Pedagogy

I have developed my method from a combination of sources, modifying my approach as needed to best address individual strengths and weaknesses of each student. My primary influence is the work of Ivan Galamian, whose emphasis on a clear and integrated approach to violin pedagogy is an excellent tool for facilitating good musicianship in intermediate and advanced students; I start five- to eight-year-olds on the Shirley Givens Adventures in Violinland series, which is based on the singing of simple folk tunes using solfège, to teach the concept of moveable Do. By learning moveable Do early, students are able to hear and execute half- and whole-steps without the aid of tape on the fingerboard. This approach also enables them to play favorite tunes by ear as well as with printed notes, an accomplishment that encourages young beginners to practice. I teach rhythm through body movement, clapping, and simple conducting. For older beginners, I restructure the Shirley Givens approach and complement it with the study of scales, simple shifting exercises, vibrato exercises, more challenging conducting, and pieces suitable to their age.

For intermediate students, I make use of etudes by Sevcik, Wohlfahrt, Kayser, Sitt, and Mazas, Two-Octave Scales and Bowings for the Violin by Susan Brown, and Carl Flesch’s scale system; I teach sonatas by Händel and other Baroque composers, sonatinas and concertinos by Dvorak, Rieding, Huber, and others, as well as an introduction to the major concerto literature. I teach these students to conduct and sing difficult rhythmic passages to facilitate learning complex rhythms, and I teach them to hear timbre, both in order to cultivate their recognition of absolute pitch and as a stepping-stone to an understanding of expressive intonation.

Advanced students in the teen-age and college years are often pulled in many directions, so I emphasize disciplined practice, teaching methods of task analysis, the isolation of left- and right-hand difficulties, and the economical structuring of practice time. I encourage them to maintain a balanced diet of etudes, scales, and pieces: etudes by Kreutzer, Fiorillo, Rode, and Paganini; scales by Carl Flesch; and the standard solo repertoire of sonatas, concertos, and virtuoso pieces. They usually prepare several pieces during a term: one for performance and others to stretch technique or to introduce a musical style. In lessons, I demonstrate often and encourage students to ask questions, but I also teach them to analyze technical problems and attempt to find solutions on their own. I prepare them for orchestra and ensemble rehearsals, going over their music, helping them with fingerings and teaching them quick and effective practice techniques for learning difficult passage work. I encourage students to spend part of their practice time working through their pieces silently, away from the violin: in addition to helping them hear dynamics, musical style, expression, and an idealized violin tone, I have found this mental exercise condenses practice time and helps students develop a longer concentration span.