Guest post from former Learning Allegro instructor Haleigh Swansen When I was at Learning Allegro, my favorite lessons to teach were to brand new violin students — the people (young and not-so-young) who had no idea how to hold a bow or name the […]
For a decade, Learning Allegro has been offering group music classes for toddlers — and from time to time, someone will ask us, “Does music really make a difference at THAT age?” It’s a valid question! After all, the average two-year-old can barely talk, struggles to […]
Miss Haleigh shares her Learning Allegro journey with us in this last blog post of 2018.
The last week of December is an interesting paradox. Within the span of a week, we go from celebrating the past to cheering on the future. Christmas is all about remembering things — the birth of Jesus, the traditions our parents put in place — and catching a whiff of childhood again. New Year’s Eve asks us to put those memories aside for a moment to celebrate the unknown.
Anyway, since today is the last day of December, it seems fitting for me to look backward and forward a little myself.
Let’s start with backward.
I came to Learning Allegro as a high school student in 2009. At the time, I had no intention of doing anything with violin after high school, and I was “burned out” on the whole lesson scene. According to my mom, I copped some serious attitude in that first lesson. It’s a good thing the teacher was patient.
Within three years, much changed. I found my love for music again. I became a more confident musician, a more confident person. That “patient teacher” from 2009 became my boss. Wendy encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try my hand at teaching in 2012 — and with her help, I found a career that I loved.
From 2012 until today, I taught a small army of students — some much younger than me, some much older — and found that teachers and students really do grow together. I learned to see the basic elements of music with fresh eyes again. Best of all, I spent my evenings and weekends with a fantastic collection of parents, teachers and colleagues who genuinely cared for each other. The people at Learning Allegro truly celebrate each other’s achievements.
My job not only “filled my tank” every week emotionally, but put me through school financially. I graduated from Penn State debt free in 2016 — and I paid for my school while doing something I loved with people that I loved.
Now to look forward.
Today was my last day teaching at Learning Allegro. I’m heading into a new future, one that is daunting in the best way possible — and as I look, I am so grateful for the time I had at Learning Allegro. My 2009 self had no idea that her first day in this place would lead to a job, incredible friends, and a second home — and I’m glad she couldn’t see that far ahead. The best things in life are twice as sweet when they are surprises.
To whoever reads this blog — current students, potential students, parents, colleagues — I hope that you make some space for music and discovery in 2019. I hope “my students” will go twice as far with their new Allegro teachers as they did with me. And I hope the studio continues to impact people like it impacted me. Plenty of changes are ahead in 2019, but no matter what, I know for a fact that Learning Allegro will continue giving great lessons and impacting lives.
Thanks to the teachers, parents and students who made Learning Allegro so memorable. Have a blessed and happy new year!
Here are a few clips from our 2018 Christmas Recital — including a guest appearance by Miss Wendy! We heard from over 30 talented young musicians at this year’s event. What a treat! Do you have a budding musician in your home? Check out our […]
Every now and then, someone asks us whether their child should be in group lessons or private lessons — but believe it or not, the two are really designed to work together. Allow me to explain!
Group lessons and private lessons, as separate entities, both have a LOT to offer. In private lessons, your child gets one-on-one help that is impossible to duplicate in a full classroom. Since a lot of group music is arranged orchestrally, a student in private lessons will also have more exposure to the gorgeous solo pieces written for their instrument.
Group lessons have their perks, too — they tend to be more high-energy and social, which is a huge deal in terms of personal development. They can teach students the importance of listening to the musicians around them, following a conductor, and how to hear different parts within a larger piece of music.
However, both group lessons and private lessons have their limits — which is why we normally encourage people not to isolate one from the other.
When a student’s entire exposure to music is just in private lessons, they miss out on the larger purpose of playing an instrument. Most music is played with other people, not in a vacuum! As such, a life of private lessons without exposure to group work is unrealistic. Since private lessons lack the energy factor of a group lesson, it can also be easy for a child to get bored if that’s his or her only musical outlet. I (Miss Haleigh) started private lessons at the age of three or four, and I didn’t play in a formal group setting until I joined my first orchestra thirteen years later. I can honestly say that I would have been a more enthusiastic student if I’d had the group experience earlier in life.
On the other hand, when a student’s only exposure to music is in group lessons at school, I find that they don’t progress as quickly or as independently. It’s easy to practice when 20 other kids are playing the same thing as you — and honestly, it’s easy to “fake it” and hide your mistakes in that scenario. Private lessons force the student to take ownership of his instrument’s individual voice in a way that group lessons do not. They are a better place to correct bad habits, explore new musical genres, and gain confidence as a soloist. For timid students, private lessons are also a space where they can ask questions without getting embarrassed. There is no social pressure, no peers to impress, and no competition–just the student and the teacher.
Having taught literally hundreds of kids over the last few years, we at Learning Allegro are strong proponents of BOTH group and private lessons. Both are incredible opportunities with unique strengths — and they balance out each other’s weaknesses.
Are you struggling to keep music lessons fun and exciting during the summer? Here are five easy ways to jazz up your studies, keep learning, and make the summer months feel fresh. 1. EXPLORE A NEW GENRE OF MUSIC. Are you a classically trained […]
In last week’s post, I said that I did not start playing violin in a community-oriented way until I had been in private lessons for thirteen years. That’s a partial truth.
My middle school and high school did not have onsite music programs, so until I joined a local orchestra at age 16, I really hadn’t played in a formal group setting. However, there were two brief, awesome exceptions to that statement: when I was in fourth and fifth grade, one of my former violin teachers ran a weeklong violin day camp.
I can honestly say — no hyperbole! — that those day camps were game changers for me.
Most of the camp activities were fun, simple things. We tried to count how many times we heard “da da da DUM” in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (it’s a big number), learned about classical music in cartoons, made bad music puns during snack time, and did all sorts of fun activities. I also remember candy; the teacher clearly had her priorities in line!
However — and most importantly — we put our music stands in a little cluster one day and took a stab at playing a concerto written for four violins and a cello. We were pre-teens with fairly little experience, so obviously, our efforts were a bit shabby. I don’t think we even finished one page of the song. But I do remember being wowed by the few moments when the music sounded…. well, musical!…. and at that point, I fell completely in love with playing in groups.
Before that camp, I had no idea that people could just get together and play a five-part song for fun. I especially didn’t know it was possible for five KIDS to come together, play five different sheets of music, and sound great in the process!
Why did those camps make such an impression on me as a fourth-and-fifth grader?
Probably because they were so different than formal lessons. There was no homework, no hours of practice to log, and nobody to impress…just a week to make new friends, have fun, and make music. During the school year, music was work. At camp, it was play — and honestly, I think kids need that work-play balance in music just as much as they do in any other context of life.
In my experience, the students who stick with their instruments long-term are the ones who truly enjoy it. If it’s all play, they won’t ever learn good technique…but if it’s all work, they’ll never see it as something to love.
If you’re thinking about putting your child in a music-themed day camp, I strongly suggest you go for it. Fifteen years ago, as a student, music camps truly changed my perspective on violin lessons… and today, as a violin teacher, I can see the payoff!
To register for summer strings camps at Learning Allegro, visit our website.
Here’s what we’ve noticed at Learning Allegro when our students try out new instruments during summer break. In the last few years, we’ve seen a surge of students at Learning Allegro who try a new instrument over the summer. We don’t blame them! Here are […]