The conjectures/concerns voiced in a note I received last week may be common among teachers who have not yet tried Things 4 Strings® accessories with their beginning students.
So here I share both the letter and my response to it:
My colleague wrote:
I know you mean well with your " bow hold buddy "products, but attachments like this to the bow and violin are not substitutes for diligent instruction and practice over a long period of time.
They may actually be damaging in the long term if the student never has to self monitor his bow hold. Eventually the buddy has to come off.
4 year olds are capable of holding the violin and bow correctly, if the teacher knows how to show them the way and encourages the parent and child to enjoy the journey.
Thank you for your thoughtful note.
This snowy evening of no students allows me to take a few minutes to respond in kind.
Teaching a full, primarily Suzuki, studio since 1981, with many students excelling and continuing on to careers in music, your note got me thinking how the introduction of these bow hold accessories into my studio seven years ago has changed both how I teach, and the progress of my students as a whole.
Really the only thing that has changed with my teaching is that the time spent with each student on bow hold instruction is delayed often until after Book 1 or 2 is well finished.
Of course I then monitor/pick at the bow hold until the kids go off to college, as I always did.
But, overall, the lesson time devoted to bow hold correction totalled over the years is minimal compared to that of my first 27 years of teaching.
In looking at my my studio as a whole, there is no question that the kids (and adults) are getting off to a quicker, more positive and more satisfying start.
Lesson time previously devoted to bow hold instruction/correction has been re-allocated to instruction in other skills and material.
And, with a relaxed and effective bow hold from Day One (which also translates into a relaxed and workable bow arm), the beginners are achieving a more rewarding sound from the start.
In fact, it occurred to me just today that I cannot think of a single beginner in the last five years who has discontinued lessons.
As to your conjecture that accessory use may damage students, parents of our initial "guinea pig" students would disagree:
Sincerest Best Wishes,
American String Teachers Association Kudos Award Recipient
Center for the Preparatory Arts of the Cali School of Music, Montclair State University, Suzuki Program Coordinator
Ruth Brons Violin Studio, www.brons.us
Things 4 Strings LLC , President, www.Things4Strings.com
I have been thrilled using MTH (Music Teacher's Helper) for almost 10 years now. This fabulous service, designed by former studio teacher Brandon Pearce, allows me to easily and efficiently manage a host of lesson studio administrative tasks, allowing me to focus on productively juggling lessons, performing commitments and Things 4 Strings LLC. While I must say I do allot some time in September entering in all the regular weekly lessons for the school year, and did spend some time initially getting familiar with MTH, that time spent was time well invested.
I rely on MTH to manage lessons , appointments, rehearsals, concerts, gigs, recitals, studio invoices, studio payments, studio announcements
The bookkeeping is very clear to everyone, and accurate and reliable.
The online Calendar may be viewed only after login. In today’s world of heightened awareness of the importance of privacy, I have it set up so students will only see events on the calendar that are either their own lesson or lessons created as Global Events visible to all, such as recitals, lesson slots available to be booked, or announcements.
How I offer a limited measure of scheduling flexibility to my full studio, using MTH, is as follows: whenever a student cancels a lesson online, MTH sends me an email alert. I then go online and create an “Available” lesson slot during that newly available time. Any student logging on and looking for an additional lesson or rescheduling option will then be able to book that slot. If a student cancels a lesson and also books an alternate lesson (and I know if this happens because MTH sends an email if a lesson is booked online]), then I delete the charges for the cancelled lesson. Otherwise the charge for the cancelled lesson will remain on the student’s account.
I take advantage of the automatic monthly invoice option, and online PayPal payments too—such a time saver. Before I deposit any student payments I enter it into MTH, and the parent is emailed a receipt and their online account is automatically updated. If a parent has a question about their account, they just log in to MTH. After a lesson time has passed, I like to used the Reconcile feature and quickly mark the lesson as Attended, Missed or Cancelled—details that will show up on any invoices MTH is set to automatically generate and email to every family each month. Unfamiliarity with Studio Policies is a thing of the past since I pasted in on the end of the automatic invoice text!
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Thanks to MTH I now spend zero time on the phone with students over scheduling or billing issues. Zero!!!