Recordings…How, When, Why

September 24, 2008

Using audio recordings during practice is a commonly discussed and debated topic among musicians and music teachers throughout the world. “Suzuki method” teaching has been criticized for its over-reliance on recordings to teach students to learn by rote memory or imitation, thereby limiting the student’s motivation to learn to read musical notation. It is also said that students who learn purely by imitation of sound never learn to form their own interpretation of the music. These have some basis in reality as I look at results of various teaching approaches.

HOWEVER, why is it that so many “traditionally” trained violin students have trouble playing in tune, or playing with good tone quality on their instruments? And if music is all about the sound, isn’t a good model of sound required for students during development?

When I am trying to get a student to discriminate the difference between their sound and the “goal sound”, a recording is often the only way to transmit what happened in my studio to the child’s practice sessions at home.

Recordings – how and when to use them, and why they are sometimes necessary and at other times contraindicated – have been a constant source of thought and challenge for me as a teacher. I’ve used them, I’ve recommended them, and I’ve also worked hard to discourage them at times throughout my teaching experience so far. Here are some random thoughts inspired by my students on the subject of recordings.

HOW and WHEN to use (and not to use) recordings: Read the rest of this entry »



September 13, 2008

I was inspired by a series of questions from parents in my school to articulate the true goal of my teaching and the essence of the original mission for founding my school. “Cultivating lifelong learning and music appreciation in children” was a long tagline to express my feeling that with each student who walks through the doors of my school, no matter how long their tenure with me, my goal is that they leave as a coachable person.

What does it mean to be coachable?

I will explore the answers to this question throughout the course of the next year. I will ask my students to articulate what it means to learn, what it has meant to them so far. I will ask parents to ask this question of themselves. I will ask it of myself also. And I will attempt to share our stories with our concert audiences.

My instinct is that being coachable has something to do with being adaptable, and that once you are truly coachable, it applies not just to one discipline, but across all aspects of your approach to life. In order to be a coachable person, you must have resilience. You must seek out mentors and then eagerly ask them, “What did you hear? What do you see? How can you help me hear more, see more?” You must also stand tall in your own space and know you are there. You must listen, and then you must also be heard. You must be mutable, but remain intact at your core. I think that being coachable is a necessary step toward acquiring wisdom. When you are coachable, the doors to learning anything are unlocked. All you have to do is choose which one you’d like to open, and then walk through it.

I’m in the midst of planning some specific tools for myself, my students, and their parents to use in my school this year to explore what it means to be coachable. Stay tuned for more details on what these specific tools are…

OPEN HOUSE for New Enrollment

September 7, 2008

Come visit us and learn more about enrollment opportunities for the coming year!

When: Saturday, October 18, 2008, at 10:00AM

Where: 2483 Old Middlefield Way, Suite 150, Mountain View, CA


10:15AM – 11:30AM   Observe repertoire class in session
11:30AM – 11:45AM   Q&A with students and parents from The Music Within Us program
11:45AM – 12:00PM    Tour the studio
12:00PM – 1:00PM    Repertoire class continues (optional for observers)

Parents AND children are encouraged to attend the Open House.

Please RSVP with your name, your child’s name and birthdate, if you plan to attend. Thank you!

An informational seminar for parents interested in enrollment opportunities for the coming year will take place on MONDAY, October 27, 2008, at 7:00PM – 8:00PM. This seminar is designed for parents ONLY. You will hear more about the teaching philosophy and the commitment level expected in this program, as well as learn details about the application and enrollment process. Attendance at the Open House is highly recommended before attending the seminar. If you are unable to attend the Open House but would like to explore enrollment, please call (650) 325-2194.

My musical “greatest hits” list

September 4, 2008

What were the most cherished moments in my life that were made possible by music?

Here is my current brainstorming:

– playing all the great big “warhorse” symphonies with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (mostly sight-reading, since I’d never played them until that point), and being part of that big sound

– performing Tchaikovsky violin concerto in Moscow (my pressure-filled moment) and feeling it appreciated

– watching from backstage as my own students performed their first time onstage at Orchestra Hall

– putting a group of friends from junior high school (3 other violinists plus a cellist) together to play Pachelbel Canon in the middle of our shopping mall at the holidays, as part of our Salvation Army bell-ringing campaign for National Junior Honor Society (and seeing a large crowd gather to listen…and drop dollars into our red bucket) Read the rest of this entry »