Music has been at the centre of my life since I was a child. At Royal Holloway College, University of London, I studied music, obtaining a BMus (Hons). Throughout my adult life I have played in string quartets and other chamber groups and in local orchestras. From 2002 to 2006 I undertook the Suzuki teacher training at the British Suzuki Institute in London, to enable me to teach Suzuki Method, which I consider the most effective method for teaching violin to young children.
Each of my students has a weekly individual violin lesson, starting as 20 minutes and increasing to 30 minutes or more as they become more advanced. A parent (or a carer who does the practice at home with the child) attends the lesson. Ideally students will practise every day, for just a few minutes to start with. They should also try to listen to their recording/CD every day.
I teach children from as young as 3 or 4, although many choose to start at around 5 or 6. Children starting at 9 or 10 can also progress very well with Suzuki Method. Parents can, if they wish, have lessons and learn alongside their child and I teach a few adult beginners.
Lessons take place at my house In Henley-on-Thames after school and at weekends. I also teach during school time at Trinity Primary, Sacred Heart Primary and Gillotts School, all in Henley.
Violin Group Lessons
Group lessons are an essential part of the Suzuki Method. This is the sociable part of playing the violin, and the lessons are designed to be fun and stimulating, providing essential experience in ensemble playing and musicianship. Students can start coming to group lessons as soon as they are confident with holding the violin and bow. I hold 4 or 5 group sessions per term. These take place on Saturday mornings at the Christchurch Centre in Henley. There is a group performance at the end of each term. For more information on my violin groups, click here.
Apart from the group performances, there are also opportunities for solo performances. All of my students play a solo in my Christmas concert. They can also perform in Henley Youth Festival (if living within the catchment) and I try to ensure that they all get a chance to play in concerts at their schools.
Being Part of the Suzuki Community
All my students are required to join the British Suzuki Institute (BSI). As members they are part of a world-wide community. The BSI runs numerous workshops throughout the year and puts on concerts in London regularly, all of which students can participate in, whatever their playing level. These events can be truly inspirational. The BSI also runs a Graduation scheme whereby students submit a graduation recording when they reach the end of each book, receiving feedback from the country’s top Suzuki teachers and taking part in a high-profile concert at one of the main London concert venues (St John Smith Square or The Royal College).
Are You Prepared for the Commitment?
Learning a musical instrument is a big commitment, not just in terms of cost. If your child is to get the most out of lessons, they will ideally need to practise with the help of a parent at a regular time every day – certainly on as many days as possible – as well as listening to the Suzuki recordings. You need to think about whether you have enough time in your day. It has to be a time when your child is not too tired. And you need to be relaxed, as keeping the practice fun and motivational can be challenging. Attendance at group lessons and performances is also essential.
I am available outside lesson time to provide help and advice when needed, whether it’s a broken string, or a child who refuses to practise. More than anything I want my students to love music and to have the opportunities that I had.