Top string teachers Mimi Zweig and Géza Szilvay answer a reader's question for The Strad's Teacher Talk section


How do you feel about students taking a long summer break without practice? DEIDRE O’CONNOR, CORK, IRELAND

MIMI ZWEIG Summer vacations provide the ideal time to do lots of practice and I encourage students to attend a summer programme that will give them the opportunity to practise, study, play chamber music, perform, listen to concerts and be with peers who are also passionate about the violin and music. Actually, my students don’t have the choice! The inspiration of these summer weeks carries over into the year and spurs the students on to the next level of artistry. This is not to say that they shouldn’t take a week off to relax and let all the information be absorbed.

GÉZA SZILVAY Most people read the newspaper every morning and watch the evening news every day. They wouldn’t miss their favourite daily paper even while on holiday. Many people develop various habits for well-being: they jog or do physical exercise, whatever the weather. Oddly enough, the same people do not understand why the violin teacher demands that their child practise the violin every day. They even get irritated if the string pedagogue advises them to take their violin with them when travelling on holiday. Bulky luggage such as golf clubs, skis and surf boards are not regarded as a burden, but the tiny violin case is considered a nuisance.

When a child shows interest and has the motivation to learn to play the violin, it is the teacher’s responsibility and duty to call the attention of the parents to the daily diligence that string playing demands. The need for daily regularity should be strongly emphasised. Daily music making will safeguard the healthy technical, musical, intellectual and emotional development of the child.

One- or two-week rests during long winter or summer holidays are necessary. These short periods function like pauses in music. Rest creates tension or expectation, and after the pause playing will be more inviting. When the habit of daily practice has been developed, it is not seen as a chore, but rather as a way of life.

The daily papers present gossip, scandals and reports on wars, violence and disaster. Our daily Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and even Š evčík or the simple one-octave G major scale, offer harmony. Why shouldn’t we play the violin every day?

This article was published as part of Teacher Talk – in which top teachers answer readers’ string teaching queries – in The Strad’s September 2011 issue – download on desktop computer or through The Strad App.