Erin O'Neill said she was shy before she started to learn how to play violin with her peers. Now she says that she is much more outspoken.
The 10-year-old rising fifth grader at Robert Moton Elementary School in Westminster answered some questions of her teacher, Glenda Walsh, as Walsh presented an orientation to parents who are interested in her method of teaching children how to play various string instruments. Walsh is the director of Westminster Suzuki Strings, and rents out a room to use as her studio at Coffey Music in Westminster.
Walsh teaches the Suzuki method to children, which applies the same principles of learning a new language to learning an instrument. Walsh said she used to teach in a more traditional style but prefers her new methods.
"It's the only way I teach," Walsh said. "I find that the students like it, and they do better and are more confident."
The method encourages children to start learning how to play as early as possible, to listen to music and practice often. It also requires parental involvement and encouragement.
Walsh said the children also learn from each other, offering pointers to others as they play.
Erin said she has met a lot of new people in the class, including many children who do not attend her school.
"I have made a lot of friends," said Erin, who said she could hardly even stand to speak to strangers before starting the class.
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Walsh and several of her pupils performed some of the pieces they have been working on, including "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." The musicians often bent their knees as they stroked their violins and violas. Bending at the knees helps the players to remember when they should stroke their instruments more softly, Walsh said.
Melissa Krause, 12, said she enjoys the class and feels she has learned more about playing the cello than she has at school. She said Walsh does a good job holding her accountable for her progress because she might not be motivated otherwise.
"She pushes you and pushes you," Melissa said.
Margaret Krause, Melissa's mother, said she sent her daughter to numerous instructors, but finally stuck with Walsh because she makes learning fun and productive.
"It seemed to be the best fit," she said of the class.
Grace Boyd, 11, said her skills on viola have increased substantially since joining the group.
"Learning songs is very easy with her," Grace said. "She teaches you phrase, by phrase, by phrase, and at the end of the day, we learn to play the song."