As a violin teacher, I try not to underestimate the value of teaching
music that students know and enjoy, especially for beginners. While the Suzuki
classics such as Gone With the Wind, the various selections by Suzuki himself
(such as Perpetual Motion), and early music by Bach and Handel may satisfy some,
there are, in my experience, many students left uninspired.
Many students have requested music by John Williams or other movie or
television themes. Unfortunately, these are often quite chromatic and difficult,
and the available music often cannot be played in first position or is quite
awkward (having not been edited specifically for violin).
Indeed, forming a connection with a student relies, in my opinion, on
providing music that inspires. Also, for youngsters, familiar music is usually
far more palatable. It is tempting to shy away from teaching religious music
such as Christmas songs and, year-round, sacred music such as hymns, spirituals,
and Sunday School songs. Yet, for many students (and parents), this music has
the potential to inspire, and often is both recognizable and, already, well
loved. Examples of such music would be "Jesus Loves the Little Children," "Jesus
Loves Me," "In the Garden," and, for specific denominations, selections such as
"salve regina" or "A mighty Fortress." At Christmas time, good choices can be
"We Wish You a Merry Christmas" or "Joy to the World."
In my experience, teaching sacred songs adds to the availability of
familiar songs that can inspire students of all ages as well as engage parents.
Since parental support and participation is, in my opinion, vital to the success
of, in particular, the young student, it can be quite valuable to choose music
that parents, as well as students, enjoy.
When choosing a book of sacred songs for beginners, it is important that
it be edited by a violinist, and that, preferably, that it be scored to be
played in first position. Choosing a book with either a duet part or a piano
accompaniment allows the student to perform this music on his or her recital.
Of course, it is vital to be sensitive to the religious beliefs of the
students and parents when offering to teach Christian or other sacred music. A
gentle query into whether such music would be of interest has been, in my
experience, sufficient to ensure that this is a welcome addition to the
Lisa Ann Berman, M.M.
Masters of Music in Violin Performance, Yale School of Music