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A New School Year Full of Opportunity, Not Frustration


paula photoPaula Leshkevich has been a member of SHAR’s Educational Sales Department for over four years. Having taught in both private and public schools, she understands many of the challenges facing instrumental music teachers today and works to help teachers spend more time teaching and less time with common frustrations. In her free time, Paula enjoys writing, travelling, and kayaking.This is her first blog entry for the SHAR site.

The first strains of “Twinkle”. A prize-winning bow grip. Ear-to-ear smiles on the first note. The anticipation of a concert. A new class of beginners picking up string instruments for the very first time.

As a new school year approaches, teachers have so many exciting moments to look forward to. Enthusiasm for helping students unlock their musical potential is strong and anticipation of the coming class sessions is mounting. The promise of a fresh start with a new school year is one of the joys that both teachers and students look forward to across the country.

Students file into the room. The bell rings. Bows are tightened. Music is put out on stands. Pencils are ready. Students hold their instruments patiently as you go around the room checking for tuning accuracy. Molly’s pegs keep slipping. Zach’s fine tuner snapped off. Sarah’s bridge is crooked. David’s strings are too high to press down.

Teachers often tell us that much of their teaching time is taken up fixing problems of V.S.O.s (Violin Shaped Objects). Unfortunately, the problems that come up with inferior instruments or problematic set-ups frustrate not only the teacher, but the students who deserve high-quality, functioning instruments to properly learn the basics of string playing. Many teachers can attest that students who experience frequent or serious instruments problems are far less likely to continue in orchestra.

We invite you to share your experiences with V.S.O.s in the classroom.


So many frustrations with poor quality instruments! My biggest issue is the students sense of self. It does not take very many instructional periods before students of V.S.O.’s realize their instrument does not function as well as their peers. The first realization is the instruments inability to stay in tune. Every day their instrument will take the longest to tune, their instrument often will go out of tune in the middle of class, their instrument has pegs that either are extremely hard to tune or move but most often, will not stay in place to “hold” a tuning. Over the next few weeks or months their fine tuners will often cease to turn and just spin in place or simply snap. This happens most often because the material their fine tuners are made of is a soft aluminum. Many of these instruments either are set up with a bridge that is too high so it make their finger tips hurt (requiring extra strength to hold down if they want to produce a good tone) or the bridge may be cut too low so that when they use their bow and fingers the strings are immediately in contact with the fingerboard and whistle rather than play a beautiful tone.  
As time goes on their strings will break fairly quickly – I have had these instruments strings break on the very first tuning.  
Even with a new set of strings these instruments will have a very tinny/metallic sound. There is very little projection – kind of like having a radio without any speakers. Many times their bows will either not tighten or are so tightly strung that the hair will not relax when they loosen the screw. Sometimes the screws are made of soft metal or aluminum and strip completely.  
Within a few months the student begins to ask why. The parents ask why. So the struggle is to tell parents without hurting their feelings – after all, they are doing their best to try and provide something for their child to succeed on.  
I will gently explain the issues, the costs for replacement materials and explain that what they really need is a car with and engine. What they have is a little Tykes car – no engine and a lot of foot work to go not very far. What we discover is a cost of replacement parts that are almost double what they initially paid for the instrument.  
Posted @ Thursday, August 09, 2012 11:35 AM by Val Palmieri
My biggest gripe is parents saying they'll get a better instrument when the child is serious or plays better. I guess they don't understand that you get what you pay for. It's like saying I'll buy the correct size shoes when I know my child is serious about track or buy a toothbrush when the child's permanent teeth come in because that's when they need to brush. It doesn't work that way. If the instrument doesn't work/is in need of constant repair or never has a decent sound it will frustrate the child. To give the child the best chance of sucess in playing a stringed instrument you need equipment that will work and sound good...bottom line!!!
Posted @ Thursday, August 09, 2012 2:44 PM by Lorri
I can so relate to these comments. I live in a town of 5,000, in Southern Utah and it has taken me 4 years to get this point across to the parents of my string students. A relative will buy one or two or more violins for their grandkids, as a surprise, and the violins are green or black, ohhhh how cool! They will be very cheap so the well meaning relative will purchase these vso's, the students will bring them to school and I spend about a half day or more during the weekend just getting them to work. Let us not even talk about what they sound like! 
What are your rental costs for violins, violas and cellos? 
I am so looking for an alternative to what I am dealing with right now. My big problem is the monthly cost to the student. This is not a well to do town or if some families can afford a better quality instrument, they choose to spend their money on hunting/ATV equipment. Do you know what I mean? Good quality stringed instruments do not come first in their agenda. If it costs too much, they will pull their student out of the music program altogether. 
Help! Any suggestions and I would really like to know your rental prices. 
I teach in three schools, Elem. Middle and high school. I have approx. 70 students and soe of them own their own instruments. 
What do you do for bass students? And I bet you have great tiny basses for the little kids. 
I look forward to your reply. 
Linda Ghidossi-De Luca
Posted @ Sunday, August 12, 2012 11:27 PM by Linda Ghidossi-De Luca
Thank you, Linda, for your comments. You'll see a personal e-mail from me to hopefully address your questions about rentals and concerns educating parents on the pitfalls of purchasing a V.S.O. 
Parents are often as excited as teachers about starting their kids on stringed instruments. In hopes that their student will be interested and have fun making music, visually appealing colors and designs sound like a great idea, right? 
Many teachers tell us that parents are often well-intentioned but ill-informed when it comes to selecting an instrument with proper function and good sound that will help keep students' interest long after the novelty of a "new" instrument wears off. The instant impression of bargain prices and visual appeal often mask some of the issues that string teachers find with the instruments in hand. Our "Parents Guide to V.S.O.s" is an effort to clarify some of the confusing elements of purchasing a stringed instrument. 
Thanks again for your post, and feel free to contact me with any questions. 
(866) 742-7261 
Posted @ Tuesday, August 14, 2012 11:06 AM by Paula
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