Monthly Archives: July 2015

Didactics, Methods and Me

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The study of didactics is certainly very useful for present and future teachers. But while it is a good thing to have a method for teaching, I have learned that It is not a good idea to allow that method to turn into dogma. I know teachers who have an almost religious attitude towards their chosen method and seldom waver in their implementation of it, the result being that the student must fit the method, not the method fitting the student.

To make a method fit your student, you have to believe in yourself and your student more than in The Method. Young enthusiasts usually start out believing whole-heartedly in a method and its infallibility, however, so how do we make this transition? Experience – that is, experience that we learn from. Books tell us one thing, but experience often tells us another, if we are paying attention. Some teachers never succeed in shifting the balance of their faith from The Method to themselves and their students no matter how much experience they get – they don’t seem to learn from it. They adhere to their ideas, or rather someone else’s, no matter what. One example of this comes to mind: A mother brought me a little girl who had studied with another teacher for two years. The child had wanted to quit entirely but the mother wanted to try another teacher. Why did the child want to quit? She was bored out of her mind after playing on open strings for TWO YEARS, because her teacher believed that “children should never be pushed.” Ever. This little girl was dying to be challenged. She then began practicing hard, went to conservatory, got a college degree in something unrelated, changed her mind, studied the violin abroad, won an audition and now plays in a prestigious opera house orchestra which she loves. And to think she would have quit in service to someone’s useless, even damaging, rigid principles! Continue reading

27 July 2015

Knowing What You Want (my secret weapon) and Keeping It All in Balance

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Years ago I interviewed Emmanuel Hurwitz who had been first violin of the Aeolian Quartet and was also a well-known teacher. He told me something I found shocking at the time. Once, when he was playing as a soloist with an orchestra in England, the concertmaster remarked to him in reference to his musical interpretation: “You’re lucky, Manny – you know what you want.” Hurwitz told me that he remembered thinking, surprised: “Doesn’t everybody?” He then had the horrible realization that many people, musicians included, do NOT know what they want when playing or otherwise. Continue reading

14 July 2015