Madeline Stewart teaches at the Boston String Academy at the Chinatown location. For more information about how to enroll in this program, please contact Ms. Stewart directly or go to www.bostonstringacademy.org.
I find it essential that students learn in an encouraging, nurturing environment where it’s acceptable to make mistakes and try new things. Every student is unique, and learns in different ways. It’s important to me as an educator to be a different teacher for each student by recognizing his or her individual needs to help the student thrive. I teach all of my students to think critically and how to apply problem-solving techniques when they are presented with obstacles – which translates not just into music, but also into the professional world. Above all, I teach my students to be independent thinkers, and I provide them with the skills to eventually become their own greatest teacher.
I teach my violin students primarily using the methods of Rictor Noren, Mimi Zweig, Shinichi Suzuki, and Paul Rolland. The primary goals of my methods are to teach the fundamental techniques with natural body movement and to incorporate the craft of musical language while playing our instruments. Students learn a solid foundation of healthy posture, technique, ear training, note reading, and of course, musicality.
If a student is comfortable on their instrument, they will be much more invested in practice and performance. As a musician that has recovered from past injury, it is my mission to help prevent and reverse physical pain for instrumentalists. My previous battles of tendonitis have turned into unique insights, as I have diligently studied body awareness techniques and learned effective methods of how to play comfortably, free of pain and tension. I’ve studied Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method, and find that incorporating these practices in my teaching helps my students to stay away from injury and helps free their bodies to produce a beautiful tone on their instruments.
In my studio, we value the following principles:
- Posture – Posture does not simply mean to sit up straight and rigid, but the manner in which a violinist carries herself or himself can have a dramatic effect on sound quality, ease around the instrument, and injury prevention.
- Set up – Ensure the instrument set up is comfortably with balanced. The body of the instrument and angle of the bow must be in the optimum position for natural movement with the skeleton. This instrument position must be tailored to the needs of the student. Set up should be addressed in both standing and sitting positions.
- Ease of Movement – Tension-free playing is essential to promote effortless facility around the instrument, beautiful tone, and to prevent injury.
- Physics – Understanding the fundamental physics of how the instrument makes and projects sound is crucial to music making.
- Efficient, Deliberate Practice – We cover practice techniques that cover efficiency and stability to reinforce solid technique through muscle memory.
- Ear Training – One must audiate (hear notes) before playing. There is no such thing as perfect intonation, but having an ear that adjusts quickly is imperative for violin and viola playing.
- Improvisation – Improvisation is for more than just jazz musicians. In baroque tradition, improvisation was an expectation for in performance. In my studio, we explore improvisation, which is often freeing and inspiring for students, no matter their level or experience.
- Musicality – One must share a story or a journey while performing. In my studio, we discover what we want to say, and how to best translate that story to the audience through our instrument.