All posts by hannahviolin

I am a violinist. I also enjoy running, working out, reading, and hanging with my friends and cat.

New Year, New Students, New Hopes!

Each school year starts with a wonderful feeling of freshness and hope.  This year is no different.

I look at the calendar, filled with promises of new and more interesting jobs, and new students!  I will have two classes at St. Margaret’s, and I started teaching violin at the St. Louis School for Ballet, in addition to having some new private students.  So far all my new students are wonderful people and I look forward to our time together. I will be making an effort to stay more organized than in the past and be more methodical (in a good way, not in a plodding way) in my approach to teaching.

I am also taking a class on Suzuki Pedagogy.  So far each class has shown me how much more I have to learn about teaching.  I keep feeling like I have been teaching wrong all these years (my constant fear!) but I certainly hope that isn’t the case.   I will be teaching some Suzuki group classes in the near future, and know that that will be a huge learning experience as well.  Learning the violin is such a complex thing, and it is a constant challenge to make sure I am telling my students all I need to for them to thrive and grow.

Today I thought of some of my past students from Cleveland, and I really missed some of them.  I hope they are all doing well and continuing to enjoy their violin lessons and grow as musicians and people.  I can’t believe it has been over a year since I moved.  Some of them I taught for close to five years.  Someday I hope to have students I have taught for even longer, but for now, that is such a long time…

I have some interesting gigs ahead of me as well.  I will be branching out more into “non-classical” performances and I am eager for the challenge. I also hope to play more chamber music than I did last year!  And of course the usual orchestra performances, with a few Concertmaster opportunities as well, which should be great fun.

I wonder what else life will bring this year?  I hope I will continue to learn and grow, to be a better musician, teacher, and friend.

(This post turned a bit more soul-search-y than I usually feel.  Evidently I am becoming more introspective?)

Last two notes:  1) On the advice of a friend, I now possess Gaylord Yost’s Shifting Exercises.  20 pages of nothing but pure shifting…what a great exercise!  2) I just finished a marvelous book.  “Mindset” by Carol Dweck.  Very interesting, easy read about the “fixed mindset” versus the “growth mindset.”  I highly recommend it.

Beautiful outdoor wedding

I played at a wedding over the weekend, outdoor at a beautiful garden.  It was the perfect outdoor wedding!  I have to say, when the weather works out just right…it can be so beautiful!  It was about 75 degrees, partly cloudy–blue skies with big fluffy white clouds.  Such a welcome relief!  It was my third wedding this summer at this particular location–the first was ridiculously hot and humid (close to 100 degrees), the second was in the aftermath of a thunderstorm, not so much hot, but so humid and the rain was still dripping until about five minutes before the ceremony began.  So last Saturday was the first time I truly appreciated the beauty of the location, versus cursing it.

Let’s hope the luck holds through the next few weekends–we have been having unseasonably cool weather here in St. Louis, not cold, just lovely and in the 70’s and 80’s…

Aftermath of the Columbus Suzuki Institute

I had such a wonderful time at the Institute!  It was more inspiring than I could have imagined, and I look forward to attending it, or another Institute, next summer.  Carol Smith from Vanderbilt University was my teacher trainer, and I thought she was just fantastic.  In the past, I have had many experiences with the Suzuki method.  I grew up as a Suzuki student, and had also had training in the past, but it never really hit me what it was really about until this week.  I had had many preconceived notions about the Suzuki method, and I had worried being a Suzuki teacher would put me into a box and stifle my own creativity.  I was wrong.  I now feel that I want to be a true Suzuki teacher, and help parents and students learn together the joys of violin playing, and that within the philosophy and any program, I can still have my own individuality and creativity in teaching.

I learned so many specific things too, ways to improve my teaching, things I should have been teaching that I wasn’t, ways to inspire my students, ways to make things easier for them to learn…the whole week really made my head spin with all the new ideas I was learning!  I came home bursting at the seams, ready to go.  Unfortunately, I don’t have that many students at this time , but I am sure I will be able to keep these ideas with me for the future (also I took copious notes).

I also just had the privilege to observe at a small camp at SIUE.  After getting back from Columbus, Carol had encouraged me to get in touch with a variety of people in the area, and I was able to talk with Vera McCoy-Sulentic, who is the director of the Suzuki program there.  I might be teaching in the program in the future, and with this in mind, I observed the classes not only to learn hypothetically, but to really think about how I might run my own group classes, which is something I have never done in the past.  There are some other Suzuki teachers in the area that I hope to observe as well.

To sum it all up–I feel now like I am a better teacher than I have been in the past, and I look forward to learning more in the future, whether as a Suzuki teacher, or through my private studio.   My goal is to always grow and improve in my teaching so that my students will be able to learn as much as they can.  My main goal for my students is still the same–for them to become the best people they can, and to have music be a wonderful part of their lives.

Looking forward to the Columbus Suzuki Institute

Next week I am attending the Suzuki Institute in Columbus, Ohio for teacher training in Book two and three.  I am really excited about this opportunity.

Since I moved to St. Louis, I haven’t been doing as much teaching as before.  I learn so much from teaching every student, and I build on that knowledge for the next student.  Since I have had less contact with students, I feel maybe I have forgotten some things.  In addition, there may be many things that I never thought of before.  I went to school for performance, not education.  My teaching has always been based on my personal knowledge of performance versus a formal education in education.   I’m hoping to recharge, refresh, and come home from the week with more knowledge and ideas in my teaching “toolbox” than before!   I hope that everybody I work with benefits from this week, and I also hope that I will be able to go somewhere next summer as well to continue my training.

I feel very strongly about the importance of education past college and graduate school.  I try to continue learning by reading magazines and books and by talking with colleagues about a variety of topics.  I think it’s a wonderful time for me to continue my education in a more formal setting, and I hope the week is full of learning and enjoyment.  I’ll let you know what happens!

Hiring a professional

Sometimes people tell me they can hire students for a cheaper price.  They say, oh this high school student can teach my child violin lessons for ten dollars a lesson, or, this group of college students can play my wedding for half that price.  I’m sure this is true, but I’m also sure you do lose a great deal of quality when you hire an amateur.

Granted, playing or teaching music isn’t quite like practicing medicine–no one is going to die from bad music or bad teaching!  However, if you hire an experienced teacher to teach yourself or your child, you will get someone who has taught many other students, has a degree in music, and  is able to play their instrument at a very high level. What does this mean for a beginning student?  It means that from the start we will be able to help you (or your child) get a proper foundation on the instrument.  It means we will know exactly what is important to learn at the beginning so that along the line (perhaps even ten or twenty years later) you won’t have to change things that are wrong.  I get many students who come to me after either learning on their own or learning from a less qualified teacher.  Sometimes I have to spend a couple of YEARS fixing the bad habits they have.  Imagine if those students had received the proper set up to begin with!

As for playing for your wedding or another event, what do you gain by hiring professionals?  Firstly, you gain a sense of professionalism in regards to contracting, timeliness, payment processing, and attire.  You also get a group who has played perhaps hundreds of weddings already, and knows how to react to things when they don’t go quite as expected (as happens in weddings!).  You get a group of people who are very adept at playing their instruments and have wonderful tone, musicality, rhythm, intonation, etc.   You will get a group of people that your guests will rave about! These are things that you may not get with a college or high school group.  Many times I have received a call from someone who booked a less professional group that backed out at the last minute!  It turns out that the savings they thought they were getting might have ended up getting them no live music at all.

Most importantly though, by hiring a professional musician, you will get someone who is dedicating their life to making music and as a result, will be very dedicated to making you enjoy your music as well!

Thoughts about outdoor weddings

Hi!  Welcome to my blog about weddings and teaching.  If you are reading this, you are probably thinking about taking violin lessons, or you are considering hiring the Frantillo Strings for your wedding or other event.  How will this blog help?  Well, I’m hoping to let you in on a bit more of the day-to-day life of a musician so that you will be able to feel just a bit more connected to me, and know more what you are getting into.

As a musician, there are generally two phases to life:  wedding season, and non-wedding season.  Here in St. Louis, and in Cleveland (where I lived before), wedding season generally runs from May to October or so.  Non-wedding season is obviously the rest of the year, though generally it feels like wedding season all year round, as when you aren’t playing as many weddings, you are generally booking bunches of them to play.  Interestingly, I have a violinist friend in Phoenix, and their prime wedding season is when our non-wedding season is.  Just a bit of trivia for you!

Currently, I’m deep into wedding season–after all, it’s June.  I imagine many little girls dreaming of getting married barefoot in the grass, wearing a beautiful long white dress, and kissing an as-yet-unimagined Prince Charming.  And now those girls have grown into beautiful women…about to get married in a beautiful garden on a lovely summer day in June.  Now, honestly, who are they kidding?  Where are those lovely summer days?  I can count about two days that have happened so far that I would consider a beautiful day.   The rest are too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too windy.  Plus, don’t forget about the bugs…YUCK!

What am I saying to you, if you are considering an outdoor wedding?  Just keep in mind that the string quartet (or whatever size group you have) will need to be out of direct sunlight and cannot play if there is rain (even one drop…even one HINT of a drop).  Generally a tent cover is good, sometimes tree cover works for sun.  Why does this matter?  Stringed instruments are made of wood, glue and varnish.  Too much sun or any water will ruin them!  Plus, the kind of instruments professionals play tend to be very expensive–usually ranging from the cost of  a car to the cost of a house!  We just can’t risk it.  Another issue is if it is too cold (think 60 degrees or less).  From what you’ve already learned about instruments, they wouldn’t do well in the cold.  In addition to that, when we play our instruments, we use many muscles.  If we are too cold (particularly our fingers), we are unable to play very well, in fact, sometimes we can only play very badly.  So if you have an outdoor wedding and it ends up being unseasonably cold, you will need to get a heater for the musicians.