders - Kudos. I think you handled the situation terrifically.

Cheers!

P.S. Bilbo - thanks for the kind words. You just made my week.

January 26, 2007 at 09:12 PM · Jon, a little OT here, but have you looked into teaching in the Steiner/Waldorf system? For some, their philosophy could make it a difficult position, but my experience is that music is highly regarded within the system, as is individuality, plus each school is independent of others, and teachers have autonomy in how they facilitate their class. at least there isn't a Dept School Ed asking you to teach the kids to pass their kindie tests to the exclusion of any other learning.

January 26, 2007 at 09:35 PM · Have you talked to the private teacher about this?

I wouldn't compromise to the orchestra teacher without discussing this with the private teacher.

well, since writing the above, I see that others wrote more about it earlier...I totally agree with Buri. The private teacher has good reasons (obviously, since your daughter fits the violin perfectly), and it's not possible to compromise on an issue like the shoulder rest, in my opinion.

January 27, 2007 at 06:54 PM · I'm jumping in here a tad late. I don't personally think the violin needs to be played with a shoulder rest (I don't use anything even a sponge), but it should be the player's decision - not some orchestral teacher's. There are great benefits to not using a rest if the violin is not held up by the shoulder, more often than not however unfortunately this is done and the violin loses some ring. So I would suggest, if your daughter does choose to go down the path of using no shoulder rest on the instrument, it is essential to make sure that the instrument is not held up by her shoulder.

May 29, 2007 at 04:30 AM · Sharelle, many thanks for your suggestion. I will look into it. This is a seriously late reply!!!

May 29, 2007 at 09:24 AM · Jon, that is a seriously genuine response though. Your tardiness is forgiven. I hope that you find a better avenue.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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