I have happy memories of being a violin teacher in south-east London. I used to cover a lot of ground on my bike, all around the boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham, cycling from Catford to Charlton and seeing a lot of those Victorian streets. I had an adult pupil who lived right on the edge of Blackheath, as in the actual heath, and who managed to play the violin alongside what sounded like a demanding corporate career. (Perhaps my admonitions to practise Schradieck felt more demanding to him; still, they can’t have been that bad as we’ll soon be working together again). I even saw a pupil at Victoria, a short train ride away, teaching a bit of English as well. It was fun to go into the centre of London of a Saturday – sometimes going on to a concert (either as participant or audience member).
I learnt a lot about what different ideas and goals people might have for their violin playing: for leisure and fun and relaxation, or – from a parent’s perspective – for a child to deepen their education and in doing so pick up grades that might improve scholarship prospects. It’s a tough world out there!
And I learnt to adjust and be flexible, and bring what each person wanted; after all, it was their learning and their experience, and I was just a facilitator. That said, I had a few principles I would always seek to offer: firstly, a sense that music is always worth doing for its own sake and for the good feelings it enables, beyond external goals such as grades. (Call this intrinsic motivation). Secondly, I wanted to share a desire to make sure that playing was as comfortable and easy as possible. To do this, I would want to spend time making sure that what we call ‘technique’ was well set up. This isn’t about becoming a scary violin teacher and taking the joy out of playing; it’s about making sure that we are able to play the instrument with ease and therefore to enjoy it.