A Week in Chichester

The Nannie Jamieson Nutshell Fund, sponsored by Jargar, supported my attendance at the ESTA summer school, from August 6th to 11th in Chichester. I was attending the summer school as a student of the new ESTA Post Graduate Certificate course, so in that respect the fund has contributed significantly to my year of study. Many thanks to the NJNF and to Jargar.

For students on the PG cert course there were classes every day, presented by Jessica O'Leary, who is one of the course mentors. These covered all the aspects of Unit 2 of the PG cert course, 'Teaching technique for bowed string instruments'. However, there was also space on our timetable allowing us to attend some of the summer school events.

In general, it was wonderful for me to be immersed in a string teaching atmosphere where everyone in the place was passionate about teaching, communicating music, and keen to discuss and share that with those around them.

There was so much useful information to be absorbed. I was a bit concerned that my brain wouldn't be able to hold onto everything, but Sheila Holdsworth has kindly emailed presentation notes from all the sessions.

Some specifics that really struck home were:

Ted Wilson's use of harmonics (moving between harmonics on the same string) to help children change position on the violin without gripping.
Bojan Cvetreznik's introduction to a new language, called 'Chicaboomian'. Boom is a crotchet and chica is 2 quavers. You can use it to dictate rhythms to children, get them to play a scale with a changing rhythm, or create a story where they invent the rhythm for each bar. Both in terms of the sound and the feel of it in the mouth, it is more appealing than ta and tete.
Jessica O'Leary (in a PG cert class) reminded us to pay careful attention to how our pupils are reacting to the information given, because if they get worried then they won't manage and they won't practise.
Again in a PG cert class we had an interesting discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of teaching beginner violinists to use the 2nd or 3rd finger before 1st finger.
In Jessica's (PG cert) class on vibrato we discussed teaching vibrato to violinists with the hand in 4th position, wrist against the body of the instrument, then, as the pupil begins to get comfortable with the movement they can come down to 3rd or 2nd position but with a rolled up pair of (clean) socks filling the gap between wrist and instrument. We also talked about occasions when it might be helpful to have a particularly high left thumb, and other times when a pupil will need to have their thumb low to create the right effect.
Paul Harris came to present a summer school session on sight reading which the PG cert students were able to attend. Then we were very fortunate to have Paul come to one of our PG cert classes in the afternoon to talk to us and present his ideas on 'Simultaneous Learning'. Of all his incredibly useful and perceptive comments, one which really resonated was the negativity created by a situation where a lesson proceeds on the basis that the pupil will play and the teacher will tell them what they've done wrong.
Overall it was a very useful and enjoyable week. Many thanks again to the bursary fund, and to all who presented to us over the week.

Nannie Jamieson Nutshell Fund