Last week I was at a violin teacher training course at Ithaca College, in Ithaca, NY. It was an inspiring week of observing fantastic teachers working with young violin and viola students and diving into string pedagogy. Not only did I pick up lots of specific tools and ideas related to violin pedagogy, but it's also been fun to talk more broadly about lessons and music education. I often think about what are the end goals for my students. Playing well and a deeper connection to a musical language are of course at the top, but also, how can music study help students turn into more thoughtful, articulate teenagers and adults? People often cite studies showing that music study makes people smarter, which I'm sure is true, but I think it's lazy to stop there without really thinking about what we can do as teachers to support the kind of learning that will turn kids into more engaged, intelligent adults.
I got to work and talk with a great teacher and mentor, Carrie Reuning-Hummel. I love her playful and imaginative way of presenting violin exercises in a way that is fun and engaging for students, and she is also hyper aware of different personalities, relationships, and learning styles. She's given me so many ideas to think about and bring back to my students in Chicago. Watching Carrie teach and play is really inspiring to me as a musician. It reminds me that these "easy" tunes that we teach young violinists/violists are, in most cases, fun and beautiful music. It's easy to lose sight of this. We spend a lot of time thinking about how best to teach specific skills, and finding the right curriculum to accomplish this so our students play with great sound and technique. It's nice to be reminded that this is good music, and it's worth taking time to encourage creativity, and have kids explore different colors, moods, and characters in their playing . I've been enjoying revisiting these early pieces as a warm-up in my daily practice; my neighbors have been hearing a lot of twinkle twinkle and Bach minuets this week!