Teaching (and learning) music

I got into teaching fiddle by accident.


It wasn't long after I'd picked up my violin after a lot of years of leaving it in a closet, and discovered that I really like playing Irish and Scottish and English dance music. Someone asked me for some help playing her new fiddle, and she was scared to ask her teacher, for some reason or other.


Fifteen minutes later, she was so tickled that she could actually play what was in her head, that she blurted out, "You should be a real teacher!"


Now that was a sort of compliment, I think.


Anyway, I took her advice over the years, and gradually started teaching and coaching people who really wanted to learn to play some Irish or Celtic music. Some didn't read music at all. Some were classical players, and really good ones, far better than I would have ever been if I'd continued studying music in college. Some had never picked up any instrument before and had to start from scratch.

Most of my students are adults, trying out something they've always wanted to do. Or they used to take lessons when they were kids, and burned out on the discipline and practice. Some are teenagers, who are taking classical violin lessons, and are burning out on the pretty intense competition and hard work. "Fiddle" lessons emphasize improvisation, listening, learning by ear, and conversing musically with other instruments.


Whatever their motivation, they all seem to like music, enjoy making music, and they are in the process of discovering it in themselves.


I'm not a classical music teacher. But I teach that good music is from the heart, and playing it should bring joy. I use a wide and varied selection of music for my students—baroque, English country dance, Irish, French Canadian, Scottish, waltzes, old-time—and try to teach good intonation, tone, bowing technique, and listening skills.


And I learn more from my students, young and old, as they learn how to listen and play with other musicians and learn more about themselves in the process. They'll never be in  Jascha Heifetz' league (nor will I!), but they will perhaps be happy, and they'll keep playing music for the rest of their lives.

"By learning you will teach;

by teaching you will learn."


Latin proverb