It is beautiful music to your ears, as Amy Paster describes her love and passion for teaching fiddle and violin lessons. Would you like your child to learn an instrument such as the violin? I recently spoke with Amy Paster, who has been teaching violin for 24 years, and we discussed her passion and strong drive to instill a love of music into her students through Amati String Studio and the Sizzlers Fiddle Group.
Question: Amy, please tell me a bit about yourself, how you developed a passion for teaching violin and where it is taken you today?
Amy: I grew up in Victoria BC & studied Suzuki Violin as a child. After graduating from UBC School of Music, I continued my studies in how to teach violin to young children, over the past 25 years. In 2000, I established Amati String Studio, Western Canada’s only string specialty school, in Vancouver. Amati grew strong for 10 years, with almost 300 students enrolled at its height. After getting married in 2009, I closed Amati in Vancouver & I moved my own teaching studio to Victoria where I now teach violin for the Victoria Conservatory of Music as well as both violin and fiddle in my home studio.
Question: From your profile page you have been teaching for 25 years, so what do you love most about teaching violin, particularly teaching violin to children?
Amy: I enjoy working with students of all ages, but especially preschoolers. Teaching young children is always fun, uniquely challenging and rewarding. I love that children are open to learning and curious about life – music lessons provide lots of opportunities for children to excel in so many ways, not just playing the instrument. Every lesson is very different, as is every student. It makes for an exciting and interesting career.
Question: What is the Sizzlers Fiddle Group?
Amy: The Sizzlers Fiddle Group began as a small group of Suzuki violin students (then called the Suzuki Sizzlers) in 1988. They were a performance group that played at schools, outdoor festivals and benefit concerts. As they evolved into the Sizzlers Fiddle Group, they became a more serious (yet tons of fun!) performance troupe. Students can stay in the group up to 10 years; the repertoire is so extensive! The Vancouver Sizzlers, over the years, have toured across Canada and made 2 professional CDs. In Victoria, the group is still very young. It’s a fiddle and movement group that works on tunes with choreography as a group. The goal within the year is to be able to busk (and the kids earn a bit of money!) and perform locally. Hopefully once the group is more established, we can also do some fundraising for local charities. We play music from all over the place, with an emphasis on Klezmer, Celtic and Folk Music from around the world. I’m looking forward to developing the Victoria group in the next few years.
Question: How does a student get involved in the Sizzlers Fiddle Group?
Amy: I am currently accepting students for the Sizzlers Fiddle Group in the fall. This group is open to children ages 6-13 years old. Students should have a minimum of 2 years on their instrument (violin or viola). There is an informal audition (mostly to let students know what the group is like and so that I can hear their level of playing) but in general, anyone who is interested is welcome to join the group at this time. Most of the music is taught by ear, although I do hand out the music for those that want to see it in print.
Question: Describe for me your violin teaching philosophy or method?
Amy: While I don’t have one specific method that I teach, it’s a bit of everything that I’ve learned over the years. I’ve always been a firm believer that children can learn any instrument, if it’s taught well, if they work at it and if they enjoy it. So, my personal philosophy is to make the lessons informative and fun! I do use the methodologies from both Suzuki and Traditional Classical methods, as these are both very successful. I also like to incorporate lots of fiddle music in the lessons. The Suzuki and Traditional materials can be used in so many ways, so I try to tailor the lessons to students’ individual needs. Of course, I’m also always open to learning new teaching materials and I look for new opportunities all the time.
Question: What is the difference between individual and group lessons, for the student?
Amy: Individual lessons usually involve the student, parent and teacher. These are lessons where details of posture and technique are covered at the student’s own pace. The group lessons are additional supplemental classes, allowing the student to be part of a violin community in a fun class setting. For students studying Suzuki Method, group classes play an integral part of the learning. They allow the teacher to check on student mid-week and to reinforce lesson points. In addition, it’s always fun to make music with other students whether it’s in a Suzuki group, fiddle group, orchestra, or technical class.
Question: What you think kids love most about learning violin and learning it from you?
Amy: I am very creative in my approach, taking into consideration personalities and abilities at every step of the way. I always have a good sense of humour, making sure that students are able to get enjoyment from their challenges. Over the past 25 years I have specialized in starting students as young as 3 years of age – with lots of success working with families towards a strong music education. Students of mine can enjoy relaxed lesson settings – ideal for early learners, or if they prefer they can work towards individual goals of performances and examinations. Since I have taught all ages and levels – including adults, I am comfortable to encourage all styles of learning.
Question: How do I know my child is ready to start violin lessons? Where do I get started?
Amy: If your child has shown an interest in music (can be as young as 3 years of age), then it’s likely time to start exploring the choices. You may not be sure it’s violin that they want, until you actually try the lessons. Since the violin can be challenging in the beginning, it does take time to set up on the instrument and actually be able to play. So young beginners should expect a slow start – it’s important to get the basics right.
In order to get started, I always recommend a trial lesson (most teachers will offer this) as an introduction. This way, you can ask lots of questions and find out if the teacher is a good fit for your family & also find out what’s expected of the student. At the trial lesson, the teacher can size the student for the appropriate instrument.
Also, keep in mind that for most young children, parents will be expected to attend the lessons & practice with the child. This is the best way for younger children to learn string instruments, since so much is dependent on at home practice and repetition. In September 2012, I’ll be teaching at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, and we’re having an information Open House on September 8th, so that would be as good a place as any to get started, if not before then!
Kit: Thank you for allowing our parents at ChatterBlock to learn about your amazing experiences and teaching methodologies. A child is never too young to learn an instrument. Amy teaches students as young as three years old, and her approach to teaching is to make the experience fun and tailor her lessons so they suit the learning needs of her students.