As parents, teachers, and musicians, we hope to guide both our children and students to learn in the most effective way. But how can we encourage
a desire to learn
discipline to practice
and a sense of accomplishment
when teaching children to play an instrument?
Quite often children
equate practice with punishment,
experience boredom during lessons and practice sessions,
don’t understand what is being taught,
resist being encouraged (or forced) to practice,
lose interest in their instrument,
and/or don’t believe music can be enjoyable.
How can we keep children from these pitfalls and stumbling blocks during what could otherwise be a fulfilling, effective, and FUN learning experience?
Understanding how children learn is absolutely imperative when you are a teacher or parent introducing a child to music. Parental involvement is very important in the process, which is why all private instructors at Kennedy Violins encourage parents to participate in and be aware of their child’s learning experience.
The following series is a guide expanding upon eleven points from “Principles of Learning,” an article excerpt from Helping Young Children Flourish by developmental psychologist Aletha Solter, Ph.D. This series will expand on the eleven principles of learning in terms of how children can learn to play a musical instrument.
Please check back as sections of “A Guide to Teaching Children Music” are added to this series!
We have a few Game of Thrones fans in our office, and we’re pretty excited about the Season 4 premiere — which is on RIGHT NOW! Because we’re so psyched, the Kennedy Violins’ staff presents a special performance of the Game of Thrones theme music. Enjoy!
We are excited to announce the results ofKennedy Violins‘ 2014 Poetry Contest! As always, it was very difficult to judge with such fantastic entries. Thank you to all the magnificent poets who submitted their work this year!
THE 2014 POETRY CONTEST WINNER
So without further ado, CONGRATULATIONS winner Caroline Castleton for her beautifully crafted entry! Caroline will receive Kennedy Violins’ Premium Accessory Package as the grand prize!
We shall keep playing!
We shall keep playing, for poor souls bulge,
too swollen for inarticulate frames.
Great organizers of sound consigned to us
St. Matthews, Violettas, Tills–a host of names.
We bring blood and breath;
They pull stoppers from welled-up humanity.
We shall keep playing,
and give utterance to our sensibilities.
As Bach made life, Beethoven storm,
Berg a scream, Debussy a sigh,
We, then, shall keep playing, you and I.
– Caroline Castleton
Three honorable mentions will receive awards (and tuners as prizes!) this year as the judges could not settle on just two. Congratulations to Veeresh Taranalli, Rachel Richardson, and Liza Lehmkuhl Walters!
Life is but a set of strings to be pulled,
To make a song as best as we could,
Touch the hearts of one and all it should,
Then gift a memory to life, we would.
– Veeresh Taranall
“Is that a guitar?”
Or “Should have played piccolo.”
To such I say, “No.”
I grew up believing my large hands and long fingers were a curse–until your neck was cradled in my palm.
I felt like such an oddball with my used station wagon–but it was important for you to travel safely
I carried you on my shoulder, against my chest and hip, over long distances, in heels, and responded to stares and questions with a breezy “sometimes it’s awkward, but you get used to it”–you were my responsibility.
And then college came and we spent less time together. Cross country moves, weddings, births, and now you have a corner in a spare room.
I remember how I felt you rumble in my belly and quiver in my hands and how my fingers arched and flexed as they traced the length of you.
You beautiful girl.
You beautiful bass.
– Liza Lehmkuhl Walters
Thanks again to all who entered — we can’t wait to see what you enter next year! Stay tuned to the blog and follow Kennedy Violins on Facebookpage for news of upcoming contests including our annual photo contest!
This weekend I had the great opportunity to travel to New York City and spend time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was especially excited about their wing dedicated to musical instruments with some incredible stringed instruments on display, including original violins by makers Stradivari, Amati, and Guarneri as well as other 16th century violins from the Cremona school in Italy.
Evolution of the Modern Violin
The Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivari families actively produced instruments between 1550 and 1744 in the same region of Cremona, during which time the modern violin as we know it came to life. While string instruments have evolved over time with various body shapes and string counts, very few changes have been made to the violin that was standardized during this time as a four-stringed instrument with its signature shape and size, strung in perfect fifths (E, A, D, G).
You may notice slight differences in design between the Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivarius violins, but they are clearly instruments in same family with the same tuning, string count, and contours. These violins seem so familiar because they are; almost all violins today are made with Stradivari, Amati, or Guarneri body designs.
For example, if you take a look at all the violins we carry at Kennedy Violins, you’ll notice that they are all made with the same standard measurements (body length, string length, string height, fingerboard length and so on—take a look at our violin measurements chart) used by luthiers today. Most are made and shaped with an original Stradivari design.
Preserved Historical Violin
As you may know, some instruments preserved from these hundreds of years ago are still in use. Most notably, there are 650 Stradivari violins still in existence, ranging in value from between hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. In 2010 a Stradivari violin sold at auction for $3,600,000, a record high.
Updating to a Modern Setup
Even though these 16th, 17th, and 18th century violins are in tact and in use, the ones in performance today have actually been modernized with fittings that make them playable by today’s standards.
I found the diagram below so fascinating. From it we learn that a Stradivarius violin in performance today has been OPTIMIZED to compete with modern violins to catch up with the evolution of the violin that has taken place over the centuries. These evolutionary changes in setup have made the violin more easily playable with more projection and better sound quality.
Updates from the Baroque setup to the modern setup include
a new neck that angles back
a longer fingerboard that allows performance in higher octaves
a modern bridge
new strings, often synthetic with metal winding instead of strings made from animal gut
a modern tailpiece
a longer bass bar in the interior of the violin
What’s the Same?
What remains “untouched”? Essentially, the body of the violin (back, face, and ribs) and the scroll/pegbox. This may not sound like much, but it’s the body of the instrument that most greatly affects the sound. The quality of wood and the precise gradations in the carving and thickness of the plates make these instruments sound like they do.
In this sense, the restored Baroque instruments retain their authenticity because no one can replicate the carving of the plates done by the original masters themselves.
The Legacy Lives On
If you get a chance to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art or other museums throughout the world with string instruments on display, definitely take the opportunity to see these preserved treasures. Better yet, you can hear a Stradivarius performed live (or on record) by modern violinists including Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman.
To see and hear these pieces of history alive is truly a privilege as we remember the master makers who brought to life music as we know it today. Here’s to the continuation of their legacy through the practice and performance of music forever!
Each of these articles brings up some very good points about the past, present, and future of classical music. So is it dying? And if there is any truth to the conclusion that classical music is a dying art, is there anything we can do to stop it?
HOW TO KEEP CLASSICAL MUSIC ALIVE
I don’t know what all the statistics are — ticket sales, CD and digital music sales, concert attendance, radio traffic — but I do know that the best way to
keep a plant alive is to water it.
lose weight is to eat less and exercise more.
accomplish something is the work hard.
make friends is to meet people.
learn an instrument is to practice.
So when you apply this principle of ACTION in the quest to keep classical music alive, the trick to making a difference in the music community is to do something about it.
INSTRUMENTS IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE
At Kennedy Violins we are really serious about keeping classical music alive. That’s why our biggest priority is to get quality instruments into the hands of anyone and everyone who has any desire to play. We try our best to provide instruments, rentals, and lessons at the most affordable price for the quality because we want to give EVERYONE a chance to make music without unnecessary costs as a stumbling block.
I’ll use a gardening analogy. If you want to grow a garden full of produce or flowers or fruits, the first step is to plant seeds. Likewise, if you want beautiful music to be produced in your community, the first step is to get instruments into the hands of the people, especially the children.
Not to say that children are the only one who can play, but the majority of professional musicians who have found success started playing at a young age.
THE THREE ACTIONS THAT PERPETUATE MUSIC
Orchestra concert attendance, ticket sales, and symphony bankruptcies are only a portion of the picture. In the grand scheme, the continuation of music as a lasting tradition is based on three foundational elements:
Education – In order for music to be produced, musicians must be taught music performance, theory, and history.
Performance – In order for music to be produced, musicians must perform what they have learned.
Listening – In order for music to be appreciated, it must be listened to by people who care.
With that said, there are SO many ways to promote the ongoing exercise of these three foundational elements. I would encourage everyone to take part in these exercises by learning, playing, and listening to music. It’s all about INVOLVEMENT and faith in the lasting value of classical music as an important tradition worth perpetuating. May we each do all we can to support this worthwhile and enriching art.
*NOTE: Because entries are submitted through Facebook, Facebook terms and conditions apply to all submissions. Additionally, all poetry must be the original work of the author never previously published online or in print. May the muse be with you!
Continuing our “Face to Face” series, we are excited to introduce the newest member the Kennedy Violins team: Shiloh Congleton. Prior to joining the staff at KV, Shiloh apprenticed one-on-one for several years under an exceptional luthier and master repairman at one of only a handful of shops on the West Coast authorized by C.F. Martin & Co. After performing warranty-related work on Martin instruments, Shiloh’s professional training has given him the ability to recognize the subtle differences that make an instrument perform both as it should and at its best—the latter for which he strives.
1. How long have you worked at Kennedy Violins?
I have worked at Kennedy violins since Dec. 2013.
2. What is your favorite thing about working at Kennedy Violins and why?
My favorite thing about working at Kennedy Violins is that we are able to offer instruments at almost every price point, enabling most anyone with the desire to play an instrument to be able to afford one, whether it be through a rental program, an entry level instrument or a high end setup, thereby spreading the power of music as far as we can.
3. What is your favorite instrument/product that Kennedy Violins carries and why?
My favorite product that we carry is the Bunnel violin outfit. Although many of the other instruments that we carry are “better”, I feel that the Bunnel is the perfect balance between affordability and playability. As mentioned in my response to question #2, my favorite thing is putting instruments in the hands of those that wish to play them. Sadly, beginning musicians often quit because the entry level instruments available in their price range are simply of such poor quality that they do not sound good and/or are difficult to play. I feel that our Bunnel line of instruments successfully bridge that elusive gap between affordability and quality.
4. What is your favorite band/musician/composer?
Possibly the most difficult question to answer ever… but my favorite musician (this year) is Peter Green.
5. If you didn’t play the violin/viola/cello/guitar, which instrument would you play?
I would wish to play the cello.
6. Which musician (alive or dead) do you wish you could play with?
I plead the fifth.
7. What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming year?
This year I am most looking forward to completing the instrument builds that I have begun.
8. What is something interesting that we don’t already know about you?
I have two connected toes on each foot!
9. What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working at Kennedy Violins?
My favorite thing to do when not at Kennedy Violins is to build instruments and spend time with my beautiful wife and daughter.
Learn more about the amazing members of our Kennedy Violins staff on our About Us page!
Hate to “break” it to ya, but you may need to lay off practicing for a while. (Photo by James Lee)
We’re always telling you to
PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE (Why don’t you read Kennedy Violins‘ article “The Art of Effective Practicing” while you’re at it) PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE—
—but, like your mom’s nagging, all this talk of what you should be doing all the time can make you feel seriously guilty anytime you decide to take a little break. And yet, sometimes,
IT’S OKAY NOT TO PRACTICE.
Serious musicians who take a break (whether it be a day, week, month, or year) from practicing for whatever reason often feel guilty or even depressed as a result. For regular practicers, not practicing may feel like
not brushing your teeth
wearing the same underwear all week
letting dishes pile up in the sink
not checking Facebook
WHEN NOT TO PRACTICE
Cut yourself some slack. Here are a few instances when you probably shouldn’t (or literally can’t) practice:
Right before a performance. WARM UP, but don’t wear yourself out with a real practice session. Tune, play a few scales, and review a few tricky passages, but don’t wear out your fingers the morning of your big performance.
During rehearsal. We know you’re just itching to work on (or show off) that tricky lick in the concerto you’re working on, but spare your conductor and your stand partner. Rehearsal time is never practice time—it’s unprofessional and distracting.
When you’re really, really tired. There is apparently no difference between driving sleepy and driving drunk. Practice when you’re that tired and you’ll likely not even remember what you practiced. You might even fall over and impale yourself with your bow. Don’t kill yourself—get some sleep and practice in the morning when you’re fresh and alert.
When you’re injured. This totally sucks, but if you have tendonitis, a broken arm, or some other injury that requires rest and recovery, you’ll just have to take a break, perhaps missing an upcoming performance or even a whole orchestra semester or season. Take your mind off your inability to play by focusing on another hobby or skill you can practice or develop during your “off-season.”
After you’ve played a recital. If you don’t take at least a day off after a huge performance, you’re probably obsessed. And that’s okay.
When you really deserve a break. Maybe you’re just shy of your goal to practice 5 or 10 hours a week. If you just can’t squeeze in those last couple hours, think back on what you have accomplished and start fresh next week. It’s more about the quality of your practice—not the quantity—anyway.
When someone asks you on a date. Seriously, music nerd! Put down your instrument and put on your dancing shoes! Bach isn’t your boyfriend—but this guy might be if you give him a chance.
When someone dies. If you’re really hard-core, you may consider death to be a lame excuse. But when big life events happen—births, deaths, marriages, etc.—it’s time to focus on what’s really important in life, which is more than music or your personal agenda. Take time out to develop relationships, be there for others, and take care of your family and friends. That’s the real stuff of life.
When you have a fever over 104°. Put your violin down and go see a doctor.
When you’ve practiced so much that you hate your instrument, your teacher, and music all together. You may be at a point where your instrument is like a really annoying two-year-old constantly screaming bloody murder in your ear, demanding all of your energy, and keeping you up all night. It’s time to get a babysitter (i.e. your violin case) and step away for a breather. People tend to appreciate things (kids, instruments, food) when they haven’t seen them for a time. Take a moment to step away and 1) ask yourself why you play your instrument and 2) think of all the things you love about music and how it enriches your life.
WHEN YOU COME BACK
When you do come back to your instrument after a short (or long, if necessary), reprieve, you’ll likely appreciate it much more than you did before your separation, breakup, or last “big fight.” Hopefully you’ll be able to kiss, makeup, and get back to making beautiful music together.
But in the meantime, enjoy the break. You deserve it!
Do “show-and-tell” performances at preschools and elementary schools.
Support musical organizations that need funding.
Organize a concert to support a charity.
Develop an intimate relationship with your instrument.
Get obsessed with a composer.
Ask someone out on a date to an orchestra concert.
Need reminders to keep your goals? Print out this list and hang in your practice space. Best of luck as you strive to improve your musicianship!
Note:Don’t overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations. Keep in mind the value of patience, persistence, endurance, and a commitment to never give up on your dreams. Don’t be afraid to reevaluate and recommit to your artistic goals throughout the year. As Richelle E. Goodrich says in her book, Smile Anyway,
Do it again.
Play it again.
Sing it again.
Read it again.
Write it again.
Sketch it again.
Rehearse it again.
Run it again.
Try it again.
Because again is practice, and practice is improvement, and improvement only leads to perfection.”