Teaching lutherie the Red Wing way

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Instrument repair requires great attention to detail, knowledge and patience – and teaching new students is no different. Here lutherie pedagogue Steve Rossow gives some tips acquired from his years of tutoring at Minnesota State College Southeast

I don’t know if the way that I teach violin repair is particularly special, but it is definitely personal. From the feedback I get from students, alumni and the violin shops where they go after graduation, it appears to be working.

My approach in the classroom has several key influences. First, it’s informed by my own experiences as a student of lutherie – which have been wonderful and life-changing. Teachers and mentors really do have the potential to shape lives, and having been the beneficiary of others’ talent, wisdom and generosity over the years, I take very seriously my responsibility to pay it forward.

My teaching is also heavily informed by my work in the field. Spending the better part of 20 years as a luthier, learning from and collaborating with some of the most talented people in the business, and being exposed to instruments that are the stuff of legend and beauty can’t help but make a person better at what he does and enrich his perspective.

Finally – and critically – my approach in the classroom is shaped by having long ago come to the humbling realisation that being able to do something and being able to teach others how to do it, and do it well, are two very different things. I began my career in the classroom as a practitioner, not a professional educator. Now that I wear both hats, my teaching has benefited immensely from continuing my own education and learning how best to teach so that students most effectively learn.

Likewise, at the core of my instructional practices are several fundamental beliefs. First…

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