This summer I was able to take a break from teaching and be a student for 10 days. The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music has an annual summer violin & viola teachers’ “retreat” – but as intense as it is, there is no retreating about it. I came home with a thick binder, a notebook full of notes, and a head exploding with information to apply to teaching my own students. It was very good, but it is going to take me a while to process it all.
Though I live in the Seattle area, I just happened to be in the Midwest the week before the workshop at my parents’ 60th anniversary party at the south shores of Lake Michigan, not far from their hometown of South Bend. The lake house where we were staying was just a half day’s drive south to Bloomington for the workshop.
I got up early Friday morning, missing the first half day of the workshop and the last 2 days of my family’s reunion. No one else was up except my husband and parents to see me off. And as I was closing up my suitcase, I saw a tick. Then discovered one on the back of my neck. Took off my blouse, and found two more! Thankfully my husband was able to confirm that there were no more on me while my parents went through my stuff.
I didn't find any more ticks, but I was still a bit rattled when I arrived at the workshop, having missed the orientation and barely making the first lecture Friday afternoon. But Brenda Brenner, who manages the workshop and is a friend of mine, gave me a hug after her lecture that afternoon. Brenda is a pedagogy professor at IU and founder of The Fairview Violin Project, which is a public school program that teaches beginning violin classes in a Title 1 school near Bloomington, IN. Brenda and I played in the youth symphony quartet together back in high school. And she went to the prom with my brother Greg. 😊
And then at dinner, I happened to sit next to Rebecca Henry, one of the workshop's professors. As we talked, we discovered that we are both from South Bend; that her parents went to all my dad’s concerts when we lived there in the late 60s/early 70s; and that her sister Ruth was a friend of mine in elementary school!
The workshop is headed by Mimi Zweig, renowned pedagogy expert at the Jacobs School, founder of string academies in Wisconsin and at IU, and former teacher of violinist Joshua Bell. (Here is Joshua while he was studying with Mimi; and here is Joshua as an adult.) Her eclectic mix of theoretical approaches includes Suzuki, Paul Rolland, and several others as well as her own thoughts on setting up a "non-judgmental environment" for students to learn.
And then there were several other pedagogy professors from around the country, all proteges of Mimi’s. My group and private teacher for the workshop was violist/violinist Jim Przygocki from the University of Wyoming and founder of the UW String Project. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) Such a nice man and an excellent teacher! His wife, violinist Sherry Sinift, also gave some of the lectures and played on one of the several excellent concerts we were able to attend.
All of the professors at the retreat are involved with community string programs, including Rebecca Henry. She teaches pedagogy at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and is also the founder of ViolinPractice.com.
Also teaching at the workshop were Elizabeth Zempel and Bonnie Greene, both experts in teaching young children and both from Wisconsin. Bonnie has collected folk tunes from all over the world and publishes her own collections and others' string music at One World Strings.
I don’t know about previous summers, but this year was quite international. There were several from Canada who are involved with El Sistema, a music education program that started in Venezuela to teach children from the slums. There were teachers from Korea, Japan, Australia, Spain and Portugal, Brazil, and India, as well as several states in the US.
This summer also drew a lot of young teachers in their late 20s to early 30s. There were a few around 40, and then the three of us "older" ladies: me, Sarah from Muncie, IN, and Jane from Prestwick, Scotland. All three of u are on our second (or third) careers and set up our teaching studios two years ago. It was lovely to get to know these women! We were often joined by our friend Paul from SoCal. Here is a picture of the four of us at the Irish Lion in Bloomington.
And here are Jane and Sarah:
On the last day of the workshop we all gathered at Mimi’s house for our last session (Kreutzer etudes!) and brunch. We got a chance to chat with the professors more, and I was surprised to learn that they thought this workshop would run for a few years and then stop – because there would be no more teachers interested. But every summer they get a new crop of about 30-35 teachers, even now after a couple of decades. I hope they continue. It is excellent.
If you are interested in attending the workshop and have any questions about my experience there, feel free to contact me.
Quodlibet: A piece employing several well-known tunes from various sources, performed either simultaneously or in succession. (Schirmer Pocket Manual of Musical Terms)