For the students I start in private lessons, their first taste of violin is purely of a solo nature. One of the reasons I enjoy teaching individual lessons is the ability to work one on one, getting to know the student and the parents in a unique way that I believe is difficult to replicate in the classroom setting. But how do we help our students prepare for playing with others? Especially for string instruments, large ensemble works are so important to what our instruments can do - Think of Beethoven's symphonies or Haydn's string quartets. What I've noticed as an often occurrence is stage fright does kick in if students are never exposed to other players or people outside of their circle of friends and family. How do we expose them to larger works for either chamber groups or large symphonies outside of assigning more listening homework?
This is where group lessons and participating in local community groups come into play. Only so much can be accomplished for a student in the private lesson and a teacher can only simulate playing with others by playing duets or accompaniments for so long. I work hard to keep students informed on the group opportunities available to them throughout the year and have prioritized offering limited, free group lessons in the summers to help my students become exposed to these experiences. Here are a couple of the reasons I truly believe playing in a group benefits all music students:
These are just a handful of the benefits I see when my students get to participate in musical groups. Feel free to ask what others might exist specifically for you or your child. In Hagerstown, MD and the surrounding areas, I am so thrilled to see so many opportunities for people to get out and interact in a musical way. There is the Shepherd Community Orchestra and Junior Strings, which I direct, only a short drive away in Shepherdstown. The Cumberland Valley School of Music also offers a five week community orchestra in the fall and spring, and this fall they're starting a new beginner orchestra called "Fiddlesticks" - How cute is that? There's also string ensembles available at many of the local community colleges. There truly is something for everyone at all ages, levels and commitment levels, and it is my hope that every one of my students takes the time to play in a group at some point in their musical journey.
For those of you outside of the Hagerstown, MD and surrounding areas, what programs do you have available to you? What benefits have you observed in your students or your own playing? How do you encourage participation in your studios? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram – Find me at @shawstrings!
Welcome to Shaw Strings and Things!
This blog is dedicated to sharing my teaching experiences and resources as a private violin/viola music instructor. I think most agree you can always be improving, learning and developing new techniques as a teacher - I'm glad we're doing it together!