This month marks Kennedy Violins’ 15th Anniversary!
15 years ago, Joel Kennedy started Kennedy Violins in order to create a platform to provide high-quality instruments for his own string students, who often showed up at lessons with instruments that were barely playable.
What started off as a homemade webpage in the Pacific Northwest has grown into a business that features luthiers from all over the world and serves string players all over the world. All the while, we have maintained a staff of string players that provide our customers with quality service along with quality instruments.
We’ve compiled photos chronicling our 15 years of growth and change. Take a stroll down memory lane with us and comment on your favorite Kennedy Violins moment.
Thank you for being a part of our first fifteen years. We can’t wait to see what the future brings for us!
Young students come to lessons at Kennedy Violins with minds like blank slates. From the start, children are born with brains like sponges—you’ve heard the comparison before. Sounds, sights, movements, and smells engage the brain as it makes neurological connections. Every experience is absorbed, defining a growing child’s understanding of the world around him.
Music is a language, so the ability to learn, read, and make music can be compared to language acquisition. From birth, and even in the womb, infants are extremely cognisant of sounds. A baby recognizes the specific tone of her mother’s voice. Pitch recognitions allow a child to recognize high and low tones.
The sound of music, which does not have to be deciphered, decoded, or read, can absolutely captivate a child of any age. Children stop in their tracks to identify the sounds around them like a bird chirping, a plane flying overhead, or the playing of a piano upstairs. Musical sounds are expressed in a universal language of melodies, to which language humans are programmed to respond from the very beginning.
A DESIRE TO LEARN
Because music is inherently fascinating to children and adults, it can be introduced and immediately engage a child’s interest, filling him or her with an intrinsic desire to hear, learn, and experience more. A parent or teacher can take this golden opportunity to feed a child’s natural interest in music by recognizing his or her specific desires and creating a learning environment to satisfy the child’s hunger for more — more music, of course!
A child’s natural curiosity leads to questions like
What is this?
What was that sound?
Who is that?
Why? Why? Why?
Are we there yet?
Kids want to learn. As parents and teachers, we have the great opportunity and responsibility to provide an education to satisfy a child’s thirst for knowledge. Hand a child an instrument, and they will want to play with it and on it.
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!
*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!
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.”
I’m not a fan of sports metaphors, so you’ll have to excuse this extremely obvious comparison. But I started running recently and spent the weekend seriously contemplating the concept of the Marathon. And during that contemplation, I was surprised to find myself simultaneously reflecting on my experience preparing for my first recital years ago.
After crossing the finish line at the Scarecrow Scamper 5K this Saturday, I was surprised to feel like I could keep running; I have reached some level of endurance that I’ve never experienced in my life. As I wandered over to the water table to grab a drink and a complimentary apple, I ran into a friend who’d also run the 5K. “You should run with us!” she said, referring to “us” as a group of women who meet at ungodly hours of the morning with the goal of running an actual 26.2 in the spring.
This led to a conversation about the Marathon concept itself. I asked her if she’d done one before and what it felt like. I started doing a mental inventory of friends and acquaintances of mine who have completely the feat. And then I started thinking, well, if so-and-so can do it, could I? If 60-year-olds can do it, could I? If the average Joe can do it, could I?
Then I started feeling a sense of dread. If I possibly could do it—if my body were really strong enough and capable of developing the strength and endurance necessary—does it mean that I should do it? I was feeling a very specific sense of fear that I’ve felt before: the fear of one’s own potential.
Recognizing one’s potential is a precursor to taking action. Recognizing potential leads to developing a sense of confidence, courage, and faith that you can accomplish something you have never done before.
“Well, think about it, and if you want to, come join us on Tuesday morning. I’ll send you the schedule. And there’s no pressure to do the marathon—you could just train with us and see how you feel.”
I got an email with the following schedule:
I remember drawing up a similar schedule when preparing for my first recital. It had a countdown of weeks to the final performance, lessons with my private teacher and accompanist booked on the calendar, a breakdown of what to practice on certain days, and a smaller breakdown of how many hours or minutes to spend on each piece during each of those practice sessions. I knew that without that steady, regular practice, I’d likely crash and burn on performance day. NOTHING can replace a consistent effort when it comes to preparing for a performance, especially when the music is hard and the music is new.
Music takes time to learn. You get to know the notes on the page, the bowings, the fingerings. You start slowly developing muscle memory as your fingers and arms internally program patterns, shifts, and connections. As a bass player, I know that playing my instrument actually requires substantial muscle strength. If I haven’t played in a while my hand and thumb muscles cramp up. My shoulders ache. My back is sore. My triceps feel the weight of the bow. It’s amazing how even exercising outside of playing the bass can help my playing. Yoga does wonders for my back and shoulders, both of which support my form when I play my instrument.
This morning I actually went to run for the first time with the “Marathon Moms,” as I’ll refer to them. I was both encouraged and discouraged. Encouraged that I ran another 5K in distance feeling like I could keep running when I got home, but discouraged by my slow speed and the fact that I’d never run more than 4 miles—how could I do 26.2?
I’m not sure. But I’ll keep training and we’ll just see what happens.
I think that last sentiment is an attitude that many musicians also feel. Like, “Yes, I can play, and I can play pretty well. I’ll keep practicing and keep playing. Maybe someday I’ll play a real formal recital—maybe someday. But for now I’ll learn a few pieces and we’ll see what happens.”
We’ll see what happens. What does that even mean? Who sees what happens? You? The people around you?
I have an opinion—and I’d love your thoughts on this—but I feel that musicians have some obligation to perform for other people. Practice done in secret is great; there are definitely significant benefits to any individual involvement in music. It’s good for the brain, it can be relaxing, it’s an enjoyable experience. What do you think? At what point should (or is “should” the wrong word here?) a musician take their playing ability out of the practice room and into the performance sphere? Is it selfish to keep your talent and musical abilities to yourself?
I’m not really sure.
When I chatted with my husband about the idea of training for the Marathon, he made an interesting comment. “You’d have to be obsessed,” he said. “People who do marathons are kind of obsessive.
“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Like, I play the bass, but I’m not necessarily obsessed with the bass. I did a recital and, yeah, it required a lot of diligent practice, but I wouldn’t say I was obsessed with the idea.” He gave made a face that said, “Okay, I can see that.”
“But,” I said, “I do know a lot of bass players who are TOTALLY obsessed—like all they do is think about the bass and play the bass and talk about the bass and live to practice. But you don’t have to be obsessed like that to give a recital.”
“But if you trained for an actual marathon, it would take a lot of time. Like, it’d be a pretty big time commitment.”
And he’s absolutely right. Not just time to run, but time to think about it. Time to mentally be absorbed by the challenge.
So there you have it. There are so many similarities between the Recital and the Marathon. Both require
a plan of attack
preparation that begins far in advance
a scheduled race/performance day
dedication to complete the task
TIME to develop strength, endurance, and capability
Constantly renewed motivation to pull your instrument out of the case/running shoes out of the closet
[ideally] a huge group of fans to cheer you on!
It’s frightening to face your own potential. But if you never face it, never try, you’ll never know. You may be left with regrets. You may be left saying, “I could have done that,” because you never did it. You never opened the door to that possibility. You look back at that door and wonder what was behind it and if it’s still there.
So do you want it enough? Do you want it enough to [note obligatory Nike reference]