Taking the First Steps

At Kennedy Violins, we have always been proud of the fact that all of our employees, no matter their role, are active musicians and teachers and all of us have been where you are.  Whether you are just starting out learning the basics or finding your own voice or personality musically.  Today, I’d like to talk about those very first steps.  The steps you take before the first note is even played.

I’ll start with kids.  As a teacher, I often get asked by parents at what age they should start teaching their kids music.  Well, now!  Today!  Yesterday! In the womb!  It is never too early to start learning the fundamentals and it is very easy to incorporate musical learning into everyday activities.  Does your toddler like to empty the cabinets and bang on pots and pans?  Teach her a rhythm to play while you reach for the aspirin.  Does your kindergarten repeat the same nursery rhyme over and over again?  Turn it into a game where he sings a different note each time he repeats it or have a him create new melody for the same music.

Outside the home, learning in a classroom setting is always beneficial, but I believe it should also be fun and low pressure when children are just starting out.  I have always been a fan of Kindermusik classes.  Kindermusik serves children ages 0-7 and their families all across the US.  They use folk melodies from around the world and classic stories to teach music fundamentals.

Another question that parents ask is, ” How do I know if my child is ready to play the (insert specific instrument here)?”  Well, I find that parents know their children far better than I do and that they usually have answered that question for themselves by the time they ask me.  If you feel that your child is ready to learn an instrument, then she probably is.  Usually, it’s nice for the future student to have shown some interest in learning music, but I have found that it never hurts to try something new just for the sake of trying something new.  You never know!

The best tool for starting out young kids (5 and under) on a musical instrument is private instruction by a qualified teacher.  One on one lessons with the parents present are best because the little ones tend to focus better and it’s not as frustrating when they have the direct support of family.  Group lessons are fun but progress can be slow.  Older kids can be more successful in group lessons and many schools and community programs have great classes that would be little or no cost to parents.  To find qualified teachers or programs try calling your child’s school or a local music store for recommendations.

Now, let’s talk about grown-ups (from a strictly educational stand point, I place anyone beginning after age 12 in this category of learning…one day I’ll explain in further detail).  We have written several posts about how it’s never too late to discover (or rediscover) a love of music.  The tips I have aren’t much different.  I would stress, though, that even in today’s advanced age of technology with online videos/lessons on You Tube and Vimeo, having private lessons with an experienced instructor is HIGHLY valuable!  Personally, I feel the videos should serve as a supplement to strengthen what you learn in private lessons.

However, more than videos and lessons, to have a successful start I feel that the thing adult learners need most is guts.  It takes a courageous and humble individual to stand up and say, “Hey, I don’t know anything about this, but I want to learn.”  I have great respect for the adult beginners that dive in with their whole heart.  For the adventurous ones, there are many community orchestras that welcome players of all levels and ages and music camps to give them the experience every musician should have.  You just have to go for it!

The Summer Music Season

The Tanglewood Festival (Photo by Natalie Maynor)

Wherever you live, especially if you’re near an urban center, you likely have access to some of the most thrilling outdoor concert experiences this summer. While the traditional orchestral season runs from fall to spring, during the summer season many orchestras organize series of unique programs often held in outdoor amphitheaters and parks.

Since “summer” and “fun” are practically synonymous, orchestras often go out on a limb to perform programs that are more relaxed than your standard symphonies and overtures. Orchestra members will step away from the head-to-toe concert black and even the most stoic of conductors may even crack a few jokes. You’ll hear more pops concerts and collaborations with famous jazz, R&B, folk, and rock artists. It’s time to spice it up a little!

If you’re traveling, take a moment to look up the nearest symphony online to see what’s happening. Here are a few links to some of the most famous summer orchestra festivals that are guaranteed to be an absolute treat. And don’t worry–if you missed a performance this year, start making plans for next summer. You won’t want to miss out!













Looking for something to do?

Looking for something to do this summer?  Take part in Kennedy Violins first official video contest.  The theme of the video contest is: “Play.”  We want to see how you play, why you play, where you play, your favorite way to play, anything!  We will choose a winner based on their ability to best embody the theme.  The winner receives a brand new Prodigy bow from Coda Bow!  For more information click here.  For complete rules click here.  If you have any questions, call (1.800.779.0242) or e-mail us (rachel@kennedyviolins.com).

2012 Photo Contest WINNERS!

Back in May, Kennedy Violins announced our 2012 Photo Contest.  This year, we added 3 categories for people to enter: Humor, Performance, and Artistic.  A winner from each category would receive a $50 in store credit.  There would also be a grand prize winner receiving $200 of in store credit.   Well, the contest ended a few weeks ago and the winners have been selected!

In the Humor category:

This picture comes to us from Kelly Harriger.  The judges loved the candid nature of the photo and the distinct personalities each pet shows.


In the Performance category:

This photo was taken by Jim Goodman.  The picture features Sierra Goodman practicing for her first recital.  The judges loved her focus in the this shot.  Good luck on your recital, Sierra!


In the Artistic category:

This photo was taken by Clotilde Zehnder.  The judges like the composition of the picture and the creative use of color adjustment.


And finally, the GRAND PRIZE WINNER!

This beautiful picture was taken by Andrew Herrault.  The judges loved the perspective of the shot as well as the vintage, old-timey, feel.


We’d also like to thank all of those that participated in the contest.  We had our biggest turn out ever!  There are many talented photographers out there who happen to be string players.

If you missed your chance to enter this year, don’t worry we will do this again next year.  Plus, we are doing a video contest for the summer!

If you have any questions regarding this contest or any future contests, please e-mail rachel@kennedyviolins.com.

Busking: Taking It to the Streets

Photo by Lake Effects Photography

Maybe you’re getting tired of practicing. I mean, come on, it’s summer—everyone is taking trips to the beach, chasing after the sound of “The Entertainer” playing from the ice cream truck, and riding bikes in the sunshine. What could possibly be so appealing about confining yourself in a small, hot, stuffy room to play scales? Of course, all work and no play made Jack a dull boy. But could there be a way to practice and get your summer kicks?

Yes, there is. And it’s called busking.


What is Busking?
You know what it is, even if you haven’t heard the word. Busking is street performing; a busker is a street performer. From mimes to caricature artists to violinists, you’re likely to see some great live acts, especially in urban and major metropolitan areas. Visit New York or Paris and street performers are major cultural contributors to each city’s aesthetic.

Where do you busk?
Buskers are commonly found in populous, high-traffic areas—naturally, because why would a performer want to play without an audience? Common places to find street performers are at outdoor markets, subway stops, parks, fairs, and the like.

How do you do it?

  • Know where you’re welcome; sometimes street performers aren’t allowed in certain settings, so do a little research.
  • Play it safe. Especially if you’re a younger student or taking your child’s middle school jazz combo or quartet out on the town, pick a safe location and bring a friend or parental supervision. And kids, dress cute because people will LOVE you. And don’t forget your sunscreen.
  • Have some music to play. Playing memorized pieces or songs is easiest in the sense that you don’t have to worry about carrying a stand and your music blowing away in the wind. If you do bring music, be sure to have clothespins to keep your music from making its escape.
  • Set out your case and CDs if you have your own album for sale. Scatter a few of your own bills in your case to encourage people to add to it. Depending on your location (and you’re competition), you could make anywhere from $5.00-$100/hour. Not bad for an hour of practice, right?
  • Rinse, wash, and repeat. One great advantage to busking is that you don’t need a lot of music; you can have a fairly short set to repeat over and over again as people pass by. You’ll rarely see someone to stop and stand there for more than five minutes watching you perform, so you won’t sound like a broken record. This can be a great opportunity to play all three movements of a concerto over and over for a live audience in preparation for a formal performance.
  • And remember, don’t take it too seriously. The great thing about busking is that people aren’t paying too much attention to you, so you don’t have to sweat your mistakes or memory lapses as you perform. In this sense, street performing is a great “halfway point” somewhere between practicing and performing. Essentially, you’re practicing the act of performance in a really casual, no-pressure setting. Relax and have fun!

So if you’re sick of the practice room, take it to the streets! If you’ve never tried it, it can be a thrilling and memorable experience that connects you to your community in a fresh way. I mean, even Joshua Bell has done it. So it can’t be that hard, right?