Most of us violinists (as well as violists, cellists and bassists) are our most comfortable in an orchestra setting. Of course, the music is fantastic, and usually very challenging to learn and play. But learn and play we do, after woodshedding our parts carefully at home. Our teachers have been able to impart their technical and musical know-how to allow us to learn difficult pieces on our own. We take those skills, now finely honed, to the concert hall, where we deeply breathe in the joy of a beautiful performance, in amazing rhythm with our colleagues. If we’re lucky, our family and friends in the audience will enjoy our performance as much as we do.
Learning to play an instrument is about hand positioning, technique, practice, and hard work. This careful training leads to muscle memory and tonal recognition. Mastery in playing an instrument requires additional skills well beyond even these. Dr. Melissa Gerber Knecht, our guest blogger, is Professor of Music at Hillsdale College. Dr. Gerber has studied the development of pattern recognition in the human brain and the critical role this plays in achieving mastery of the instrument. Her recent book, Developing Your Musical Mental Map, is based on this research, and provides a useful guide for teachers and students seeking to achieve breakthrough improvement.
It’s time for a new school year, an opportunity for a fresh start in your studio. A new crop of students is arriving, and many of your students are returning. And each student is different, with different strengths and weaknesses, different commitment levels, and different motivations. You’ve got lots of students to teach, and they need to cover a lot of ground quickly. Fortunately, you have your method books, your supplements, and especially your own experience and good sense, and that has always served you well. For most of your students.