Violin pedagogy has evolved over the years, with every decade seeing a preponderance of new teaching methods. Feats that were hitherto unimaginable are now commonplace as individuals with malformed limbs can now lead normal and productive lives with the aid of prostheses. Owing to the current rate of technological advancement, it is almost impossible to remain on the cutting edge. As educators, we are prompted to think critically before subscribing to a teaching philosophy so that we can be party to the advancement of the current pedagogical spate of affairs and not constitute a drawback.
Working as an educator over the past ten years, I have come believe that anyone with average motor skills can learn to play the violin with some level of proficiency as long as instruction and practice are systematic, continuous and rigorous.
With such a demanding instrument as the violin, a systematic approach in the presentation of ideas to the student will ensure that the foundation for good technique is laid and facility can be upgraded. When this is done continuously, good technique becomes a way of life.
Rigor in this context does not necessarily translate to the exertion of physical strain. It only means that practice should be done meticulously and attention should be paid to every aspect of the task in view. This three–point approach forms the core of my teaching philosophy.
Furthermore, I believe in creating a learning environment that fosters active participation and critical thinking by the use of familiar concepts and images, otherwise known as prior knowledge, to teach. I once taught a class on ‘Natural and Artificial Harmonics’ with this technique using the ‘Crest and Trough’ diagram of a sinusoidal wave. It was immediately apparent to the students that natural harmonics happen at the nodes; where the wave cuts through the x–axis and that artificial harmonics are produced at movable nodes, relative to the shortening or lengthening of the string with the displacement of the index finger and the pinky.
My students are given exercises to be completed before the next class so that a system for continuous evaluation is established. They are also encouraged to perform at local events such as house concerts, recitals, and talent shows as a way to boost confidence by way of performing for audiences other than themselves and/or family.
I do not believe in imposing ideas on students. Rather I help them understand the logic behind the work that needs to be done. My teaching philosophy is thus congruent with the fact that the learning experience should be a refreshing adventure that seeks to lead students on a path of constructive analysis, even as they strive towards unlocking their unique identities as violinists and future pedagogues.