Do you offer online lessons?
YES! Due to COVID19 limitations, I have introduced online lessons using Zoom or FaceTime. Of course, in person lessons are still preferable for younger students and for those working on new techniques, but online lessons can be a great way to check in with your teacher and get some new assignments. Students above age 10 are required to wear a mask. Hand sanitizer is provided and contact tracing records are maintained.
Where do you teach?
My studio is located in my home at 41 Ellen St., Port Hope, just east of Ontario St (hwy 28) and less than 1km south of 401. This space allows me ready access to my personal resources (music, books, cds). The room is large enough to accommodate parent, child and teacher comfortably. I use a portable keyboard so that I can hold rehearsals of small groups with an accompanist. I also have a children’s table and a few books, toys and drawing materials in the studio for children while they are waiting for their parent or sibling’s lesson. My front vestibule serves as a waiting area with chairs and reading material.
How do I buy an instrument?
Consult the teacher first! Most violins which come from general music stores are not properly set up, and while the price may make it seem like a good deal, the old saying “you get what you pay for” is very true. This article explains why: http://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/201011/11787/ If the instrument doesn’t have a good tone, or is not easy to play because it has been poorly manufactured, the player is just going to get frustrated. Ideally, you should have your teacher play the instrument so you can hear how it sounds, and so that he/she can determine whether there are any problems with it.
Young children will generally outgrow their instrument in a matter of 12 to 18 months. Most families in my studio take good care of their violins, so when it’s time for the next size up, they can sell it to another family for close to what they paid for it, because it has retained its value, and with a new set of strings (purchased by the new owner), it will be ready for someone else to play.
If it is necessary to purchase a new instrument, (particularly in the smaller fractional sizes) I have a vendor’s permit with a company in Toronto which enables me to acquire European instrument outfits at competitive prices and sell them to my students.
In the Suzuki approach, we usually start the child with a pre-violin, or box, to prepare the child for the real violin. When the child is given the box, they are not tempted to rush into doing activities on the instrument for which they are not physically or mentally prepared. This process is followed to insure the child’s physical comfort with their violin and bow, and thus allows them to develop at their own pace. Once the teacher has determined the readiness of the child, parents can purchase or rent their instruments.
For older beginners, or parents learning to play, I recommend the following stores for instrument rentals:
* Long & McQuade: 7789 County Rd. 2, Cobourg, 905-373-1991
Simcoe St., Oshawa, 905-434-1612
* Remenyi House of Music: Bloor St. W., Toronto, 1-800-667-6925
* The Sound Post: 93 Grenville St., Toronto, 1-800-363-1512
How old do you have to be to start taking violin lessons?
The answer to this question depends to some degree on the temperament of the child and whether or not the parent is willing to be involved. The advantage of the violin is that the instruments come in sizes small enough to accommodate very small hands. Many Suzuki programs introduce the violin to children as young as age two. There is much research to support the case for music education in early childhood and its effect on higher brain functions. The Mozart Effect by Don Campbell contains many fascinating accounts of this evidence. Many relationships in the brain are established before age 6, and playing stringed instruments, in particular, seems to promote and strengthen such connections.
For children ages 6 and up, it is really up to the parent to consider what level of involvement they are comfortable with in supporting the lessons.
I am an adult who has never played before, or used to play and would like to re-start. Are lessons available for me?
Of course! It is always a pleasure to teach any student who is motivated to pick up an instrument. Adults are capable of being responsible for their own results and practice patterns and can therefore make excellent progress. My only caution for older adults who are interested in beginning violin is that violin playing requires a certain amount of flexibility in the wrists, forearms, fingers and shoulders. If you have arthritis or other conditions which limit mobility in these joints, the violin may not be for you. Although adults do not have the same degree of flexibility in the fingers as children have, the biggest obstacles for adult learners are usually the other demands on their time, and fear of failure (which creates stress and tension in their playing). Suzuki method can be quite successful with adults as it breaks the learning process down into small, manageable steps so that steady progress can be achieved in short practice sessions.
Do you offer group lessons for children?
Due to COVID19 restrictions, any group class for younger private students would have to be online on the Zoom platform. In order to run a group class, I need at least 4 children committed to a regular group time slot, in addition to their private lesson time. Group classes are very worthwhile – online or in person – because children are motivated to learn, practice, listen, and participate by observing and playing with others in the class. They learn performance skills by playing through their pieces with the group and the teacher.
Do you offer group lessons for adults?
I am currently offering 2 small ensemble (trio / quartet) “socially distanced” sessions for intermediate-advanced level adults (RCM gr. 6-8) with orchestral or equivalent experience. In the past 4 years, I have hosted an ensemble session called “Arco” on Wed. mornings for intermediate level players (RCM gr. 3-6). The purpose of these sessions is to bring together people with similar levels of ability in order to work on skills such as listening, communicating, and expressive phrasing .
How often should my child practice?
Dr. Suzuki’s answer to this question was: “You should only practice on the days that you eat.” A corollary to this maxim is: “The rate of a student’s progress generally corresponds to the amount of daily practice time.” In practical terms, this means that if your child only practices for 15 to 20 minutes two to three times a week, it will take him 4 years to complete the material that the child who practices DAILY, for 30 minutes, can complete in one year. Of course, every child is different and learns at his/her own pace. That is why private music lessons are so valuable. However, it is also worth putting forth the “sub-corollary” that “quantity of (practice) time does not equal quality of time.” A parent supervised practice session of 15 minutes can be far more productive than a child working on her own for half an hour.
Many families find a chart helpful to track the amount of practice and to make students accountable for their practice between lessons. Here are two samples (#1 for Book 1 students; #2 for Book 2+)
How long should the practice sessions be?
A simple guideline to answer this question is that the length of the student’s lesson should be equal to their practice time. Young beginners, however, are often happy to practice more than once a day (10 minutes at most), if their parent has established a playful approach to practicing.
*for more tips on practice strategies, please read:
Some Advice For Parents About Practising.pdf (resource list included)
What is the difference between the violin and the viola?
There are two main differences: the size of the instrument, and the pitch of the strings. The violin’s body measures approximately 13 inches, whereas the viola can be anywhere from 15 to 18 inches long, and slightly deeper through the body and ribs as well. Both instruments are held in the same manner, on the left shoulder, which can present some physical challenges for the viola player, who must therefore be extra comfortable with the size and positioning of the instrument. Violists may also need to adapt their left hand techniques slightly, depending on the size of their hands. It is for this reason that many teachers do not introduce the viola as an option for students until it is evident that the student will be able to manage the size of the viola comfortably. Some teachers will put fractional sized viola strings on a violin; however, unless the correct guage of string is available, the pitch of the string is never “true” as it cannot vibrate properly.
The other difference is that the viola has a lower, deeper tone than the violin. The viola’s four strings are the notes: A, D, G, and C. The violin’s strings are E, A, D, and G. The violin’s highest string, E, enables it to take the role of the soprano voice, whereas the C string on the viola gives it its rich lower register and allows it to provide the “tenor” voice in a string quartet or an orchestra. Viola music is usually written in the alto clef, because the notes the violist must read are generally in the register that would fall into the lower part of the treble clef, and the higher section of the bass clef.
Is there a difference between violin and fiddle?
The difference is purely a nominal one. The word “fiddle” is actually derived from “fidel” which was a medieval precursor to the violin, and has come down as sort of a “nickname”. The two different names are also used to distinguish the style of music being played: we generally think of the violin as an orchestral instrument for classical music, whereas the fiddle is more for folk and traditional styles –but again, this is purely in name. Sometimes traditional fiddlers prefer to have the bridge of their instrument less arched than usual so that it is easier for them to play on two strings at once. Fiddlers often choose a brighter sounding steel string set to help the sound project more. Other than these minor physical differences, the instruments are the same.