In-person or online via Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom
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The attitude and enthusiasm Laurel Thomsen has brought to teaching private violin, viola, fiddle, and cello lessons in Monterey and Santa Cruz, California since 1996, and to students on every continent except Antarctica via Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom since 2009, is rooted in her 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.

Caring, passionate, and perceptive, Laurel values holistic approaches. Her methods stress the importance of both the muscles and the mind when learning to play a musical instrument. Lessons integrate Classical technique, fiddle flavors, and performance/sports psychology, while stressing the importance of natural biomechanics and encouraging confidence and self-esteem to facilitate playing that is free of tension, both physically and mentally.

"No where else have I encountered Laurel's powerful multi-dimensional approach. It truly opens the curtain (into string playing technique) for me for the first time. Her work deserves wider recognition."

G. C. Christy
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Laurel partners with students to help meet their individual needs and goals. These may range from aspirations to become a professional Classical artist, to improvise or fiddle with family, friends, or in a band, and students looking to take part in school, local, and regional community orchestras and ensembles. Her students in California and beyond have won auditions for local, regional, and All-State orchestras, enjoyed summer music camps and festivals, and have found homes within theater and opera companies. They have successfully sat for music exams across a variety of exam systems, including The Royal Conservatory of Music, Trinity, ABRSM, ANZCA, and AMEB. Some of her students perform in bands or record in studio settings, others have become music teachers, and some have gone on to share music in other aspects of the industry.

Besides her private studio, Laurel's teaching has been recognized and shared around the world through her work with youth orchestras, in workshop, the dozens of articles on technique and healthy practice habits she's been honored to have published in Strings magazine, through her popular Violin Geek Podcast and Violin Geek Blog, and her online courses Complete Vibrato Mastery, Improve Your Bowing Technique, and Improve Your Violin & Viola Technique.
Lessons Incorporate…
  • Classical Technique and Music Reading
  • Fiddle Styles and Ear Training
  • Music Theory, History, and Appreciation
  • Personal, Stylistic, and Historical Interpretation
  • Improvisation
  • Ensemble Skills
  • Sight Singing
  • Performance Coaching
  • Effective Practice Techniques
  • Playing Health & Body Awareness
  • Stress Management
Lesson Types Include…
  • Private In-person Lessons
  • Private Online Lessons via Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom
  • Video Exchange Lessons
  • One-off or short term coaching to adress a specific issue, technique, or prepare for an audition
  • Parent-Child Lessons
  • Online or In-Person Workshops
  • Group Lessons
  • Ensemble and Orchestra Coaching
  • Visiting Clinician
Serious Beginners

Learn to play comfortably, beautifully, and confidently through Laurel’s systematic approach to technique, repertoire, and musicianship, tailored to your interests, anatomy, and learning style.

Discover principles that will allow you to move beyond the squeaks, intonation issues, and tensions that many find disheartening about the early stages of learning to play the the violin, viola, fiddle, or cello.

Learn effective and efficient practice strategies which incorporate deliberate practicing techniques and breakthroughs in the science of learning to embrace the joy and discipline a musical life has to offer.


Uncover tension patterns and reset technique that may be hindering your playing progress, mobility, freedom of expression, and creativity, while developing effective practice strategies, a balanced repertoire, and a skill set tailored to your personal musical goals, such as:

  • Classical repertoire and orchestral music
  • Mastering important techniques and skills like shifting, vibrato, and more advanced bow strokes, such as spiccato and sautill√©
  • Exploring fiddle styles and improvising
  • Developing better sight reading skills

Take your violin, viola, fiddle, or cello playing beyond the basic notes and rhythms to explore emotion, style, and contrast!

Advancing Players

Bolster your violin, viola, or fiddle technique and transcend it, masterfully crafting your interpretations and honing your performance and audition skills.

Develop consistency in your playing and learn to manage your physical, mental, and emotional energy for remarkable performances.

Performance anxiety got you down? We have tools to help that.

Don’t know where or how to share your music with the world? Laurel can help coach you to the next level of your career.

How did Laurel get her teaching start?

When I was 14, the younger sister of one of my best friends told her mom:"I want to play violin, but I only want Laurel to be my teacher." They approached me about lessons and having already enjoyed being my school orchestra teacher's unofficial "assistant" for a few years, I agreed to take on my first private student. That student and a few others I took on within the first year or two of my teaching career quickly ascended to top positions in their own school and youth orchestras. Word about my lessons got around and by the end of high school I was teaching a dozen weekly violin and viola lessons, about half of them to adult students 2 to 4 times my age!

I loved sharing my knowledge and passion, and appreciated the challenge of sometimes needing to find unique ways to explain the same concept or technique to two different students. I also quickly recognized how much my students taught me - through teaching them I had to look at technique, interpretation, practice habits, music theory, and other elements of music and musicianship from new angles, bolstering my own abilities at the same time I was getting to see my students blossoming along side me. I was hooked!

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Laurel's Teaching Philosophy:

Positive, curious, and determined to get to the root of any issue, Laurel Thomsen revers the attitude of the detective and cultivates this approach when troubleshooting issues with violin, viola, and cello playing and performance. Each lesson evolves uniquely and effectively when student and teacher partner in the learning experience. Instead of simply telling a student to do this or that, Laurel wants her students to understand why and how something works, empowering their own internal guidance system and teaching them how to make their own adjustments over time.

Laurel tailors each lesson to an individual’s learning style, age and ability level, presenting concerns, anatomy, and personal musical goals, presenting a methodical and thorough approach to technique and repertoire, while leaving room for creativity.

Violin, viola, fiddle, or cello lessons with Laurel emphasize all aspects of right and left hand technique, ear training, posture, and both music reading and the ability to learn by ear. Though her teaching style is strongly rooted in Classical pedagogy, Laurel weaves fiddle and world music flavors, improvising and composing into the lessons atmosphere as appropriate and depending on her students’ interests and outside opportunities. As the material has become more readily available, in recent years she has enjoyed supplementing her students’ core repertoire with lesser known, but equally engaging pieces by traditionally under-represented composers, such as works by women and minority groups.

Tone and technique are cornerstones of Laurel’s studio, as well as creativity and exploration. Students build an arsenal of expressive skills, helping them create more stylistically accurate interpretations and add personality to their pieces. These skills may include various vibrato and bowing styles, knowledge of different Classical music styles and composers, and surveys of various genres beyond Classical music. She seeks to foster in her students a strong musical awareness and appreciation, in an environment which empowers each student to discover his or her individual musical voice. Ultimately, Laurel’s goal as a teacher is to cultivate in her students the art of self-analysis and self-observation, ushering the day when each one may become his or her own instructor.

Though we must recognize that relatively few have the drive and interest to become Classical soloists, Laurel believes that when an openness to learning and experimenting is combined with a teaching method that tailors to an individual student’s learning style and goals, it’s possible for every student to find a way to create a lifetime of musical enjoyment and opportunity. She is dedicated to her students' progress and asks that her students are equally dedicated to their daily practice and pursuit of music.

While Laurel enjoys teaching a wide range of ages, techniques, and styles, in recent years she has enjoyed specializing in technical troubleshooting, bowing and tone, vibrato, students struggling with physical tension/pain/injuries and/or performance anxiety, and students wishing to explore improvising or uncover their personal musical voice with regard to Classical music.

If you'd like a comprehensive approach and skill set in a affirming lessons atmosphere, you've come to the right place!

Lesson Formats
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Teaching Samples
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Ready to take the next step?

If you have questions about violin, viola, fiddle, or cello lessons, check the Lesson’s with Laurel Q&A page and/or the Online Lessons and Online Lessons Q&A pages. If you can't find the answer to your question there, please email Laurel.

Ready for lessons? Please email Laurel at (best way to get in touch) or call her at 831-224-0913 to check availability and receive more information about her rates and studio policies.

In your initial message, please include:
  • The age range and playing experience of the student
  • Your location/timezone
  • For beginners, whether or not you have an instrument yet and what pervious music experience the student has, if any
  • For more experienced students, a paragraph detailing your short and/or long term goals, recent material you've studied, and anything else you'd like to share about where you're at and what you're hoping for help with

I look forward to helping you along your music journey!

Laurel Thomsen

Violin, Viola, Vocals
Performance, Instruction, Recording

Based in Santa Cruz, California

Site by Laurel Thomsen
Photography by Michelle Magdalena
Skype: laurelthomsen

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