This is the first question I ask potential students, and the answers i get remind of what I want students to experience in every lesson.
Whenever I interview a new student I always ask them one particular question: “Why do you want to play the violin?” The answers I get help remind me what I need to have the student experience at every lesson.
“I love the sound of the violin.”
Me too. Whether it’s bowed or plucked, long sounds or short, fast and exciting or slow and sad it is always interesting. One violin, or fiddle all by itself can be exciting, but a groups of violins playing together can be even more beautiful. A chorus of strings singing together is like nothing else. In a lesson I want the student to have that reaction to the sound of the violin at every lesson. I can do that for them by playing for them or with them. It is better when they produce the sound on their violin or viola. Even the first lesson is a chance for the student to make a beautiful sound on the instrument.
“Someone I know plays the violin and I want to as well.”
This wasn’t the reason I wanted to play the violin, but, after I started playing and met others who played, it became an important reason for me. Making music with other people is an important social bond. It is a very close experience, and when it goes well it can bring people together like a very strong force. In each lesson I want to provide a chance for the student to play with me, so we can feel that connection. It is always better to play with others instead of alone.
“I heard this certain kind of music on the violin and I want to play that way too.”
The violin is an international instrument. Although it began as an Italian instrument that was used in western classical music, it has been adopted by folk traditions throughout the world. In my opinion, there is no musical tradition that cannot be replicated on the violin. It is a musical chameleon. I grew up on a steady diet of classical music and country music. Both are violin/fiddle intensive music. If there is a particular tradition that a student wants to learn, and I can teach it to them, then I want to perform music from that tradition as often as I can for them, or send them in the right direction to listen to others perform that tradition.
“I want to play electric violin.”
So do I! As we look to the future, the violin has to be augmented to produce electronic music. Both of my instruments are equipped with electronic pick-ups, so that I can plug them into all manner of effects, recording devices and electric amplifiers. I started playing viola in rock bands and making electronic music as soon as I got the chance. I encourage students to experiment with electronic music, and amplified violin because the violin has gone through many changes already in its 500 year history to accommodate new sounds, and it must continue to do so to stay relevant in the 21st century and beyond.