In April 2017 I was fortunate enough to be accepted as a student teacher on the Intermediate Arpeggione Viola Course. This is a residential course for young Viola players and Violinists trying out the Viola to play together and perform to each other, under the tutelage of leading performers and teachers in the Viola world. Students play to visiting professors on the course in daily masterclasses, as well as playing in a Viola orchestra and Viola chamber groups! Thanks to the support of the Nannie Jamieson Nutshell Fund and the sponsorship of Thomastik-Infeld Vienna, I was able to attend the course in the capacity of student teacher, observing masterclasses and chamber coaching, as well as giving some coaching myself.
It was fantastic to sit down at the end of each day of the course and report back what I had observed in masterclasses and coaching sessions. This was an amazing opportunity to ask all the questions that there is never any time to ask in the daily life of a teacher, and to have a team of 7 incredibly experienced and knowledgeable Viola teachers there to answer them. We covered important topics including, but certainly not limited to: child-protection and how to set boundaries when teaching physical Viola techniques; approaching teaching students with additional needs; and how to use the unbridled energy and enthusiasm of a 10-year old to enhance their learning and Viola playing. Although there are often chances on teaching courses to learn about teaching in theory, it is rare to have an opportunity such as this one to talk about techniques and approaches and then have the chance to try them out immediately afterwards, with instant feedback.
During the week I was tasked with giving individual support to a student who was struggling with her note-reading and ensemble playing. All the teachers gave me constant support with this, and bounced ideas around with me on how best to help her improve. This really helped my 'problem solving' approach to teaching, and with 7 people giving me help, there was never a shortage of new and helpful ideas!
I gave a technical warm-up on the last day of the course, having observed and taken part in the daily warm-up throughout the week. I was given advice on the planning of this session, and was able to take ideas from the sessions I had observed in order to lead one of my own. Two other teachers joined in with the students taking part in the session, to support me and then sit down and have a chat with me about potential improvements I could make in future.
This was a fully immersive learning opportunity, and I came away from it not only with a folder full of new ideas, but with a new confidence in my teaching, having spent a week receiving brilliantly constructive criticism and positive encouragement from a team of expert Viola teachers. Arpeggione is an excellent course and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to have been a part of it; thank you!