Sort out the “gah” and get with the “ja!” Wait, what? Get rid of the extraneous and keep on going with what’s great, that’s what that means.

How could that possibly be relevant to us, as string-instrument teachers or learners? Well for me personally, it recently meant a commitment to solving something that last year seemed unsolvable. In fact last year I just gave up on it, and made a compromise instead, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world either.

This year I committed 100% to finding a place for our student spring recital. Should be easy, when you’re employed in a school. That’s a more or less non-negotiable aspect of the job, in fact! But when you’re a self-employed teacher, this becomes a whole other ball game. Even harder when you are not a church member in Germany.

I suppose if one had cash flowing like a waterfall you could just rent a glamorous concert hall. And truly I hope that will happen with SuperStrings Studio soon so that we can provide an amazing space for super-prepared and awesome students. Right now we are still a young studio, though, and our need for a space is strong, for students to get some experience performing and sharing their learning to a wider audience.

This year was no easier to find a space big enough and appropriate enough but what was different was me. I did not let go of the goal and kept working at it until…a beautiful stage has been offered to us! Yes, offered! And it’s in a wonderful care facility for people, exactly what I envisioned, where our students can share their music and people can enjoy it as part of a wider local community.

The thing I learned is that when you need something, keep asking for it until you find someone who is willing to help. 

One of the best things we can do with our lives, is to improve something for others. That’s one of the big reasons for SuperStrings Studio. We help bring joy and connection to families and individuals in an often disconnected world. I hope all of our students will take a few moments, not only to perform their lovely music, but to greet and interact with some of the residents at this home. A HUGE thanks to Rebecca Jones-Buerk and Mr. Joerg Treiber and team at the Stuttgart Pflegezentrum Bethanien! 



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Last night we attended the only opera Beethoven ever composed, “Fidelio,” at the Stuttgart Opera. You might say it was a stumbling block for Beethoven, because he re-wrote its “Leonore Overture” three times, and when you go to this, you might not know in advance which one will be used.

It is a wonderful experience to be in the theater and have the live musical accompaniment. But if I’m honest, it was pretty hard to understand. I know the story, which basically rescued me, but there was a lot of spoken dialogue which had no super titles.

If you’d enjoy some musical homework, look up the Leonore Overtures and listen to see which one you love the most, or how you might rank them. And leave a comment here on your ranking.

When we came home we threw some pizza in the oven and started listening again to all of them. And then, we started listening to the Schubert Quintet in C Major, which we’ll probably put into our own performance repertoire in the next year or two. If you need a musical recommendation for what to listen to this weekend, this is the one. Janine Jansen is a huge favorite of mine. Definitely give it a listen if you love music and put it on a big screen.  



And now for the drum roll….

Students will have the opportunity in March to perform a few pieces for the SuperStrings Studio community in our first full recital! Each student is expected to participate in this supportive event. There will be plenty of time to prepare and find out the details beforehand. 

This just happens to coincide with the latest practice challenge – 30 days – to be completed by March 10 17, 2018. Thirty minutes per day for 30 days is 900 minutes, or 15 hours. Keep in mind that these 30 minutes need to include physical warm-up time (2-3+ minutes) of arm circles, stretches, slow head rolls, feet figure-8s and bow-hold practice, slow open strings practice, scales practice, arpeggios (scales, arpeggios and open strings 5+ minutes), assigned exercises for that week (5 minutes), review of previously learned material practice (5 minutes), memorization practice (5 minutes), slow and detailed work on any trouble spots, backwards practice (5 minutes), and finally playing something through (2-3 minutes at the very end). Play along with your recorded tracks to improve your listening and sense of the beat! Just a hint: MANY students need to improve their bow-hand flexibility, with a curved right pinky and lifting the wrist slightly on up-bows past the middle as the frog is approaching the string.




December 27, 2017

When someone outside the profession of string music education learns that I am a violin teacher, there is often a reaction of “oh you must be so patient, to listen to all the mistakes” or something similar. Perhaps there is a tiny measure of truth in that, but it isn’t like you’d think.


I remember back in high school when a band teacher complained that he didn’t like going to concerts because he couldn’t really enjoy them as he heard all the tiny flaws. I also remember thinking, how sad for him, because what a pathetic life one would live as a teacher of music and being so wrapped up in hearing the mistakes that one couldn’t enjoy concerts! I knew at that moment that he was missing something important.

First of all there is no perfect concert. Second of all, everyone has to go through the learning process who wants to become a musician. This involves making some mistakes (and hopefully intentionally learning from them).

As a teacher we do much more than teaching how to make nice sounds, because it isn’t that simple to get good sounds, especially from stringed instruments. There is so much more one has to learn with one’s body to get those sounds and to take care of ourselves while doing this.

Listening, after all, is done with the whole body and not only with the ears.

Many people might be startled to learn that children actually hear more with their bodies than their ears until around seven years old. It’s one of the reasons they love to climb and be on us, to get closer, to feel our sound vibrations. You can feel them too if you allow yourself to and focus on this. It’s pretty amazing how different tones seem to react more strongly in different parts of the body.

The second part of listening is something I believe to be metaphysical yet unique to people:  listening with one’s heart or soul. A child’s off key song, for example, might not be worthy of being performed on a stage, but if we are listening with our hearts it surely brings a moment of enjoyment into our lives, unless we’re listening only with the mean “searching for mistakes” kind of listening. It all depends on where we put our focus.

As a teacher we listen for what we can build upon and take it from there. We do have to use the kind of listening which hears the mistakes, it is true, but it doesn’t have to obliterate the enjoyment or intention for top-level instruction and improvement. The critical listening we use as teachers can (and should) be done kindly, respectfully and lovingly. In this sense it is always rewarding because there is as much potential for growth and development as for the intrinsic joy of helping others to learn to create something beautiful.                                                           

© 2017 SuperStrings Studio


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