Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. – Helen Keller

As musicians, particularly those of us making chamber music or playing within the string sections of any orchestra, the concept of teamwork has become second nature. One only has to look at simple children’s stories such as ‘The Enormous Turnip’ to see the positive outcomes that the combining of our personal strengths with those of others can create. When a group of like-minded people work towards a common goal, it has a greater impact.

The sharing of a common knowledge, the support of colleagues and a pooling of resources are all central to the core principles of the European String Teachers’ Association and form the basis upon which it was founded.

The reasons that we participate in a musical activity or teach others are wide-ranging.

Cellist, Nathan Chan in his blog says that he has been playing for over 17 years and he sees it as an incredibly powerful tool of expression and creativity. Jung Yohan, a talented violinist from Pyongyang shares the following – “My violin and I glorify God. My dream is that one day I can return to North Korea and share the gospel through my music.” Another believes that through playing an instrument, she has learnt a great deal about herself and that music making has helped her grow into the person she is today. Hailing it as the best decision of her life, she asserts that it has given her confidence and helped her develop a sense of satisfaction. The internet abounds with stories like these – how playing an instrument has changed people’s lives; provided them with a purpose; and in certain cases, even saved their lives.

The European String Teachers’ Association (ESTA) is an organisation that shares in this vision. Understanding the power of string instruments and realising the need for dedicated and knowledgeable string teaching across the United Kingdom, it provides a user-friendly national HUB for the sharing of ideas on both teaching and playing. It helps individuals to hone their skills, enabling them to pass on their knowledge and enthusiasm for future generations.

To be eligible for ESTA membership, you should play violin, viola, cello or bass.  For annual subscription members receive benefits including insurance, legal cover, discounts on events organised by ESTA and a free listing in the online teachers’ directory. Members also have access to the quarterly magazine ‘arco’ and unlimited copies of the magazine JESTA, published twice a year and aimed at young string players. ESTA members also have access to a variety of reference materials to make use of in their professional development. The ESTA repertoire database is also available, giving members the ability to search for relevant repertoire. Another benefit for teachers and their students alike are the ESTA bursary funds, the Nannie Jamieson Nutshell Fund and Joan Dickson Chamber Music Fund. These assist with short courses relating to teaching string instruments and for introducing young players to chamber music.

Let’s go back in time to the year 1991 when a   girl started learning to play the violin. A year later she was already playing a Christmas carol on her tiny violin and bringing everyone in the house to tears. Aged eight, she became the leader of the National Children’s Orchestra of Scotland, and at fourteen the Prodigy of the Year. Then in 2003, she went on to win the award for BBC Young Musician of the Year. Nicola Benedetti is the epitome of determination, focus and ceaseless talent and is the president of ESTA UK. Along with her, ESTA UK can boast many of the UK’s leading string teachers and players amongst its ranks, often act as members of both the council and committee. ESTA UK is a truly inspirational organisation and one that any enthusiastic string teacher will gain many benefits from.

The uniqueness lies in the fact that at ESTA, it is understood that playing an instrument is not just a skill – it’s an art, a state of mind. And if there’s someone to lead the way, it can indeed be a beautiful journey. We cannot take your hand ourselves, but what we can do is a promise to never leave it once that choice has been made and promise to pave the way to a mutually beneficial and nurturing relationship.

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