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Teacher, Instructor, Professor, Coach ???


CountryBoy
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My daughter also takes piano lessons, and she sings in a professional children's choir (in fact, she's on a performance tour in Alaska at the moment!). Both of these other activities are completely compatible with playing violin, and each medium reinforces the others beautifully.

The problem with multiple violin/fiddle teachers is that the technique elements are subject to many interpretations, even within classical violin instruction. She'll get caught in the middle if she has teachers with different philosophical approaches.

Fiddle style differs significantly from classical violin. Even the physical setup of the bow (tightness) and instrument (the bridge and strings, especially) differs. The positioning of the instrument, approach to dynamic variation, shifting, etc. all differ. Neither one is "better" or "right." They are simply different playing methods, but they are played on the same basic instrument, so confusion arises while the positions are still being internalized.

It sounds like your daughter is having lots of fun and success with fiddle. Has she heard much classical music? Does she want to play classical violin?

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I would love to get my daughter into the IU String Academy, but I am not sure that her abilities would allow her to enter it due to the fact that she has limited experience with classical violin.

You said that students travel long distances to participate and that the semesters match the college calendar. I understand that to mean that my daughter would pretty much have to enroll in public school somewhere within driving distance of campus. The dates that are reflected on the link that you included here gives start dates for individual classes etc. but it does not show the frequency of the classes. Are the classes held daily?

Thanks for your reply and the useful info, I am browsing the website right now.

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I fully understand that there will be differences in the philosophical approaches and interpretations of differing teachers, and the points that you have made make perfect sense. Thank you for that.

I was unaware that there were actual setup differences in the two styles of playing. I would like to get more info on the physical setup of the bow and violin for fiddle and classical if you know of any resources where that information can be obtained. My daughter has a number of violins and I would like set one up in this manner.

My daughter is having a ball playing fiddle. She does have some minor pieces of a classical nature in her repertoire, the most complex being Pachelbel’s Canon in D. This is one that I specifically requested with my daughter’s approval. In using it she has learned to make the bow last for a longer period of time. As a side note, the last time that I timed her playing a single note on the open E string she made the bow last for 1 minute and 17 seconds. She maintained the note with good tone for the entire time. Her original goal was 1 minute established by the teacher.

As far as her listening to classical violin, she has had some exposure to it but a very limited amount, when she does hear it she definitely displays an interest in playing it.

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The classes at IU String Academy meet once a week. Given your description of her level, she wouldn't be in the Saturday groups - the class would be Tues or Wed. Everyone also gets a weekly private lesson. In addition, there are free weekly "helper" lessons available, taught by college students taking the violin pedagogy courses, for those who wish to partake. Helper lessons are optional (we haven't used them). Students who come long distances often get first "dibs" on the private lesson spots before and after the class, but there are no guarantees. I do know of students whose families moved to B'ton specifically so their children can study at IU String Acad.

String Acad kids play some simplified arrangements of fiddle tunes for their group recitals (including a fun Halloween concert, with all kids and teachers playing in costume). My husband plays bluegrass banjo, and my daughter knows the songs, and she absolutely gags on the dumb arrangements they play. Your daughter will surely choke on them! They are really a minor part of the program, just a way to break up the "heaviness" of the classical stuff for the kids, but they are lame.

If your daughter is sincerely interested in turning her attention to classical violin, I doubt there'd be a problem qualifying. The auditions are primarily for placement, to confirm that the child has a good sense of pitch and is willing to practice every day, and that the student (not the parent) is the one with the drive. Don't be surprised, though, if she is placed in a beginner-ish group, with a focus on fundamentals rather than repertoire at first. She'd probably study with a grad student who works under Mimi and Brenda's direction for a while. There is a waiting list, and a limited number of open spots, so that's an issue too.

Mimi herself teaches the beginner classes, and she teaches the very most advanced virtuosi students. There were 110 violin students and 40-50 cello students in the program last year.

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Thank you so much for replying to this thread, it is good to hear from an actual parent of someone enrolled in the program.

I fully expect her to be in one of the beginner-ish levels if this turns out to be an option and I would probably prefer it due to her limited exposure to this type of music. The idea of moving to Bloomington is out of the question, but I have to admire the dedication of the families that do so.

I’m not sure that my daughter will ever want to turn her interest away from the fiddle music because she has so much fun with it, but she has displayed an interest in playing classical violin as well. As far as the drive issue goes, I have to say that she is definitely the one with DRIVE. I never have had to ask/tell her to practice. I believe that if I would allow her to take her violin with her everywhere that she goes that she would and that she would be playing it pretty much all of the time. One of her 6 year old twin brothers started taking bluegrass banjo lessons this summer and she is constantly helping him with his timing. She will also “attempt” to play harmony with him. She even enjoys playing easy songs the likes of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain” with him, and in turn her brother gets quite a bit of practice. He is a little different in that he will set a goal for himself for each day’s practice, 8 times on each roll pattern for each of his chord progressions, and 16 times playing each song (8 by himself and 8 with his sister.) This adds up to around 1 – 2 hours of practice for him a day.

Do you mind if I add you to my address book in case my daughter does decide to audition for the IU String Academy? It would be nice to have an insider that has been there to ask questions about the program/procedures.

Thanks

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Sure. I'll be happy to help.

I suggest you start by getting a copy of the "Masters of the Bow" CD and a CD of the Sibelius violin concerto. Get a copy of Copland's "Rodeo," too. Leonard Bernstein has a great version of the latter, along with "Appalachian Spring" and "Fanfare for the Common Man" and "Billy the Kid." I think it's part of the "Bernstein Century" series. Those three CDs will give you a good idea of what the hubbub is about, and Copland is a great connector between fiddle and classical. See if you and your daughter like it!

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At this point, I think your questions are probably beyond my experience/wisdom. Camps are great, and having your daughter do those will surely help. At a camp, one of the teachers may be able to evaluate her classical technique and give you a sense where she is. Whether that is a substitute for a second teacher, I do not know. HOwever, I think you probably need to see what her current teacher can do for her.

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She has already said that she would like to attend camp.

Do you know if there is a resource available which lists available violin/fiddle camps throughout the U.S.? Do you also know if camps seperate on an audition/skill basis or if they are separated by the age of camper? I believe I would be more comfortable taking her to a camp with kids of her age and it would also be nice to have the skill level the same as well.

Do you have any recommendations that would fit the bill?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can only address the part about two different teachers because I looked into it myself. I remember reading a Q&A section in Roland Harrera's site strongly advising against it. Nonetheless in my situation I've risked it in the form of sporadic "coaching" once every 4 or 5 months. Even though it involves two classical teachers, there are still large differences that could be confusing to a young student. (It's something Roland warns about). I had run into problems that my own teacher, whom I highly respect as a performer, didn't seen to be able to address, and that were affecting every aspect of my playing. I found someone who actually seems to enjoy this technical aspect of teaching to the point of fascination, finding the root of technical problems and try to get to the bottom of them. For example recently an intensive one hour "coaching" session in which we did nothing but try to get to the bottom of something very simple in bowing, gave me the missing piece of what I'd been doing wrong, and everything changed for the better in my playing. The day before, however, doing the same thing, had been totally fruitless and if anything had worsened the situation.

The thing is, though, that two different teachers will have differences in how they play and how they teach the playing and I have the impression that the fundamental differences are often the ones on which everything else rests. Example: one person uses the shoulder rest and holds the violin traditional (?) style more in the collarbone position: the other uses nothing or a sponge, and the violin balances 'shoulderish': that has to affect how the rest of the body moves. One uses an older style positive hand, and because of it a higher elbow in bowing, and the other has a modern more neutral hand and lower elbow. (I experimented: the positive hand seems to need a higher elbow. Does it?) These differences between two teachers, who are both teaching conservatory, could create some real confusion in a young student going to both. Even in my circumstances I'm extremely cautious. I only see the "coach" if I absolutely have to. I do a lot of communicating when seeing the coaching teacher, telling him my goals, my obstacles, and he knows of the style I'm being taught elswhere. There is a lot of feedback both ways. That is less likely with a young student. I also have the advantage that there is an advanced student in the household, decades my junior though he may be, who as first violist has had a variety of teachers including my current one during his violin days, is also hair-pullingly aware of my playing, off whom I can bounce my impressions. Even so there have been times when being exposed to two approaches, as rarely as the other exposure may be, has caused confusion.

As I understand it, your aim is mostly in terms of musical style. Would any teacher teach that without touching technique, however?

I like the idea of Mimi Zweig by the way. I've run across her site and very much like the little that I see there. I've found it personally helpful for what ails me.

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