String Festival

In my musical career, I’ve never aspired to be a professional musician.  I’m not competitive enough and I get too nervous for audition and performance situations.  Within music however, I’ve always loved playing and teaching violin lessons.  The students who are passionate about learning make it an easy job.  I’m very excited to share my knowledge of violin and music with them (in fact most of our lessons go at least 5-10 minutes longer than they’re supposed to.)

This week I have a ‘test run’ at being a full-time music teacher.  As a part of the Hillsdale County Community School of the Arts (HCCSA)’s String Festival I get the opportunity to teach local students about music.  The range of students varies from beginners (only a few weeks into learning violin) to high school students who’ve been playing for many years.  There’s a morning group consisting of two orchestras, mostly middle school and high school kids.  Then the afternoon session is for the beginners and those who have some experience but not enough to be in an orchestra.  As a violin (and viola) teacher I’m used to teaching individual lessons and working as an assistant in group lessons.  Many people have told me that I should be a string orchestra teacher and I’ve always protested and thought that it wasn’t really for me.  I thought it would be a lot of work (and it is) but I didn’t really believe that I could handle a group setting because I’m typically not that confident in front of groups and felt like I do a lot better on an individual basis.   (More than that I think I was worried about demanding parents who might come complain and didn’t want to think about trying to deal with that.)

My leadership style is that I’m best at being “second in command” or the “right-hand man” or more of an assistant.  I like to stay in the background unless I’m needed to run an errand or assist with something small.  But for the string festival I’m much more than just the assistant. I’m an assistant for the orchestra rehearsals, but I’m a sectional leader, a small group lessons teacher, and a private lessons teacher.  For the second half of the day, I am a group teacher (and teaching independently).  I knew I’d have to be confident in what I was doing for both groups (even though I might not have felt like it) and you what?  It wasn’t so bad.  There’s no exact science when you’re working with people who have different strengths and weaknesses, so it’s all about being flexible and discovering a way to help them become a better musician.  The older group I knew wouldn’t be too much trouble because I have a lot of orchestral experience to pull from and it’s basically just practicing the notes over and over again and isolating trouble spots.  For the younger students though I knew I would have to be a leader and take charge.  I was nervous about knowing what to do and how to get from one task to the next with them, but it’s really not all that bad.  Sure, there’s a little downtime and sometimes I have to check my notes but it’s ok.  I didn’t think I had enough experience to teach on my own, but things seem to be going very well.  I’m even starting to come up with my own lesson plans (with some basic guidelines.)

This is more than a experience in gaining self-confidence though.  It’s building up relationships with the students, and building their self-confidence.  They won’t be confident if their teachers aren’t displaying confidence, and they won’t be passionate if their teachers aren’t passionate either.  I love teaching private lessons for the relationships I can build with my students (and what a sad day it will be if I leave Hillsdale and have to give up all my students.)  And group lessons are similar too.  I love seeing the smiling faces and their anxiousness to learn encourages me and makes me anxious to teach them everything I know.

It’s amazing how much they’ve all grown in just four days.  We didn’t really know what to expect and how quickly everyone would be able to pick up the songs.  The first day was a little bit rough but each day gets significantly better.  I’m very excited to see what everyone can accomplish next week and even more excited their concert and their own realization then of how much they accomplished.

I love teaching violin (and viola) and have considered making it a full-time job if I could find enough students.  But now I think I could also potentially work as an orchestra teacher or a group lessons teacher if I found the right job.  It’s certainly the most rewarding job and even though it can be hard work I know the work would be worth it.  It’s also exhausting fitting it in amongst my other jobs but I love every minute I’m there.  I probably don’t really know how much of an impact I have on some of my students or the students here at the festival.  I’m so blessed to have this opportunity to teach these guys and share my talents with them as they develop their own.  I don’t know what the rest of my life will hold for me but one thing I know for sure is that in one way or another I’ll be teaching music for the rest of my life.  (Music=Life)

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