Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki

What kind of person was Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998), the famous Japanese violin teacher whose work revolutionized music education and lowered the age children begin learning music all over the world?

The attraction of a charismatic leader or teacher can trigger responses from followers, students and supporters that may, in reflection, seem embarrassingly naive, overly hopeful and blindly emotional. Adulation delivers influence, power and permission, and putting too much faith in leaders creates risks – and as history shows, the dangers of the pedestal can disastrously overbalance the benefits.

By contrast, truly great teachers empower and inspire their students by sharing their mastery, knowledge and vision freely, and serve without succumbing to the temptations and perks that follow their success and popularity. Expertise and integrity are inseparable qualities of their leadership.

What do we know about Shinichi Suzuki ?

Suzuki – the Teacher-Philosopher

In public, Suzuki was an outlier even in his own country, yet eventually recognised as a national treasure, a pedagogical phenomenon, and a philosopher of the stature of a Tolstoy or Thoreau. But what sort of person was he in everyday life?

Suzuki – Up close and personal

Personal accounts and anecdotes of westerners who studied with him are often mixed with the cultural exoticism of student life in rural Japan. Friends used to ask me, “Why did you go to study classical violin teaching in Japan of all places?” The stories I told of life at the Suzuki Institute were as much about the quirks and quaints of Japanese culture as about my studies with Suzuki.

Violin teacher and author Lois Shepheard brings us closer to both the man and the teacher in her memoir-biography, Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki.

A pioneering violinist-teacher in the Australian Suzuki scene, Lois uncovers some little known facts about the early years of Suzuki’s teaching as she recounts her time in Matsumoto. And foreigners who have lived in this fascinating and enigmatic country will recognise the curious and humorous experiences of being an alien in Japan.

Her account includes the difficulties his German-born wife, Waltraud, experienced living as a westerner in the complex cultural traditions of Japan. During the couple’s stay in a Tokyo hotel, the staff once refused to give her the key to their room because they couldn’t conceive of a foreigner being married to Suzuki, a Japanese.

Suzuki emerges as the kindly professor, unselfconsciously generous, unfailingly cheerful and funny, jocular, almost naively unworldly, an addicted smoker consumed in his work around the clock. There appears to have been little difference between his public and private persona, although Waltraud would surely have added ‘exasperating‘ to the list.

The recollections of Lois’s time at the Suzuki Institute and beyond provide readers with an authentic first hand account of the man behind the legend, with all the colour of her daily interactions with the Suzukis.

Lois Shepheard, author of Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki

Lois Shepheard, author of Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki

Unquestionably, knowing more about Suzuki helps us understand how to teach and learn better. His philosophy is delightfully contagious. As Lois and others explain, Suzuki built much more than a mere method.

Please follow this link if you wish to purchase the book: https://ipoz.biz/Titles/Suzuki.htm

(Disclosure: I have no financial interest in the sale or otherwise of this book.)

From the BBC: The musician who taught three-year-olds to master the violin

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Coming up next: Violin Concerto in D Major, K218 by WA Mozart – 1st Movement

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Two Teaching Tips from Twinklers

Music schools and studios owe much of their success to the expertise, work and vision of the teachers, but there is another source of creativity and growth that sometimes goes unrecognised. It comes from the students and parents themselves. The two teaching tips from twinklers I describe in this post originated from among the very youngest students in our violin school.

1. A new graduation level

This is how the first one happened.

At one of our violin school’s annual graduation concerts we noticed the longing gaze of a three year old student as the graduates came forward one by one to receive their certificates to the exuberant applause of the large audience.

Dressed beautifully like her fellow students, she had just played her piece, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, together with the group in the concert’s finale. She naturally expected to be called up to stage like the others. But it was not to be.

At each concert practically every student graduated from one or more levels, except those who hadn’t yet reached the first level – Gavotte by Gossec. It’s the final piece in Volume 1, which the youngest beginners often took the best part of a year or more to reach. Although Gavotte is a great goal to work for, it’s too distant to have much meaning for three year old players.

The benefits of celebrating achievements

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Innovation in Teaching and Learning Music

In an earlier post, we posed the question: Can violin teaching and the way we learn to play the violin be improved? And come to think of it, is innovation in teaching and learning music even desirable?


In view of long the established traditions surrounding violin teaching, it is generally assumed that only small advances can be made. Is this true?

Evolution maybe, but revolution? Inconceivable! (Apologies to Wallace Shawn of Princess Bride fame.)


Perhaps we thought the same about some of Newtonian physics – until the arrival of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

First, let’s look at the some of the recent innovations.

The Great Innovators

During the 20th century four innovators emerged in music education, each making ground-breaking contributions to music teaching and learning. Their advances share some common features, arising from explanations describing how movement and language (especially speech and song) interconnect with learning music. Significantly, each of these great music educators spent many years developing, refining and applying their work before the successful results were recognised and the ideas were adopted.

All of their systems, philosophies and methods grew into major international movements and organisations with considerable reach and lasting benefits for music education.

Dalcroze Eurhythmics


Swiss musician Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, developed a highly successful music education system using physical movement to teach rhythm, musical structure and expression. As anyone with performing and conducting experience understands, many aspects of playing music are profoundly physical, especially rhythm and phrasing. At the time, teaching musical concepts through conscious bodily motion was a valuable breakthrough with wide reaching effects.

Further reading:





Kodály method


Hungarian composer and musicologist Zoltán Kodály combined musical experiences such as listening, singing and movement in a child development approach, building a vastly improved and comprehensive music curriculum and method that has spread throughout the world, transforming music education. Along with composer Bela Bartok and others, he collected and published thousands of folk melodies in addition to his own works.

Further reading:



Orff Schulwerk


German composer Carl Orff formulated a child-centered way of learning approach to music education, treating music as an natural part of life and growth like language, incorporating play and less formal teaching in a friendly and kinder environment. His Schulwerk music combines movement, singing, playing, and improvisation.

Further reading:




Suzuki Method


Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki astonished the musical world in the 1960s with tour groups of young Japanese violinists to the USA. Suzuki’s innovations came from his understanding about the growth of spoken language in young children. When applied to learning music at the same age as a child learns to speak, the results created a revolution in instrumental pedagogy.

(As a former student of Suzuki who taught using his ideas and philosophy for 35 or so years, it is the innovation I know best and the raison d’être for this website, Teach Suzuki Violin.)

Further reading:




Two Ongoing Improvements in the Psychology of Education

Two advances in understanding are currently creating better ways of teaching:

Harsh discipline and autocratic teaching methods continue to give way to more enlightened and friendly teacher-student working relationships. The teaching studio’s past reputation as an austere place of tortuous mistakes and corrections is fading into history. Learning to play music has been transformed into a enjoyable and enriching activity for all. “Because I say so” and “This is the way it has always been done” is recognised as poor education.

Better teaching strategies about motivation flowed from dispensing with behaviourist rewards and punishments. The influential theories of John Watson and B.F. Skinner left an unfortunate legacy of erroneous beliefs in behaviour modification as a viable teaching and parenting method.

Behaviourism is now acknowledged to be an essentially pessimistic theory when applied to people. It denies the existence of an inner life and the mind, reducing the causes of all human activity to stimulus and response. Improved teaching theory explains that playing and learning music is inherently attractive, interesting and enjoyable. Creating internal motivation and using the power of social groups are superior ways of building musical ability.


B.F. Skinner

Improving Notation

For more than three centuries, written scores have been the primary sources and reference points for transmitting classical music from its creators (composers) to musicians. Scores are permanent and easily reproducible records in an internationally accepted script, and unlikely to become redundant.

Nevertheless, notation is still an imperfect language for translating musical ideas into sound. When taken too literally, it can even hinder the growth of real musicality. In many cases notation only approximates a composer’s deeper intentions and scores can arguably be considered road maps for exploring their music.

A vital part of the musician’s art is understanding, interpreting and transforming musical symbols into living music and recreating the composer’s ideas in real time.

Although they don’t replace the need for referring to and studying scores, audio and video recordings add valuable knowledge for music students. What makes them so useful is the variety of interpretations available and their capacity to be listened to or viewed repeatedly. This shortens the time needed to become familiar with the music and may provide solutions to problems not answered or indicated in the score.

Integrating audio and video into scores is a potential area of improvement that has already begun to make substantial progress. Thousands of programs and apps are now available for reading, learning and composing music.

Some Current Opportunities for Progress

Beyond the impact of technology, improving our understandings and explanations about teaching and learning violin will create even more progress.

Two Common Problems – that have been around just about forever:

  1. Firstly, there’s the daunting amount of time and effort required to develop the ability to play well, a task faced by every musician. Short cuts, we soon discover, are an illusion. Although the responsibility for solving this problem is shared by teachers, parents and the student, ultimately a creative solution must be found by the individual player.
  2. Secondly, there’s the problem of enabling every student in a school or studio to consistently make good progress. A different problem than the first one, in this case it’s a mistake to look for purely individual solutions. Collective strategies and policies are needed to create social cohesion and collaboration within the group for everyone to benefit.

Possible Solutions

Solving both of these problems, especially for young students, means designing a local (home) culture of studying and playing music within the normal course of daily life. This is the hard part and as all parents know, not achieved overnight. If the student is the only one in the family group interested in music and involved in learning, a sustainable study culture is difficult to maintain. More than just habits, good cultures consist of positive behaviours, meanings and ideas deeply embedded in the collective life of the group.

A paradox at the centre of these two problems is the relative benefits of individualism versus those of the community. Individual autonomy promotes the growth of original ideas, yet tends towards isolation and self absorption. Communal solidarity provides direction and momentum but can foster conformity and conservatism. Resolving the interplay of these two dynamic aspects is more than just a balancing act. We need to find ways of getting the best out of both sides.

A strong supportive musical community of teachers, parents and students has proved to be the best way for all students in a music program or school to make good progress. It requires a lot of thought, time and effort to create and maintain an active sense of belonging, where everyone has the welfare and progress of all members at heart, using cooperative rather than competitive strategies. (Obviously at different times some students will progress more quickly. Good progress doesn’t mean equal progress.)

A New Age

As we discovered in the first Age of Enlightenment, we can make progress by criticising and improving the theories, ideas and methods of the past – without venerating them as immutable sources of authority. Art, as much as science, is an open ended search for imaginative solutions.

As well as living in a new age of Enlightenment, we are also in the midst of a great of age of Communication, where new ideas can spread quickly and easily to all people regardless of location. Exciting!



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Great Leaps Forward

Are the violins made by Italian master luthiers Stradivari and Guarnieri ever likely to be exceeded? Has the violin reached a perfect form, impossible to improve, or is it outdated technology in serious need of an upgrade?


Stradivarius 1721 – Regazzi 1998

Despite being interesting questions, they miss the point. It’s certainly possible to change the appearance of the violin without drastically altering its sound qualities. Today it can be produced in almost any colour, for example, and some changes could feasibly be made to the shape, yet practically all attempts to improve the fundamental design since Cremona’s golden period in the early 1700s have failed to catch on. Why? Because the violin that emerged from the workshops of these consummate instrument makers combines aesthetic form and function so completely.

It is simply a beautiful instrument that’s very good for creating what we love to hear – music. And good music, of course, is the real point.

(Two small changes were made in the 19th century to accommodate a rise in concert pitch. The neck was lengthened by about a centimetre and the bass bar strengthened to resist the higher string tension. Tellingly, a disastrous attempt to improve the tone by scorching the wood ruined a number of fine violins.)

Progress in Teaching and Learning

Can violin teaching and the way we learn to play the violin be improved?

This question can’t be answered so easily.

Here also it’s commonly believed no substantial improvements are possible. Looking at the rich and mature traditions of violin study, based on an exemplary literature with far reaching sets of major texts and exercises such as Sevcik and Kreutzer, plus the vast violin repertoire, it seems complete.

Newly published methods and textbooks mostly draw on these sources. However, it’s a mistake to rule out continuing progress. Big changes seemed unlikely before the arrival of European innovators like Dalcrose, Kodaly and Orff and from the far east, Suzuki. (See the next post.)

Learning Music with the New Technology

Now we are experiencing the rapid growth of new technologies. Are they beneficial to learning music or just a distraction? Are we on the brink of some great leaps forward or in danger of a slide backwards?


Mastering the violin requires a large commitment of time and effort. Usually about 10 years or more of concentrated study are needed to learn the complex skills, knowledge and meanings (memes) of classical violin, and be fully recreated from previous generations of musician-teachers.

Teachers have an indispensable role. Music is a profoundly human experience, and it’s doubtful that the teacher-student model of person to person musical training can be successfully superseded. Live teaching via video streaming is becoming more common, but it lacks the shared proximity of the studio.

The idea of learning music from a robot is unappealing, to say the least.

The growth of musical ability and meaning is intricate, complex and personal, containing subtleties beyond the capacity of any software program. Computers can play chess with number crunching prowess. Can they determine the interpretive possibilities of an exquisite phrase in a Mozart concerto?

What is making a big difference is the right use of new technology, which allows the violin to be accessible to more people than ever before.

We know that J.S. Bach, for instance, occasionally made long journeys on foot to experience the playing of great musicians, whereas today we can hear and view multiple performances by a variety of international virtuosos while living in some of the most remote places on the planet.

Suzuki and Audio Recordings

As he researched and developed his music education philosophy, Suzuki introduced daily listening to audio recordings of fine players to young students, creating a richer musical environment and speeding up their progress. His revelation about the connection between spoken language and music made immersion in the sound of the student’s current and future violin repertoire a key part of his teaching strategies.

Taking advantage of young children’s natural capacity for language for learning music produces extraordinary results. This explanation has created real progress in music education around the world, as shown by the great surge of fluent young violinists in schools and orchestras. It also lowered the average age at which children start lessons and when they reach the professional violin repertoire.


The spread of online video performances is also having a powerful impact. Due to the large visual component of playing the violin, young children will also absorb the way high level violinists look and move. Video performances highlight the refined actions and expressive movement violinists use to play and communicate their music to the audience.

How to take advantage of the New Technology

Audio recordings provide the opportunity to study the art of world class players and experience their differing interpretations. I’ve summarised this in the post, How to use Audio Recordings for Violin Teaching and Study.

Online video performances enable us to see and experience the music beyond the sound. This includes technical knowledge such as bowing, bow division, positions, musical and interpretive questions such as style and character, right down to phrasing and dynamics. Some accuracy issues, like rhythmic complexities for example, are better understood visually. You can pick up hints about stage presence, movement and how to integrate your performance with the orchestra or accompaniment.

The two main sources are YouTube and Vimeo. Look at the contrasting  styles of these two performances of the Tchaikovsky Concerto.

Online video tutorials are available that demonstrate specific techniques and exercises, providing a useful addition to live lessons. One of the best is Violin Masterclass.

DVDs. Due to their superior audio and vision in comparison to online videos and their extended length, DVDs are invaluable resources for study.


Software and apps. A great variety of music education products are emerging, and it’s clear this type of technology is just beginning. Some of the more useful ones help with basic skills and knowledge – such as keys, time signatures, rhythm, note recognition, intervals, harmonic analysis, composition, transcription, arranging and editing.

Electronic tuners and digital metronomes have been around for some time and are only marginally more convenient than their analogue counterparts – tuning forks and mechanical metronomes – until their batteries run out. Electronic tuners are easy to use and adjust, even if they take over the ear’s job.

clip on tuner

In the next post, I’ll discuss the potential for progress in teaching and learning beyond the use of technology.

Thanks for visiting Teach Suzuki Violin – and a warm welcome to all of the new members and subscribers!



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How to use the magic power of repetition to acquire ability

Ability, especially if it is exceptional, has this wonderful and mysterious quality of fluency and grace. You can see and hear it every day in the most ordinary places and situations: a skateboarder gliding past on the street, a barista producing another cup of perfect aromatic coffee, the clear voice of a child speaking, the sure motions of a chef creating a culinary masterpiece.


Photo by Hans Eiskonen

What ability looks like

  • Fluency and ease of movement.
  • The skill looks and sounds natural and seems effortless. Observers are often unaware of the level of difficulty – until they try to do it themselves.
  • The skill is integrated into the whole. Physical actions seem to involve the whole body rather than just one part, such as an arm or leg.
  • It works spontaneously and can easily adapt to different situations or contexts.
  • The performer’s self awareness is minimised, and absorption in the activity is near total.

Musicians and other performing artists who have achieved high levels of ability are able to focus on expression, communication and subtle details while performing the most complex passages. I once watched Vadim Repin rehearsing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with orchestra, chatting away with the conductor as he played. (In the video below he is playing the Tchaik in 1989 – when he was a teenager.) Read More →

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How to Teach Musical Phrasing

What is musical phrasing? It is a mysterious and elusive concept even for experienced musicians to explain.

Musical phrasing is essentially about grouping notes in performance to make the music more meaningful and enjoyable for the audience. Notes within phrases can grouped and interpreted in a myriad ways, with different kinds of connections and articulations, dynamics, weights, colours, styles, variations in speed and phrase rhythm – all to give listeners a clearer musical experience.

Stephanie Novacek

Stephanie Novacek, mezzo-soprano

Violinists (and other instrumentalists) commonly draw on analogies and similarities with language, such as sentences, lyrics, poetry and punctuation; or with visual terms like expressive shaping.

These allusions are very useful for understanding phrasing, especially when combined with listening to the music and above all, playing it for yourself.

Even very young students understand and appreciate phrases quite well and benefit musically from studying how to play them.

How to Teach Musical Phrasing

Breathing Life into the Music

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Overcoming Performance Anxiety – A Personal Odyssey

In this post, the second about overcoming performance anxiety, I relate how we handled it in our violin institute and my personal experiences. In the lead up to my final concert in Japan, I stumbled upon a solution to this mystifying nervous reaction. Later on I realised it is an old technique, used by many before me.


(This photo from should get a few laughs from old friends and colleagues.)

It’s clear for teaching violin, or any of the performing arts, that there are two starting points when dealing with the problem of performance anxiety.

  1. Bypassing it from the very beginning;
  2. Overcoming it when you’ve already got it.

This rather simple and obvious division helps us determine which teaching and learning strategies we need to use for playing on stage with serenity and confidence.

1. Bypassing Performance Anxiety

As a result of some of my own experiences and those of my musician and music teacher friends, focus was initially centred on the second point: how to help students overcome performance anxiety. I wondered if predisposition (or luck) played a significant role in whether or not a performer suffered from nerves on stage.

The picture changed when we saw the concerts and classes of young violinists from the Suzuki Institute in Matsumoto. Performers of all ages appeared remarkably composed on stage. They were very well prepared and rehearsed, played securely from memory and with rare exceptions, seemed quite happy and relaxed to perform in front of large audiences.


Watching them confirmed to me the answer was training, learning and teaching – and not luck or natural propensity.

So on returning to teaching at our violin institute, we made a policy of giving all players lots of regular opportunities to perform publicly, as soloists and in groups, making sure no one was left out, regardless of age or level. Soloists played for our enthusiastic audience of parents in the last session of group class and we held extra solo preparation classes leading up to concert performances.

This was very successful, especially when we changed to regular weekly group classes. Students became accustomed to playing with confidence and flair in public, in both group pieces and solos, to the point where it became normal.

2. Overcoming Performance Anxiety

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How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety or stage fright, has afflicted musicians throughout history, even famous virtuosos such as cellist Pablo Casals, tenor Luciano Pavarotti, violinist Kennedy and pianists Vladimir Horowitz and Arthur Rubenstein. Frédéric Chopin disliked performing in public for the same reason.


Photo courtesy of Abigail Keenan

For some musicians, it fades away with lots of playing on stage or becomes controllable enough to add a little spark to the music.

In a newsletter two years ago, I told of my first experience of these perplexing sensations of nervousness while playing in public at the age of 6 or so. After years of regular performances as an adult it more or less stopped bothering me, until suddenly appearing again like an old ghost a week or so before my solo graduation concert at the Suzuki Institute in Japan.

I learned a very important lesson and experienced an epiphany which has stayed with me ever since. I’ll tell this more personal story and how we handled stage fright in our violin institute in my next post, but for now I want to look more broadly at the phenomenon.

What does it feel like?

The symptoms range from mild to severe, including perspiration (an aptly named cold sweat), increased heart rate, uncontrollable shaking or weakness in the hands and fingers, difficulty in concentration, memory lapses and feelings of panic and dread – triggered by the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream. An accompanying reaction is an intense self-consciousness, which seems impossible to avoid or control.


Photo courtesy of Alec Weir

The sensations are highly individual. They may decline gradually, arrive in disconcerting surges or persist throughout the whole performance. Some performers experience a crisis point, marking a lessening of anxiety.


Talking with other musicians, it became clear that in many instances stage fright originated from a single stressful experience during childhood. Typically they remembered a difficult exam, recital or other significant stressful situation where it first became a problem. Many described it in terms of a personal flaw, an affliction that was part of their makeup. Several lost interest in playing in public altogether, preferring to play their music in private or make recordings.

How to Overcome Performance Anxiety: Some Common Strategies

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Motivation and Practice Habits – A New Course on Teach Suzuki Violin

Perhaps we’ve all heard the old joke attributed to violinist Mischa Elman, who answered tourist’s question, “How do you get to Carnagie Hall?” with the witty answer, “Practice!” And clearly, all musicians understand he meant consistent and regular practice of the right things – and plenty of it. There’s a world of meanings and implications in that simple word.

young violinists practising

If you’re a musician, it’s an unavoidably important part of life, since we spend far more time practising than actually performing!

How we practise is crucial, because – as every instrumental teacher knows – it’s possible to implant poor technique as much as good. Moreover, in spite of the mountains of material and advice available in textbooks, online and elsewhere about what to practise, there’s precious little about the elephant in the room: how to achieve consistent practice.

It’s mainly left up to that old workhorse, motivation, either from internal sources like self discipline, determination and willpower, or externally from the dedication of an Amy Chua-like parent. Remember the agonies Lang Lang went through from his father?

Does it need to be such an arduous struggle?

music books

Unsurprisingly, this emerged as a leading issue when I surveyed Teach Suzuki Violin readers and members a year or so ago about their biggest challenge in teaching, studying and playing violin.

How to keep the practice going happily along without losing momentum is a problem experienced by most young musicians at some time or another.

Many parents reported a parallel problem: how to keep their child motivated to practise without turning into a tired tiger mother/father, becoming a bribing ATM machine, a cajoling cheerleader or worse, a hassling nag.


We’d all like to be inspired and enthusiastic about practice all the time, but even if it was possible, we don’t actually need to be. What we really need is an infallible practice habit. Then we can put all our energy, enthusiasm and love into where it’s most needed: the music.

As expected, students feel good when they sense progress in their playing – which, let’s face it, is only possible with regular reliable practice. With irregular practice comes a stop-start roundabout of guilty feelings, relieved by bursts of activity and, don’t we all know, unsatisfying lessons and slow progress.

A perpetual practice habit eliminates the guilt-binge-guilt cycle and gets you where you want to go without the hassle, but how exactly do you create one?

For most of us, the answer is curiously different from accepted common knowledge, mainly because the habits we acquire are mostly formed without our conscious awareness of the process. They seem to happen by themselves – especially the unwanted ones.

In our violin institute, understanding and solving this pivotal question created and sustained the fastest and most consistent advances for all of our students. We want to make this knowledge and training available to all who need it, and we’ve created the Motivation and Practice Habits Course, now available on Teach Suzuki Violin.

Here’s some of the video tutorials and topics from the course:

What is Motivation?
Working Together for Parent and Students.
The Morning Practice Session.
How to Build a Good Practice Habit.

A key part of the Motivation and Practice Habits Course is access to the teachers who created it. We want you to experience the success our students and parents achieved. It’s not a magic formula or some secret knowledge, it is a proven way through the practice forest.

How much does it cost? There’s a once off payment of A$39 (about $27.50 US or £19.)

If you’d like to join the course or read more about it, click on the button below.




Coming Up Next: Mozart’s Concerto No. 5 in A Major K.219 (Vol. 9)

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How to Conduct a Violin Masterclass

Masterclass! Arriving early, we head for seats at the front of the auditorium, close to the action. Faint fragments of a Sarasate showpiece escape from a back studio as the room fills with eager faces. The murmur of conversation subsides as the Teacher appears through the door and walks purposefully to her place on the right of stage. A “world artist on tour” as she’s described on the concert hall’s programme, she takes her Guadagnini violin from its case and and flashes a quick smile up at the audience. It’s time to start!


The first young violinist, a dark haired boy in a bright purple shirt, steps quietly forward and raises his violin. We wait in the suspended moment, admiring his delightful appearance. I am expecting Sarasate, but he launches into a dark, strident piece I’ve not heard before. There’s a patter of uncertain applause at the piece’s unresolvable finale, and the Teacher rises with violin in hand, smiling. What will she choose to work on? Our guess is off the mark as she goes to a key point that seems entirely obvious – in hindsight. Several weeks later, I’m still absorbing some of her insights.

For teaching the final polish of a piece, this kind of class is invaluable, providing deeper musical, expressive and interpretive study points after the music has been memorised securely and is played fluently at the right tempo, that is, when it has been mastered. In some cases, this means studying it for a whole year or more. Since the class is mostly about musical matters and performance presentation, the better the music is known, the greater are the benefits.

How to Conduct a Violin Masterclass

The Audience

Encourage a good size audience of parents and other students to come to the masterclass. It enables others to benefit – unless the piece needs to be kept under wraps for an imminent concert.

The Setting

If the masterclass is part of preparing a student for a concert, try to anticipate the expected performance setting and procedure as closely as possible, including entry, stance and position on stage, how to finish and exit.

Teaching Tips

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