I teach beginning though advanced level violin and viola. I also teach a range of fiddle styles, beginning through intermediate cello and singing, and I coach string ensembles.
Whether you’re a beginner, have some experience, or have a lot of experience, we start lessons together with an inventory of your musical background, discuss your goals, and if you do have playing experience, we hear a bit of something you’ve been playing recently, the best way to help assess what our next steps might be. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced, I always start with assessing technique and even for more advanced students there’s usually some “resetting” we need to do at first so we can avoid tension and tone issues. Even if this might feel like taking a step backwards sometimes, students who are open to the process quickly feel relief as we work through the issues and they realize how much easier playing really can be.
Some students have strong areas of interest. Common topics that show up among students in my studio include Classical repertoire, improving technique or specific techniques like vibrato or bowing/tone, improvising, fiddle styles, interpretation, and recovery from pain, injury, or performance anxiety. If so, in our first lessons together we’ll formulate a plan for how to efficiently achieve your goal.
If you’re not sure what you need or have more general goals, we’ll focus on the most obvious and achievable elements you need to build your technique, repertoire, and interpretation so you’ll be well equipped to take any direction you choose later on.
If you have playing experience, expect to play a little for me - a scale, etude, excerpt, or tune that you feel fairly comfortable playing. Many students are nervous at their first lesson and are unable to play their best. Performance anxiety, even in a lesson, is common, and with many of my students, part of our work together involves practicing performance techniques to help us get more comfortable playing under pressure.
If you are a beginner, the path is relatively straightforward, though individual personalities, age groups, and learning styles keep me on my toes! We’ll start with posture, the violin hold and bow, and how to achieve a beautiful, resonant tone. The only pre-requisite is a willingness to try, daily time to practice set aside, and an instrument and bow. Other helpful tools to have with you are a way to record your lesson (audio and/or video) for study over the week. This could be a smart phone, handheld digital or tape recorder, or for Skype violin and viola students, online software such as GarageBand or Call Recorder for Skype (Mac) which allows you to record both video and audio. Finally, please bring a notebook, tablet, etc. to record homework and tips to remember.
I have taught three year olds through seniors, and enjoy students of all ages who are dedicated to improving their ability to express themselves musically. In recent years I’ve been particularly enjoying working with students who want to improve their technique, polish their interpretations, and focus on practice mastery, and “psychology of success” topics (i.e. overcoming performance anxiety, developing stage presence, self-confidence, personal branding, etc.).
Regardless of age or ability, I enjoy students who are enthusiastic about learning and willing to engage with me in discovering the “magic spots,” be they technical, mental, emotional, or behavioral (i.e. practice habits), that will take them to the next level - more honest, passionate playing, and more joy and confidence in life. It’s the challenges that students of different ages and backgrounds present that keep me “the the laboratory,” learning and discovering new ways to present information that will allow each student to internalize it in his or her own unique way, and year by year continuing to enjoy teaching immensely. I enjoy students who ask questions, appreciate my “geek outs” on theory and the subtleties of playing technique, want to create a dedicated, effective daily practice, and above all, know that they want to play music for the rest of their lives.
Beginners through advanced violin, viola, and fiddle players, and beginning through intermediate cellists. I enjoy students of all abilities who want to dive deep. I start my beginners off very methodically, focusing intensely on technique and ear training until a student has a strong foundation of tone, intonation, rhythm, and playing comfort.
With intermediates I focus on stabilizing basic techniques when problematic, fine tuning the student’s ear, introducing more advanced techniques such as vibrato, new bowing styles, and shifting, and helping the student cultivate his or her musical voice.
With advanced players the search continues to discover and correct problem areas, be they technical, interpretive, tension related (mental or physical), having to do with performance anxiety, or with the student’s listening attention. We continue to develop the musicianship of the student, balancing an awareness of good musical taste with personal expression. If you are a more advanced player, I suggest we start with an initial lesson to assess your playing and goals. Finding the right teacher at the right time is very important, especially for advanced players. If I feel unqualified to teach you, or if I feel you will benefit more if we work in conjunction with another teacher, I will not hesitate to tell you. Since I have many unique tools to help you practice and learn more effectively, to approach your music and your instrument with less tension and more enjoyment, and to develop your unique musical voice, I feel that most students of all levels can benefit from some time in my studio.
My violin and viola instruction is rooted in my own daily discoveries as a performer and touring artist, as well as the pedagogy of Ivan Galamian, Shinichi Suzuki, Dorothy DeLay, Paul Rolland, Simon Fischer, and Kato Havas. While we see the body playing the violin and might assume everything comes down to muscle memory, what trains the muscles? For that we need to look deeper, to the mental, psychological, and auditory components of playing the violin or viola. Therefore, no matter what teaching materials I might be using, whether it's a certain method, scale or etude book, we're focusing on Classical music, or we're fiddling, or learning to improvise, my teaching style rests on a strong body-mind component and the use of natural biomechanics.
The foundation of my instruction is classical music. Whether this is our ultimate playing goal, I feel it is here that we can learn the most about developing good tone, gain the ability to play in all keys and positions, master a wide variety of bow strokes and rhythms, and to learn to “story-tell” a wide range of moods and emotions through music. However, fiddle music, and other traditional music from various cultures broadens a student’s scope and also offers it’s own learnings and challenges. Therefore, I also incorporate various fiddle and world music genres into lessons depending on the student’s interest and intent, and some of my students are only interested in fiddle music, which is fine.
No matter what the musical style, we learn to read music, but also develop the ear. I’m a stickler for good technique and developing good tone, but I work to incorporate it in a way that keeps playing fun and rewarding. My goal is well-rounded musicians who can be equally comfortable in orchestras and jam sessions. Ultimately, I want each student to understand that music is an exploration, a crafting of story though song...not a true or false quiz.
This is one of the most common questions I receive, often after performances where I've created arrangements that blur the boundaries between genres and audience members start to wonder whether they should be referring to me as a “violinist” or a “fiddler”? While my training and background is strongly rooted in Classical technique and repertoire (and why I feel most comfortable calling myself a “violinist"), I've been exploring various fiddle traditions and improvising since I was a child.
The only difference between a violin and a fiddle is the style of music you play. It's the same instrument, though people focusing on one or the other may prefer a certain setup or instrument sound to suit their music.
Growing up, alternative genres were often the “dessert” to my steady diet of scales, etudes, and Classical repertoire. For a student most interested in learning fiddle music, I still find it helpful to gain the foundational elements of Classical technique and to incorporate Classically based scales and etudes to help us build good tone, intonation, posture, and playing mechanics. While older students may sometimes gravitate to fiddle because they are concerned that they won't be able to make a beautiful sound anyway, it's a misconception that fiddle has to sound scratchy and out-of-tune. Check out fiddlers, particularly from Scotland and the Shetland Islands, Canada, and the Bluegrass and "Newgrass" worlds, for examples of fiddlers with great tone and tunes that are often quite virtuosic.
If a student wants to focus on fiddle music, our repertoire will be on a survey of different fiddle styles, their bowing patterns and ornamentation, and the option we have within each sub-genre to modify tunes and make them our own. Eventually we may choose to focus on a particular genre the student is most interested in learning, learning to improvise, composing, or arranging across different genres. I have varying degrees of experience with the Celtic based genres (Irish, Scottish, Canadian, etc.), Old Time/Appalachian, Country, Bluegrass, Swing, Brazilian Choro, Cajun, Jazz, and Blues.
I offer 30, 45, and 60 minute lessons. Beginners of all ages and students under the age of 9 do well with 30 minute lessons. Intermediate students and students age 9+ can often benefit from 45-60 minute lessons. Advanced students of all ages benefit from 45-60 minute lessons.
Unless a student is coming from another teacher and was already doing 45 or 60 minute lessons, I typically start students out with 30 minute lessons and then determine if we need to extend the lesson length or even add an additional weekly lesson once we've had some time together.
Very young students (3-5 years old) may not have the attention span for 30 minute lessons, in which case, we spend the remainder of each lesson instructing the parent(s) about how to help their child practice at home.
I offer weekly, twice weekly, twice monthly, monthly, and occasional lessons. Beginners and intermediates of all ages, and students under the age of 18 do well with weekly lessons. Advanced students also benefit from weekly lessons, though to get to an advanced level, most have developed the self-motivation, practice habits, and troubleshooting abilities to be able to go for longer between lessons if needed.
Students preparing for auditions, or who simply want to make faster progress are welcome to inquire about lessons twice a week.
Students with budget concerns or a busy work or school schedule may prefer to have lessons twice a month, monthly, or once in a while. I do not recommend this for children under 12 years old. For teens and adults, as long as the student is self-motivated we can still make progress with lessons held less frequently, though I recommend longer lessons for all ability levels if possible. It can be very hard to cover all the technique, repertoire, and troubleshooting in just a half hour lesson happening a couple times a month or once in a while.
No. Even if you learned to read music on a different instrument you’ll still need to learn how to connect the notes and rhythms on the staff with the fingerings and bowings on the violin/viola. Music reading is part of what we learn in lessons and sometimes it’s actually easier to start from scratch because we can catch all your questions the first time around.
I teach violin, viola, and fiddle lessons from lovely private studio space in the mountains above Santa Cruz, California, and online via Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom to students anywhere in the world.
I do not do house calls, but I may occasionally be available for an in-person lesson while I'm on tour or for one-off or short term group workshops in a church or community space, or in someone's home, if there are several students interested in learning together.
My teaching studio is completely detached from my home and any other structures, and has a private entrance with no shared walls, floors, or ceilings. Whether you are taking lessons in-person or online there are no noises or distractions from other people or pets, and no chance of someone else "listening in."
Lessons with me are private and focused. Try one and I’m sure you’ll find my space very professional, peaceful, and inviting. Especially if you're taking lessons with me online, you might even feel at home!
I’m sorry you had this experience, but I’m glad you might be willing to give lessons with a new teacher a try. Over the years I've received many students who’ve had such experiences and have been able to help almost all of them regain their self-confidence and rekindle their joy for playing the violin or viola.
Teacher-student rapport is very important. I feel that cultivating this relationship takes precedence over anything that I might try to teach you. If the relationship is unhealthy it’s very doubtful we’ll accomplish much learning. I feel that my greatest teaching assets are my genuine interest in each student as a person and a player, my enthusiasm for not just playing violin and viola, but teaching, and my patience and willingness to try as many approaches as it takes to get to the root of an issue or deliver the information I am trying to impart in a way that the student can understand.
Though I encourage regular goal setting with students, I’ve learned the importance of putting aside any agendas when I teach and instead responding to what most needs to happen in each moment. This doesn’t mean I let my students run the show, but I do respect that they have their own needs and interests and I work to balance these with my need for a methodical teaching style and environment conducive to learning. The fact is that not all students will go on to be professional musicians. However, I feel that all my students can go on to be happier, better adjusted, and more empowered people.
Unfortunately I don't have instruments for students to rent or borrow. You will need to acquire an instrument by the first lesson. Please contact me or read the next question for assistance finding a suitable instrument. You can also check out this blog post and this podcast episode to be better informed when you visit the music store.
If you are just starting out, renting and buying are both good options. Renting is nice because it lets you “get your feet wet” without having to make a purchase that may go largely unused if the initial excitement wanes. Also, if you have no idea what type of sound you will personally like in an instrument, renting lets you get started and develop some technique to go back to the violin shop with after a few months and try out on potential instruments.
If you have a budget closer to or upwards of $1000, it doesn’t hurt to give yourself a couple of months with a rental to learn a few tunes and a scale or two so that you can than make a more informed decision. If your budget is closer to $300 and won’t be changing anytime soon, it makes more sense to me that you buy, as the cost of renting for a few months will quickly start to become what it would have cost to have made the purchase from the start.
If you’re planning to purchase, please go with a well set-up instrument (see my podcast episode “Tips for renting or purchasing a playable instrument”) from a good shop or a reputable online company. Please avoid the temptation to buy an instrument on eBay or the like as many, despite a glowing description, are largely unplayable. Shar Music, a company out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, calls such instruments VSOs - violin shaped objects. You get the idea.
Violin shops I have experience with personally or through my students and can therefore recommend include:
Of course. I offer an initial complimentary violin and viola lesson consultation by phone, in person, or via Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom. Expect to spend about 15 minutes during which we’ll get to know each other a bit and discuss your goals.
Definitely! Of course, individual technique takes precedence and will need to be addressed before we can get very far in an ensemble setting. Once individual issues are worked through I enjoy helping students learn to fit together the flavor and rhythms of the various voices and to micro-tune the ensemble’s intonation. We will learn how to match sounds and moods, balance solo and supporting parts, and stay true to the style of the music while incorporating personal expression.
Definitely! Whether this other instrument is a piano, banjo, clarinet, or a percussion instrument, the basics of ensemble playing, no matter what the genre or instruments involved is the same - intonation, rhythm, dynamics, solo versus supporting, etc. I may not have the terminology to offer individual technical instruction for your music partner, but I can certainly sing, motion, or play on my instrument an idea of what it should sound like. I recommend that you and your music partner also take individual private lessons. (Please see the ensemble skills question above as well.)
Yes. Parent/child lessons can be an effective way to aid younger students. For lessons with siblings and friends there often comes a time when we really want at least some individual private lessons. As long as the students are equal in experience and motivation and can be focused in lessons I am always willing to give it a try. Another option is, say an hour lesson where both students are present, though I first work with one individually, then the other, and finally both together at the end.
I have been a string coach for Youth Music Monterey in Monterey, CA, Orchestra in the Schools in Carmel Valley, CA, and for the Monterey Bay Charter School in Pacific Grove, CA, and have led workshops at various schools throughout North America. I’m happy to discuss the possibility of private group lessons, either in-person or online, or to discuss the possibility of coming to your class or orchestra for a workshop.
(See my answer to "What's the difference between a violin and a fiddle" for more on this topic.)
Yes I can! We’ll still need to develop good tone and technique, which I teach from a Classical standpoint, but we can put emphasis on what you’ll need to be a good fiddler (strong rhythm/bowing, finger velocity, fast bowing, ornaments, improvisatory skills) and less on what’s typically considered “Classical” (shifting to higher positions, vibrato, Classical bowing styles).
I am committed to offering my students a well rounded approach to the violin and viola, but if you have specific goals, and they aren’t Classical, I’ll work with you to tailor your lessons to suit what you want to learn.
Many of my fiddle students come to me after taking some lessons with a fiddler, but want more help with technique, troubleshooting playing issues in their tunes, arrangement/improvisation. Having two teachers covering different bases can often work well, as the student is able to learn the common tunes and sound they're after from a fiddler who is immersed in the genre/sub-genre they want to learn, and with my help the student is able to work out the issues that are holding them back from bringing their tunes to life.
Many of my "fiddle" students also end up wanting to explore Classical music once they gain more confidence. So, if it's really just a perception that Classical music is hard (and maybe a bit too formal and strict) and fiddle music is easy (and more fun), know that we find challenges in all types of music and it's possible to overcome all of these challenges with the right instruction and dedicated practice.
I encourage students to participate in their school or youth orchestras, community orchestras, camps, and/or fiddle groups and the performance opportunities inherent to these, depending on their age, ability, and taste. I can provide information about these and will help you prepare for auditions if and when necessary. For solo or small ensemble work I provide opportunities to share with the community throughout the year.
I typically schedule students from about 8:30/9AM to 9/9:30PM Pacific Time during the first half of the work week. I am usually performing later in the week and on the weekends, so I don't schedule regular weekly students on these days. Please contact me to check my current availability.
If you generally have at least a couple weeks notice we can probably work around it. My studio functions on students paying tuition for a month or more at a time and usually coming once a week at the same time. This regularity is necessary for me to also carry on a vibrant performing life, and for students it helps foster their commitment to lessons and practicing. If your schedule often changes at the last minute, you may need to rethink the space you have for lessons in your life at this time. Cancellations with less than 24 hours notice can often not be rescheduled. I just don’t have the space in my schedule to accommodate students who can’t make their scheduled lesson time on such late notice and tuition for missed lessons will need to be forfeited.
I do offer a video exchange format for students who are busy and prefer an asynchronous lesson experience. While it's nice to be able to connect and learn together in real time, students can also get a lot out of my feedback through video. Please reach out if this option is something you'd like to explore.
Possibly. Please see the question about lesson lengths above for my recommendations.
As far as scheduling, twice a month lessons can sometimes be tricky. If I can fit you in at the beginning or the end of one of my teaching days, or swap you week to week with another bi-weekly student this can work out just fine. However, if you need a prime time spot that everyone wants, unfortunately I need to give priority to students who are able to take lessons every week.
Certainly. Please see the question about lesson lengths above for my recommendations.
As far as scheduling, with at least two weeks notice I can find a spot to accommodate you for a brush up or to address a specific issue.
The same way as in-person lessons except we’re not in the same room, and perhaps not even on the same continent! It's truly changed my life and the lives of my online students. Please click here to learn more.
The same way as in-person lessons except we’re not in the same room, and perhaps not even on the same continent! It's truly changed my life and the lives of my online students. Please click here to learn more.
I am always available to answer questions by phone, text, Skype chat, or preferably, by email.
As needed or requested I make video practice demos for additional practice and study (generally something technical, like how to practice vibrato, or perhaps a demo of the piece we’re working on), and send audio tracks. After a few months of lessons, many students have a personal library of tailored videos and MP3s to refer to as needed, which is pretty neat!
Students are also encouraged to check out my Violin Geek Podcast, Strings magazine articles, Violin Geek Blog, and my online courses for additional tips and techniques in addition to lessons.