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Meet Anna, Our Violin Teacher in Cleveland TN

“Music can open up opportunities and experience other cultures and make connections with like minded people in a way that almost no other discipline can”.

Hello! My name is Anna, and I have been playing music since I was four years old. I am 23 now, so that makes about 19 years! I have always enjoyed listening for harmonies and the chord progression behind the pieces and songs I would play. From an early age, I would learn my Suzuki Method pieces by singing them and humming them throughout the day. After awhile I would have them memorized because I was constantly going over them in my head. This is also something that caused me to fall in love with music. I would prepare for recitals by playing the notes on the page, but I really liked to improvise my own tunes too. This was an activity that made me realize how infinite and inspiring music can be. 

My first recital!

When I was in the third grade, I tried out for an orchestra for elementary schoolers, in Northern Kentucky. I made the orchestra and this was the first time other than my mother’s chamber music groups where I got to listen to all the parts together. I now had access not only to the violin part, but also to the cello, viola and bass parts, as well. I loved preparing pieces for our concerts, where we would play in the Northern Kentucky University auditorium and I actually had the experience of playing on stage in front of an audience. This made violin playing feel very serious and real to me, and it made me want to get even better. Around that time I also played at numerous recitals, which my mom, a violin teacher herself, put on at nursing homes and our elementary school for Christmas. I think that playing the duets and solos at those shows in front of other people gave me a boost in confidence and also provided the training I would need for auditions, because it was one thing to play a piece in front of your family member or even to have a piece down pat on your own, but to play it in front of people you don’t know can be a bit more nerve-racking. The next year I auditioned for Cincinnati Junior Strings, a kids’ orchestra in Cincinnati that was a little more competitive because its goal was to prepare kids to play in the CSYO, or Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra. I got into the orchestra and made amazing friends, because every Sunday, we had rehearsal and during the break times I got to talk to the other students who were learning the violin just like I was. This orchestra gave me the opportunity of a lifetime when in the summer of 2008 I was able to go on a trip with the ensemble to New Zealand and Australia in the CJS “Down Under” Tour! My conductor, Dr. Gerald Doan, had many friends and connections in that part of the world and took his students there every four years to play at schools and churches and sight see the beautiful landscape. It was the first time I got to really experience another culture, and I thought it was marvelous. I still look up articles from Wellington New Zealand, Sydney Australia, and Christchurch, New Zealand every once in awhile because it brings back memories of that extraordinary experience for me! All this to say, music can open up opportunities for you to experience other cultures and make connections with like minded people in a way that almost no other discipline can. I had a blast staying with host families there and playing the songs we had practiced so hard in the local schools. I feel like we also brought a treat to the schools that we played at. 

Original music by Anna!

In high school, I played in two orchestras in different years: Blue Ash Youth Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra. Both were a wonderful experience. I auditioned my freshman year for the more competitive city-wide orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Youth, and didn’t make it my first year, but that just became part of my story because the next year I practiced seven to eight hours a day in the summer before my audition because I was determined to make it! Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I made it, and in Cincinnati Symphony Youth I got to play not only with other string players but with brass, woodwinds and percussion as well. Some pieces even called for elaborate piano parts! We played fun pieces like Pirates of the Caribbean as well as Classical masterpieces like those by Franck and Debussy. I loved playing in a high school orchestra because everyone behaved themselves so professionally and played with mastery and poise. It also helped to grow my spirit of adventure and passion for creating music because I was constantly listening to all the parts and trying to add my own riffs and harmonies and melodies (not in rehearsal or concerts, just in my head and numerous journal entries!). I write songs in my spare time and I see my experience in orchestra as where that all began. I think what can set a skilled musician’s songs apart is how elaborate their pieces become because they have been listening for all the layers of the music for so long. I hope to instill these same values of creativity and wonder in my students. One of the things I want to do when I teach is to play the chord progressions that you may not be hearing so that you can train your ear to listen for all the beautiful treasures hidden beneath just the notes on the page. For instance, even just the simple beginning tune Twinkle Twinkle Little Star has a variation part that goes along with it that I will play for my beginning students on the violin while they are learning it. I used to teach free lessons in a church ministry in high school and when I played these variations and harmonies with the students, they became noticeably more engaged with the material. It helped them to want to practice so that the could keep up and play in time with the beautiful variation, and in turn it causes them to strive for a beautiful sound when they were playing, too.

Meet Anna!

I also love to improvise and I hope to be able to work on that with all of my students as well. I believe improv is a valuable skill because it has allowed me to just pick my instrument up and play something that can touch other people’s hearts with ease instead of having to rifle through a book to find what I’m going to play. Both sight-reading and playing by ear are important in my opinion, but I would love to teach a mix of both so that my students can do either if they want to.

Thank you for checking out my page, and I hope to hear your story with music when we meet in a lesson!

Sign up for violin lessons with Anna and get started today!

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My Journeys in a Paper Boat

Guitar lessons Norwalk CT

By Annalisa

Annalisa-classical guitar instructor and performer in Norwalk CT
Live performance audio from Annalisa

“For me the musical journey began when I heard the wind in the cornfield next to our house. I knew with the sublime wisdom of a three-year-old that it was speaking.”

“Many years later, at the age of ten, I began to study the guitar, which my mother insisted I practice daily in her hearing for twenty minutes a day for two years after which I could quit. Well, by then she couldn’t get me away from it; the guitar had become my friend as much as the family dog.”

“For a few more years, I continued playing guitar, sang in a demanding choir (by ear! since reading had somehow passed me by at that point), became an apprentice peal-bell ringer at Washington Cathedral and built a harpsichord from a kit (NOT Ikea) before Sophocles Papas, acolyte of Spanish guitar legend Andrés Segovia, and himself high priest of the classical guitar in America invited me to study with him.”

“I accepted and studied with him as his protegee, being “groomed for the concert stage” as he put it, until leaving for college at my parents’ insistence that I complete my academic studies first. Unable to resist a challenge I entered college early and attempted to keep up with my guitar at the same time. Rather than lose the music to academe I left for conservatory (San Francisco) after sophomore year at college (St. John’s, Annapolis, dubbed “the Great Books School” for its unusual seminar-based curriculum).”

“Back with music as the center of my life, I gleaned a great deal from my studies in San Francisco then met a staggeringly talented guitarist/composer/baroque guitarist (Karl Herreshoff, an underground “cult” figure from the Paul Winter Consort) who took me on as a private student. His approach was both rigorous and highly artistic. Through him I was exposed to a flamenco troupe which ignited a passion for Spanish guitar. This thread has continued and I recently completed a collection of my own transcriptions of Argentinian tango for guitar.”

“Voyaging on, eventually I returned to conservatory at Bard College where I earned a performance degree in classical guitar. There entered the man who would be my mentor for the next twenty years: Patrick O’Brien. He was simply “the center of our universe” to many early musicians. He was both an internationally sought-after teacher for baroque performance practice and a marvelous performer. When Juilliard wanted to start a department of Historical Plucked Strings, they hired Pat. He held the position for the last two years of his life, and was succeeded by not one but
two of his best students, now masters in their own right.”

“These days I teach Suzuki guitar to young children, traditional classical guitar to adults, perform a great deal of Latin American guitar music and have launched Circe’s Consort, my own early music “band” exploring little heard music of the 16th and 17th centuries.”

“I have been profoundly gifted with great teachers and am very gratified to be able to share all I have learned with my students. “Building a player” as Pat put it, is a deep experience for both teacher and student. I am privileged to be called to this profession.”

For more information on Annalisa, you can find her full bio, including videos, location, and schedule.  Sign up today for in home or studio lessons with Annalisa.

 

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Should you force your child to take music lessons?

And the answer is…..(wait for it…) YES!  As parents (myself included), don’t we “force” our child(ren) to go to school, brush their teeth, and go to bed at a certain time?  If our child said “I don’t want to go to school”, do we say, “OK, sure you can stay home…no problem!”….NO!  We say, “Sorry honey, school is good for you and you’ll thank me one day”.  I know what you’re saying, music lessons are not part of the core subjects needed for a child to earn a living…or is it?  With all the studies that have been done on the effects of music lessons on the brain (which I could discuss in a 10 page post) , you would think schools would put more importance on music education. But wait, schools are CANCELLING music education for lack of funds (or they say).  So that leaves parents with the task of taking music lessons into their own hands and signing up for private music lessons.  I know there are families that are unable to afford music lessons, which greatly saddens me, because I think every child should have the opportunity to learn and study an instrument.  And sadly, a lot of parents that CAN afford music lessons, allow their child to quit after just a few lessons.  And many blogs I’ve read tell parents not to “force” their child to take (or continue) lessons if they’re not interested.  In my opinion, that’s bad advise because most children are going to say no to studying anything if given the chance.  But are we doing our child a favor by allowing them to quit after a few lessons, or not start at all?  Are we teaching them it’s ok to quit when something is difficult?  Are we taking away the chance to teach the child how to stick with something that takes longer than 30 seconds to acquire a skill for?  Are we taking away an opportunity that could be great for them as adults? 

In my over 30 years of offering music lessons and speaking with thousands of adults, I hear two stories:  “I wish I could have taken music lessons as a child”, or “I wish my parents wouldn’t have let me quit!”.  Now the first story is sad when a child that WANTS to have the opportunity to learn to sing or play an instrument and can’t, but even sadder is when an adult regrets having quit lessons, and wishes he or she could enjoy the gift of music now in his or her life.  I believe it’s never too late to learn an instrument, but there are advantages to learning music as a child while they’re in the early development.  And you never know what a child could have done with the gift of music in their life as they turn into an adult.  But without the opportunity, we will never know!

Now I understand that music is not going to be every child’s “thing”.  In teaching hundreds of students, 99% of them will never use music as a career in his or her life.  Is it still a great thing to offer them lessons?  Of course!  Even though it may not be a chosen career, it could have a great impact in whatever career they DO choose.  Music lessons have so many pieces of the pie that are great tools for most occupations; from mathematical skills, discipline, creativity, social skills, and most importantly, confidence.  When a student learns to master singing or playing an instrument, which takes a lot of time to acquire, it gives the child confidence and takes away the fear of learning other new things.  Since most of the population never learn to master music, it gives a student a special pride knowing he or she has accomplished something that most people never achieve.  That can make the difference in a child’s choice of occupation and determination to go far in life.  

When my two oldest sons were in middle school, I “forced” them to be in my keyboard class I was teaching at the time.  It was a year long (the longest class I EVER taught…), and they begged me to quit almost the entire time.  Of course I said “not on your life will you quit my class!”.  It paid off!  Years later my oldest son thanked me for NOT letting him quit, and he now uses what he learned for a career in music and recording.  Remember when I said they’ll thank you one day?  It really does happen, you just have to be patient.  

I know what you’re saying, how do you get your child to stick with it?  One thing I suggest is giving a time frame for completing the lessons if he or she is wanting to quit.  If your child has only just started the lessons (and usually that’s when they want to quit because it’s difficult at first), you can tell them they’ll be taking lessons for an X amount of time.  I suggest a year for a beginner before letting them quit, because it normally takes from 9 months to a year to get beyond what I call the “beginner’s hump”.  After about a year, the student will develop a skill that makes it more fun to sing or play an instrument.  At that point, you won’t have to try so hard to make them continue if it’s something they enjoy learning.  If it’s not their cup of tea, then stopping the lessons is appropriate at this time.  At least your child will know what they DON’T want to do in life. 

Another complaint I hear (and hear often) is their child won’t practice.  I think this is the worst reason for parents to cancel their child’s music lessons.  Do you take a child out of school because they won’t do their homework?  Practicing is actually the part of music lessons that I believe helps build the discipline a child will need in life.  I have written a Practicing Tips article that give ideas on how to practice that is helpful to parents.  The main suggestion I have is scheduling practice times, the same as the lessons are scheduled to become a part of the child’s routine.  It could be before or after homework, dinner, first thing in the morning or when coming home from school; whatever works best in his or her schedule.  Once it’s a routine in your child’s life, it won’t be forgotten or become a shouting match to practice. 

So the bottom line is, parents, don’t be afraid to be the parent!  Your child(ren) will thank you as an adult when they realize you did what was best for them, and not what made you parent of the year!  After all, that’s what your job is, to offer the most opportunities for your child(ren) and create a human being that will be the best he or she can be!