Last week I received an email from one of my violists asking me to give her some help with vibrato. I jumped at the opportunity to meet with her individually, assess her work to this point, and to give some tips for moving forward. We met today for about 30 minutes in the middle of the afternoon and had a wonderful lesson. I was pleasantly surprised with her progress and commitment to the tools I provide in some of my online videos. I was also pleased that she had done some personal research and found other videos to use in addition to mine. We took some time to talk about the calisthenic nature of vibrato practice and related exercises and etudes. As I said, she is well down the road to developing a nice vibrato and really just needed a little bit of encouragement and feedback.
After the lesson, we spoke for a minute about the remote learning nature of the past several weeks and she gave me some feedback that really meant a great deal to me. She told me that the opportunity to work on something for her own personal benefit as part of the orchestra class has really been refreshing to her. I imagine that she has primarily participated in ensemble work as her music and viola education in recent years. As a violist, we all know how that can mean lots of inner harmonies and rarely playing the lead part. She told me that her work on the concerto had been quite enlightning. I gave her some tips a few weeks ago about developing 16th note passages. She has applied those tips and is really seeing the difference in her playing and accuracy. That type of personal advancement, she told me, can be a little hard to see when you're always playing in the ensemble environment. She feels like she has advanced as a player throughout the course of the spring! Of course, she is also going to return to orchestra in the fall with a more fully developed vibrato. She will be a better violist in September than she was in March. This may not have happened if we were in our regular school and orchestra concert cycle and routine. She would have been learning the accompaniment parts to our programmed concerti, but perhaps not developing as a violist in the process. She also told me that the routine of practicing two times per week throughout the spring as part of our class has helped her to develop a habit that she believes will continue throughout the summer. Wow! What a side benefit to the remote learning environment. Of course, there was some accountability to those practice sessions. She had to turn in a video. She had to write a practice journal. So, in some ways we have developed the habit of practice and reflection as a by product this spring. Anyone who hasn't read my thoughts on habits should head to that blog entry now! In the end, she found a cue, class time. She had some kind of routine, practicing during class time. And, finally there was a reward, her viola playing improved.
I can't tell you how happy this exchange made me. I am constantly trying to find little positives that grow out of our global pandemic. Hopefully we have all seen them from time to time. Some that I can think of off the top of my head include more family time, opportunities to record music, opportunities to write blog posts, and little teaching moments like this that have given me true joy in the midst of some difficult days. My students have great timing. This one came at just the right time!
I know that we all have had moments like this as part of our remote teaching environment this spring. Thanks for letting me share mine. I would love to hear about yours.