The ESTA Summer School was brilliant fun, friendly, supportive and most of all inspiring! Thank you so much Nannie Jamieson Nutshell Fund and Thomastik-Infeld Vienna for my bursary. There was so much information and so many good ideas, that I have reams of notes as well as loads of informative handouts from the tutors. I’m sure it will help me feel I’m improving as a teacher at a quicker pace than I was before I attended the summer school.
There were some overarching principles which came through and were common to many of the sessions, and although they were things I recognised, it was very helpful to have time to reflect on these and remember to keep them foremost in mind. The biggest of these for me, which I will now make myself be much better at, is ‘To do and experience before trying to understand’.
Bojan Cvetreznik (and his Slovenian colleagues, especially Barja) were the absolute highlight of the week for me. As well as being a wonderful player, his well thought out, well-practised and obviously constantly evolving teaching methods and ideas were extremely interesting, inspiring and useful. His flexible and undogmatic approach made the ‘Upper Strings Basics’ really enjoyable and contained many ideas to make learning fun at the same time as effective. I particularly liked (and will use) his description of the finger sections in terms of the parts of a person’s face, making it easy to explain how the whole face needs to be above the water of the pool (fingerboard), translating to right hand that the first finger is ‘smelling the bow’ and little finger ‘on the top of its head’. His emphasis on keeping a strong pulse from the beginning is something I have tried to do but feel I will be much more successful now with the tools he gave us (including some very useful backing apps) and just seeing how fun he made it in class. I do a fair amount of large group teaching at present, and seeing the mechanics of how he did tuning, warm ups, exercises and taught us various folk tunes in the sessions was really useful.
Bojan also inspired us to try more improvisation and playing by ear and made me think more about how exciting, encouraging and satisfying this could be for a learner – if I can be successful in facilitating it! To help this, I was already considering going along to sessions at a pub (don’t worry, it isn’t going to increase my alcohol intake as it’s a good drive away) and now am determined to pluck up the courage to try it!
There is so much I absorbed from Bojan’s sessions, I can only touch on them here, but his encouraging children to learn to tune their instruments from the beginning was particularly thought provoking and made so much sense! I have already used his metaphor of travelling along a rocky road and it getting smoother till you are on ice when playing strings together, to help my adult pupils with tuning.
Sian Ford and ‘Daily Dalcroze’ provided a superb start to each day. Again, such a lovely and inspiring person and musician, most of the week’s participants were willing to throw off their inhibitions and join in (much laughing involved at times) – apart from anything else, it was great to put us in pupil rather than teacher role, especially when some things were stretching (literally) the limits of our comfort zones! As with Bojan, Sian has been extremely generous with her explanatory notes and inspiring links and resources, and I will use some of them straight away.
It is extremely hard to cover the whole week in without writing a huge essay, so in brief:
Tango sessions were an inspiring start to the week. Caroline Pearsall was great and got us all playing wonderful tango music together – a genre we are all familiar with and love to listen to, but she helped give me the confidence to try some Tango arrangements with some of my pupil groups.
The conducting workshop was also very good. Gavin Sutherland pitched it just right – humourous and encouraging, as well as teaching us basic techniques.
Sarah Drury’s talk about her schools’ collaborations was most inspiring and got everyone thinking ‘out of the box’.
The visit by the Blackwells was very useful, as I hadn’t investigated their new ‘fiddle time starter’ books but now see that they have incorporated many of the ideas I have at present been using from a range of different books.
Last, but not least, the concerts were all a wonderful treat and provided a perfect mix of some of the best aspects of playing a stringed instrument. The whole team from ESTA deserve a great deal of thanks – especially Sheila and Julia for their hard work, and John for his broad view, good humour, humility and friendliness.