Foundational Ideas of FiddleQuest

When students need to leave the standard path

Spring is harvest time in education. We began the cycle in the Fall when school started. Students have been working for more than half of the year. We have an end-of-year concert and summer camps planned. Students see the finish line on the horizon.

For a few students, spring is the season when they start looking at the results of their work and they evaluate if violin is the instrument they want to keep learning.

Chris is a 9-year-old student that comes from a musical family. In recent weeks he started losing interest in the songs and exercises we worked on in lessons.

Any parent knows the pain of trying to take a child on a hike that doesn’t want to walk. That was the atmosphere in the past couple lessons with Chris.

One lesson he told me that his class at school was learning a song by Jack Johnson. We pulled the song up on Spotify. The song, Upside Down, is an ideal song for young players. Just 4 chords and a simple melody.

We set aside the tune, Cripple Creek, he was working on and launched into Upside Down on his violin. By the end of the lesson, the atmosphere changed. As soon as the song was one that his peers were singing and playing at school, he was enthusiastic.

Chris plays at the level that other fiddlers his age play. But he is ahead of his peers in other ways. Most students do not begin assessing the relevance of their music at 9. But Chris has been exposed to a lot of music already and his expectations developed quickly.

I don’t think this will be the last time Chris will wonder if he is going in the right direction. It can be a problem when students take a pause, look around and see how much they still have to learn to meet their expectations. Ideally, kids already have lots of skills by the time they hit that stage.

For teachers, it is easier to have kids simply follow the roadmap we give them. It takes more energy to work ‘off the path’ with kids that have ideas of their own.

Like my students, I also want to feel relevant. And I feel more relevant as a teacher when I am able to leave my familiar path and meet the interests of students that need something different to help them thrive in music.