The Spaces Between the Notes

A week back I was teaching my Violin Club at WHC to listen to the spaces between the notes.

Listening to those minute silences is critically essential for musicians playing in an ensemble.  I’d recommend it for choirs too; it trains the children to listen to each other like nothing else does.

Today I started 3 new students, two in the Violin Club and one in private lessons.  It was in total an immensely successful day, including my advanced student with whom I revisited the Bach double concerto in d-minor – 3rd movement.

The roof at WHC is leaking, but that doesn’t dampen the spirits of the orchestra.  What does, however, is children being called away for swimming out of the rehearsal (in this rain!).  I cannot easily accept or forgive how the extramural sports teachers, even of the B-teams, find it so important to hold their meetings with their B-team right now and not wait 15 minutes for the orchestra practise to finish.  I feel like throwing every child out of orchestra who leaves the practise.   The sports coaches’ schedules are random, they seem to have completely free reign for the whole afternoon, and they walk rough-shod over any music or cultural activities.  And under such circumstances we’re supposed to put a concert together quickly with raw beginners?

If you look at the cultural and music events at schools like Cornwall Hill, Pro Arte and even the Four Schools Orchestra, this did not happen overnight.  In the Four Schools Orchestra, nobody who hasn’t got grade 4 music, is allowed to play.  Understandably then the level is impressive.  And we’re supposed to match that, in three months, with raw beginners?

At any rate a good start has been made.  I feel that if we’re given time and the space to grow (i.e. not with sports coaches poaching our players the whole time because they feel they are so important), then it can develop, over time, into something good.

On my non-aggressive teaching style:

People have opined about the fact that I don’t lose my cool at students if they don’t practise.  Some may feel I’m not “strict enough”.

But people don’t understand the concepts here.  Violin is a long path.  I’m prepared to walk it with my students, all the way.  I’m in for the long haul.  I’m not interested in intimidating them in their first year so they get all uptight and leave – either me or worse, the instrument.  Teaching music is a different relationship from teaching a class math.  It’s actually more a fostering of music in a child; an awakening of talents that are already there; a guidance of a person on a long road.  My job is to make the road worthwhile.  That is where my focus is, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re 5 or 55, that’s the approach I’ll take.

The music has to come out of the child himself.  The enjoyment of the music is what drives practising.  So it’s my job to foster that love of music.  One does not foster a love of music by screaming at a child.

Along the way, all those who don’t want to walk the path, fall out.  Those who love the instrument and the music, stay on and become better and better.  There are always a few remarkably good students around, and a few young “flyers” at various levels.

You’ll see, at the Studio Concert.


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