Category Archives: Studio Updates

Summer ’20 Week 4: Let’s Practice Some More!

Hello WCS students and families!

As the weeks of summer have progressed, I’ve noticed a slow but steady decline in the amount of practicing that seems to be going on – not from everyone!  And if you’re one of the dedicated, consistent, slow-but-steady-wins-the-race kind of practicers – thank you!  Your hard work does not go unnoticed!

But in general, a decline in practicing makes sense – it’s summer, and as much as we’d like to think that more free time equates to more practicing done, it’s often just the opposite.  When we lose our daily habits and routines, it’s often hard to get ourselves moving and practice before the day goes by.  This year, with the Coronavirus pandemic and necessitated Zoom learning going on, it’s all the harder to stay motivated.

So, here’s what I’d like to do – each and every student, from the time you read this post, commit yourselves to practicing every day for the next seven days.  It’s not a lifetime sentence.  It’s an injection of intentionality that can turn you around and kickstart your positive practicing habits.

What qualifies as practicing for the day?  Well, ideally you’d spend roughly the same amount of time as your lesson length each day going over your practice assignments for that week, plus listening to your corresponding recordings.  Shoot for that each day.  But at the bare minimum, do 1/3 of your lesson length in order for the day to count as practicing.  So if you have a 30-minute lesson, put in 10 solid, focused minutes.  45-minute lesson?  15-minutes, at minimum.  60-minutes?  No less that 20 for the day to count.

If you’re incredibly busy, the day has flown by, it’s 9:55 p.m., and know you won’t be able to make the minimum, 5 minutes is still better than nothing.  And remember, listening is the easiest way to make progress by far!

Happy practicing!

Summer ’20 Week 3: Playing As “We!”

Hello WCS students and families!

Lessons this summer have continued just the way they started – incredibly productive and wonderfully fun!   It’s been so exciting to chart new territory with each and every student, and to see and hear so many techniques and skills developing.

One thing that we really miss, however, is the ability to play in unison and to play duets with each of our students.  Students eyes and ears can pick up on so much simply by us being able to play in unison with them – posture, tempo, intonation, bow length, speed, contact point, and weight, dynamics, phrasing, expression, and so much more.  And playing duets adds an extra layer of complexity to pieces that are already well-learned, asking the student to continue to play what they have developed at a high level while simultaneously listening to, reacting to, and making music with another part and another person.

So, beginning today, Kirby and I are going to make a concerted effort to record ourselves playing both the students’ part to their pieces – so that students can play in unison with us throughout the week, as well as the duet parts where applicable – that students can play their polished pieces with us and those added layers of complexity.

We look forward to playing “with” you throughout the week!

Studio Hangout: Saturday, June 13 at 10 a.m.

Hello WCS students and families!

Don’t forget that this upcoming Saturday, June 13, we’ll be holding a “studio hangout” on Zoom at 10 a.m.  We’ve so missed being able to see each of you in person over the past several months, and having you all be able to interact with each other at group class and in the space before and after lessons, too.  So, pull up a chair, grab a snack, and come hang out with us for a while.  We’d love to hear what you’re up to!  Check your emails this week for the Zoom invitation.

See you there!

Summer ’20 Week 2: So Much To Do!

Hello West County Strings students and families!

As this second week of our Summer ’20 Semester has gone by, I’ve been struck in every single students’ lesson by just how fast the lesson time flies by.  I always arrive at the end of each lesson feeling like there was so much more I still wanted to get to, but I think this is good in several ways:

  1. It means that we’re learning, progressing, and charting new territory every lesson.  In many, many lessons this week, a student has demonstrated progress that has literally “made my week!”
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  2. It keeps the lesson fast-paced, energetic, and with a sense of anticipation for what’s yet to come, and…
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  3. It forces me to really think through what’s most crucial for each student to get to in each week’s lesson, knowing that we can’t possibly cover literally everything I might want to get to each week.

All that said, I think there’s a few things that we can do to make sure that we’re making the most of our time together in lessons each week:

  1. Sign into Zoom a few minutes before your scheduled lesson time, and have your instrument and materials ready to go right at your scheduled start time.
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  2. Have your instrument tuned to the best of your ability before your lesson.  I know several of you are in the stages of learning to tune – and making tons of progress as self-tuners as a result of this quarantine – and we can certainly check your tuning together.  But in general, tuning ahead of time will buy us a lot of time.
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  3. LISTEN to your Suzuki CDs or other non-Suzuki recordings as applicable as much as possible throughout the week.  The more the pitches, rhythms, dynamics, mood, and tone of a piece are internalized through listening, the less we have to slowly chip away at learning in lessons and the more we can work on how to produce the things you’ve internalized through listening.
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  4. And this one goes without saying, but practice, practice, practice!  I was struck this week by a quote from Dr. Suzuki found in the beginning of Suzuki Violin Book 3: a

“I consider the following practices and conditions to be the basis of achievement in people who excel: (1) to study daily without exception; (2) to study with proper focus on key points, and not to practice wastefully; (3) to strive daily to produce excellent tone; (4) to attend to one’s posture with proper care; (5) to practice daily according to a set schedule, and to gradually increase one’s practice time; (6) to practice pieces already learned so as to continually improve one’s performance.  This is one effective method to cultivate ability; (7) not to rush ahead but to dedicate oneself to attaining excellent tone; (8) To be able to play any piece well, no matter how long ago one has learned it; and (9) to listen frequently to superior models.”

As I write those things out, it strikes me that they deserve their own post, or posts.  So, I’ll plan to break those down in more detail in future updates, because there’s so, so much wisdom in those principles.

Suffice it to say for now that there’s plenty to do, and it feels good to be doing so much with each and every student.  So, keep up the listening, keep up the practicing, keep up the good work, and we’ll see you again next week!

– Brad

Summer ’20 Week 1: So Much Fun!

Hello Everyone!

I hope you’re enjoying the beautiful weather.  As St. Louisans, we know that we get approximately 6 really nice days of weather a year, so take it all in!

I just wanted to take a moment to express how incredibly fun lessons this first week of Summer ’20 were for Kirby and me.  I think there’s something about the feel of a fresh start – a new beginning – that invigorates and energizes.  And seeing you on different days, at different times, and in a different order is just enough variety to spice things up. Plus, even though students have been at home for the past several months, there’s a big, very noticeable difference in students’ energy levels with the pressures of schoolwork relieved.  It all made for a very fun first week.

It was really, really exciting to begin new projects all of you who we saw this week – and those of you who we didn’t see this first week, we’ll get started on your own new projects in your first lesson this summer.  I was struck by what a solid place we’re all starting from this summer.  Across the board, I heard really good intonation and tone, and saw a lot of really good technique.  If that’s our starting point, the sky’s the limit on where we can end up by the end of the summer!  One big component of this summer’s work is strengthening review, so if you haven’t gotten a chance to print our your violin or viola review charts for the summer, please do so now!

In addition to lessons, we’d like to put a few other studio activities on the calendar for June, including:

  • A studio “hangout” on Saturday, June 13th at 10 a.m.  We’d like to use this opportunity just to give all of our students the opportunity to share what they’re up to this summer, have them be able to see their group class friends and classmates, and generally bond as as studios and as program overall.  Even if you didn’t regularly participate in group classes in the ’19-’20 school year, please put this on your calendar – we’d love to have you there!  A separate Zoom invitation for this event will be sent in the week leading up to it.
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  • A “home concert” on Saturday, June 27th at 2:00 p.m.  We want to give all of our students concrete goals to focus on and prepare for this summer, opportunities to continue to develop as performers, and the ability to share their music with their friends, classmates, and studio family and friends.  Being about a month away, we’ll all have an opportunity to select a new piece of repertoire and work on polishing it.  Again, a separate Zoom invitation for this event will be sent prior to the concert date.

We look forward to seeing you all again in lessons this upcoming week!

Welcome to the Summer ’20 Semester!

Hello West County Strings Students and Families!

Welcome to the Summer ’20 Semester at West County Strings.  Kirby and I are thrilled that you are here and we look forward to each and every moment of learning and fun that we are going to be able to have with you all this summer!

Private lessons kick off on Monday, May 25.  Be sure to check your inbox for the Zoom meeting link and password for summer lessons.  Kirby and I are excited to dive into some new summer-long projects including scale studies, new technique exercises, new pieces of repertoire, and sight reading, aural skills, and music theory studies.  It’ll be fun to look back at the end of the summer and see just how far we’ve come in these 12 weeks!

We also plan to hold additional informal performances throughout the summer on Zoom, as well as “listening parties” where we can study and explore some music literature together.  Keep your eyes out for finalized dates for these events.  Our community is an incredibly special place because of you – the incredibly special families that make it up – and we benefit from being in each other’s company now more than ever.

So, get ready to dive in to all that there is to explore in the wonderful world of music.  It’s going to be a great summer!

Spring ’20 Solo Recitals Recap

Hello Everyone!

Kirby and I want to extend a tremendous thank you to all of the students and their families who participated in our Spring Solo Recitals this year.  It was truly a new and unique experience for all of us, but it was wonderful and beautiful in so many ways – from the exceptional performances themselves to simply being able to be “in the same place” as you all at the same time, which we have missed so much.   We love the community of families that makes up West County Strings, and the ability to share in the journey of music learning with you all!

So, while we certainly do look forward to being able to return to live, in-person recitals just as soon as possible, we plan to hold some extra Zoom performances over the summer to give you all a chance to connect, goals to prepare for, and opportunities to share your talents and music with one another.  We look forward to seeing you at the next one!

 

Summer ’20 Kicks Off Monday, May 25!

Thank you all to everyone who participated in our Spring ’20 Solo Recitals via Zoom this past Sunday.  What a wonderful, joy-filled experience that was, and we’re looking forward to offering more community building performance opportunities this summer!

Lessons for the Spring ’20 Semester extend through this Saturday, May 23.  So, we look forward to seeing you all for the last time of the ’19-’20 school year at your regular times before we move on to the summer.  What an incredible school year this has been, in spite of the difficulties.  In fact, I think the difficulties have challenged us to learn and grow in new and unexpected ways, and we’re so proud of each of our students for their perseverance and dedication.

The Summer ’20 Semester will kick off on Monday, May 25, and we look forward taking on new projects, applying new approaches, and taking the next steps with all of our students.  You all energize, invigorate, and inspire us to reach new heights as teachers, and we can’t wait to continue this journey together!

– Mr. Brad & Ms. Kirby

Group Classes Extended!

I don’t know about you, but I have enjoyed seeing everyone on Tuesday evenings.  I would love to plan to continue through the end of April if there is still interest.  This leaves us with two more group classes for the semester:  April 21 and April 28.

These classes take a lot of planning and forethought to get the technology up and running, so I thank you for your patience with me in our new format!  It was been super fun to learn new things, and I look forward to new challenges each week.

We are brainstorming ways to have a “solo recital” without all being together.  Let’s look forward to that together!

– Kirby

Summer ’20 Registration Now Open!

Hello Everyone! 

The 2019-2020 school year got off to an incredible start, and has been filled with some truly inspiring and memorable lessons, group classes, recital performances, and accomplishments by our students.  The past month has unquestionably been filled with unforeseeable and unprecedented challenges, but the learning, growing, connecting, and sharing have continued nonetheless, and I can honestly say that Ms. Kirby and I have never been more thankful for our relationship with each and every one of our students and their families and more proud of the creativity and adaptability of our community, which has allowed deep learning to continue on unhindered! 

So, it is with great excitement that we can now share with you that registration for our Summer ’20 Semester is now open!  As always registration for the summer is flexible, and you can choose to sign up for only the weeks you know you will be in available.  With that said, consistency and continuity over the summer are vitally important to maintaining progress from school year to school year, and we always look forward to seeing each of our students for as many lessons as possible over the summer.  

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This year, there is one unique factor to consider: As we have seen more and more music camps, academic programs, and activities of every kind cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Kirby and I are saddened for the loss of enrichment opportunities for our students and our community at large.  More than ever before, we see children in front of us who are eager to learn and have a void of time, energy, and interest to fill. Throughout the world, there are people turning to music as a comfort and strength during this time when character, beauty, and expression are especially needed. With this in mind, Ms. Kirby and I encourage you to make lessons a priority this summer, and we are committed to continuing to create as engaging and creative a learning environment and as much community for our students and their families as possible.  To help make this all possible for all of our students, and in light of the economic impacts of the coronavirus, we have decided to keep tuition rates the same this summer, instead of giving them their scheduled annual increase. We hope this helps provide some relief! 

Registration will be open from April 1 – April 30, at which point Ms. Kirby and I will sit down and create our summer teaching schedule, which we plan to have back to you by May 15.  The Summer ’20 Semester will kick off on May 26 and run through August 21.  We will be in touch with each of you individually as soon as possible to discuss what lesson length best suits your child’s age and level of advancement, as many of you have graduated to new heights this school year!  We’re incredibly optimistic about what the future holds for each of our students, and look forward to taking the next step in that journey of learning, discovering, and growing together this summer. 

SU20 Registration