Why I wrote the Violin Books
The rich blessing of teaching the violin was first introduced to me while I was still in High School, when my High School Music Teacher surprised me one day, and took me to an elementary school and gave me a class of three 4th grade violin students to teach.
He told me that half the fun of playing music was in "giving back," sharing the "Musical Experience" with others, so that they, too, could get the skills that I was receiving. Up 'til now, I had only the benefit of receiving violin training. I rolled up my sleeves and jumped right in to teaching, and shortly thereafter, however, discovered that he was WRONG -
It wasn't half the fun. Seeing others gain experience and get excited with music was much more than half the fun!
I was hooked
All the hard work with these kids paid off. By the end of the year there was the "big" All-County Music Festival. My three students ALL won Scholarships. I was so thrilled seeing their excitement and their enthusiasm as they each walked up to receive their awards. I knew right there that I was HOOKED on TEACHING!!
After that, I spent every Saturday morning throughout my years as a University student, teaching a full load of students. Even though my college program demanded I work 4 to 5 hours a day practicing and developing my own professional skills on violin, I also ALWAYS made sure that I TAUGHT!
After much hard work I graduated from Eastman School of Music with a Masters Degree in Musical Performance, as well as winning the Performer's Certificate. I decided to take a professional teaching job in a public school system in New York as well as a position in a private music school while I was waiting for my fiancÚ to graduate. It was during this teaching experience that I first got the idea of creating these books.
How the idea started to form
That year I spent a lot of time searching through every major music store I could find in New York, for teaching materials to help my students. I soon discovered that no step-by-step teaching manual had ever been written on the subject of violin playing. However, there were volumes upon volumes of song books, as well as books labeled as "beginner training material," yet crammed full of complex concepts from cover to cover.
Something simpler was needed
Through my close involvement with students' parents who were trying to help their children practice at home, I soon discovered that what people really wanted was a book that could help the child with the basics, as well as give the parent some workable guidance at home. What they DIDN'T want was a book that needed a professor to decipher it for them. The majority of parents confessed to me that they really didn't know very much about the violin or even music, and felt overwhelmed as to what to do to be effective with their child.
I felt privileged to have studied the Suzuki System at Eastman. (This is a violin training method developed by Sinichi Suzuki) I used BOTH the Suzuki System in my school program for beginners, and the Traditional Violin Teaching System for my intermediate and advanced students.
I used to spend a lot of extra lesson time training the parents. Even watching a lesson, bringing a tape recorder and taking volumes of notes at the lessons, the parents commented that when they got home, their own lack of experience did not make up for a real DETAILED manual which would make them feel secure and certain that they got it correct.
They were EXPECTING students to quit
At this time, I also became aware of a "fact" accepted by many teachers and even parents: that it was not unusual for a large amount of children to quit music at the stage of starting to learn note reading. Instinctively, this was not something I believed had to be true!
Students were being sabotaged
I also found myself in the position of creating a youth symphony with a group of one and two-year Suzuki students who couldn't read a note. It made absolutely no sense to give them the music pages to the songs they had already played, with a brief introduction to note reading, and basically just "let" them "figure it out."
This was the method of practice in vogue that was being used by a lot of teachers at that time to teach music reading. There was no step-by-step note reading system available. How could a teacher have control over which note symbol the child had learned and which one he or she hadn't, and which one needed drilling?
All children learn at different levels. These students needed REAL EFFECTIVE help on how to read music notes. So I created a system of hand-out pages presenting only one note at a time until all the notes were fully covered. And then I drilled the students over and over on the material until they MASTERED it.
Now they could ALL MAKE IT
When I taught note reading one step at a time, NONE of my students quit.
If this system could work for note reading, why couldn't it work for every aspect of Violin Teaching?
Having developed skills as a graphic artist in my youth I fell back on these abilities in order to carefully illustrate every step I was explaining in these hand outs. I then tested these hand-outs over a period of 20 years of teaching with various students and their parents.
At last, we were getting somewhere
When carefully worded and illustrated, these hand-outs could enable me to make changes in students in a fraction of the time expected using only verbal and demonstration techniques. And I was pleased to find I could routinely get a predictable result. Parents loved the handouts and gave me much positive feedback.
Parents told me it saved them tremendous amounts of time in lessons as well, resulting in the lessons becoming significantly more cost-effective.
In the following years, my experience of teaching as a University Professor required that I spent much time training University-level music students "how to teach." I developed, in depth, much more of these materials, as most of the music students were wind players, singers, pianists and other non-string students whose future careers would call upon them to go out and teach violin players in our public schools.
I could see the teachers needed something
These future teachers needed to have something to fall back on when they went out to our school systems to build their own programs. It worried me that they received only one college semester of violin training, which barely scratched the surface of the amount of instruction they needed in order to teach a stringed instrument correctly.
Having these future teachers collect and make their own notebooks with my handouts gave them something to review later, when they needed the help the most, and this seemed to be the best way to truly help them.
Wanted: Everything ever written on violin teaching
In preparation for writing these books, I spent years of intensive research of every violin book I could lay my hands on as far back as I could find available. I also read the personal methods and very insightful articles published in string teaching journals from 1908 and forward by violin teachers from all over the world. I wanted to discover every practical idea that anyone had ever written down and ever used in teaching every aspect of the violin.
From all this material collected, I developed an extensive cataloging system and trialed and tested these materials on as many of my own students as I could. The hardest part was the compiling of the exact order for a natural presentation of these materials.
How to make it easy to follow
Simplest language was formulated with which to convey these skills to less than amateur parents trying to help their children. New students were trialed over and over until the perfect, correct sequence and proper illustrations to get them past the Basic Hold of the instrument and Sound Production and into the correct playing of the instrument.
These books grew and developed over the years as I grew and developed and experienced the results with them along the way. Starting from a series of illustrated handouts, they blossomed into a full fledged workable book series.
Finally, a step-by-step approach
Then the books were edited and re-edited until it was certain that whatever new material was presented was solidly built ONLY upon the words and symbols that had already been mastered thus far earlier in these volumes. In this way a more complex action would be a collection of earlier learned actions and could be, at this point, more easily assimilated and drilled 'til usable by the student.
Regular "Review Sections" were added into the materials to ensure that the student reinforced what s/he learned. If the student couldn't do the reviews, the student had to go back and restudy the earlier materials. This is an important part of the learning process. Every piece of knowledge that the student learns and practices must become as familiar to them as the back of their hands. Then it is theirs to use at will.
What I did to make it work
To accomplish these goals successfully made me realize that I had to throw away all the CONCEPTS of what a violin teaching method book LOOKED LIKE on the shelf of today's music stores. I wanted to have no ROLE MODEL books causing me to just do the "exercise" of copying. I wanted to create a "system" of step-by-step teaching books that were not copies, nor necessarily new and different, but that WORKED!
I refused to even look at marketing and financial considerations in the writing of these series. Only since the books have come out, it has been suggested by several "financial minded" friends, that perhaps I should cut down the size of the books to make them more cost viable.
The books had to act as the teacher
But the presentation of these materials had to maintain the integrity of acting as much as possible as a REAL VIOLIN TEACHER to my readers and focusing only on using effective teaching with these "distant" students.
This meant keeping clear, uncluttered pages and providing lots of "think time" for the user to master the concepts. That meant we couldn't make these books available for widespread distribution to book and music stores, until we worked out the financial side of mass distribution. I will never let these books lose a bit of their workable qualities for such a venture.
Even the teachers agreed
Other parallel research has taken me into intensive surveys with teachers regarding how they felt about material available to them today, and very similar answers were often received. The largest agreement was that there is no single workable system out there, simple for the student, parent and teacher alike.
From the teacher survey, it became clear to me that it was a "teacher's genius" and inventiveness which made most of these other materials "work" for the students. A teacher who "knew his field" filled in the holes and gave the students very good training. Without valuable string experience, the wind, keyboard, vocal and other non-string players coped the best they could.
Now all the sudents could get everything
By providing a book system which fills in all the holes, teachers with non-violin training can do a better service for their students, and quality violin teachers with years of experience would have the assurance that when they repeated the beginners' lessons on the 50th and 150th student, (with its attendant "burn-out" phenomenon), ALL their students would get ALL the basics they needed.
Every good teacher has his "good" and "bad" days, and can leave holes in the beginning steps with their students, from what sometimes can be called "the robotic first steps of teaching."
By exactly following all the steps in these books, the students will not have holes in their training program, and parents can help make sure they "get it all."
You, the parent can follow along
Thus, I had found my starting point. I refined the concepts I found workable from the "conventional" teaching system and modeled my books purely and only on what I tested and saw to work for the student, the parents, and the teachers.
Your rewards are many
The world is not as it should be, with budget cuts forcing the desperately needed Music and Violin Programs out of school systems, and underprivileged (or "financially challenged") circumstances denying many more deserving young children from having a life of pleasure from the arts.
But if I can share this with those of you dedicated teachers; and students who want to play the Violin, and if I can help you experience the personal rewards, the social joys and aesthetic pleasures of playing a musical instrument; and if I have helped each of you to make your lives, and the lives of those you care about, better; then shall I consider myself richly rewarded for my work.
If new teachers can use these materials to help themselves past their nervous beginnings, and veteran teachers can find the ease of getting their students up through to the intermediate levels where their students are experiencing the joy of playing wonderful songs, and parents find that they can contribute and feel they can make a difference in helping their child learn and study the violin successfully, and if those "older" beginners who follow their dream of learning to play a Violin are having success and fun, then I will feel blessed and overjoyed for you and your accomplishments.
Good luck, and God speed.
Eden Vaning-Rosen, Author