Studio IV

Violin and viola instruction in Brooklyn, NY.

Studio IV is the violin and viola teaching studio of Erin Ellis in Brooklyn, NY.

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The Importance of Review

Growing up, I was the queen of starting projects and never finishing them. Art projects, music projects, sewing projects, cleaning projects (especially cleaning projects); you name it, I started it. Somehow I got away with this, even in my violin lessons, until college. (If any of my former teachers are reading this I am so sorry! I can see that I must have been a frustrating student!) Now the beauty of learning music is you’re never really finished, but what I’m getting at here is learning all the notes in each movement in a musical way.

I didn’t grow up as a Suzuki kid. While I thoroughly enjoyed the way I studied violin, as a member of the community now I sometimes find myself getting a bit jealous of the teachers who grew up in Suzuki studios. They have this common body of repertoire that seems to magically come back to them when we are all playing together in our teaching seminars. Obviously there’s nothing magic about it – these musicians studied the pieces just like anyone else would. However, given the importance of review pieces in the Suzuki methodology, these pieces stay fresh in their minds; as life goes on, you grow as a musician and person, and you bring new knowledge and life experience to music you previously learned, and play it in different ways. I’m slowly but surely catching up on the repertoire, and enjoying my teaching courses more and more as I integrate into this community.

As I progress through my Suzuki registered teaching courses, I’m excited by the way I am improving my ability to memorize. Working through pieces in small bits really helps me memorize them, just as it helps my students to memorize their pieces. I’m setting a better example now that I’m really practicing what I preach. Each week I add another Suzuki piece, choose a few review pieces from previous books studied, and go back and work on finishing pieces I studied as a teen. I’ve delighted in reading notes from teachers with whom I studied, remembering important points I gathered from all of them. Not only does the review bring me back to lessons on technique and music, but memories from many different times in my life. It’s also been fun thinking about things my teachers have said in the past that perhaps didn’t make as much sense to me then as they do now, given the context and my aggregate experience. It’s a fun trip down memory lane

In the past two years, I’ve finished 2 quilts, memorized Suzuki Books 1-3 (and am making good progress on Book 4), and completed my first full Bach Sonata.  I’m so excited to experience the joy of really learning a piece; having it fully in your memory allows you to truly experience the music as you play, and brings a depth to the music that I feel very fortunate to play. That closet cleaning project of mine may never be finished, and that’s OK with me.  This year, I’ll concentrate on the music!

A Day in the Life - Thursday, March 27, 2014

I thought it might be fun to write about a day in my week - there is definitely no "typical" day!

Last week, Thursday, March 27th was a super busy day. I didn't have any students on Thursday, but that didn't stop me from having a full day of music. 

I woke up and did some lesson planning, and then headed to Manhattan to rehearse chamber music with my friend and her sister (who is now also a friend). We had a blast! My friend and I have been working on the Bach Double Violin Concerto. Her sister is an accomplished pianist, so we met for a few hours to work on it as a trio. It completely changed the vibe of the music and added to the fun we've been having with it. We are planning to get together this week and polish it up.

I headed back home and did a bit more studio work; lesson plans, paperwork, and basic day-to-day things necessary for running a studio. It felt good to catch up.

Around 6:30 PM I headed back into Manhattan to rehearse with The Doctors Orchestral Society of New York. This orchestra was founded in 1938 by physicians who were also musicians and wanted to play orchestral music. (FYI - I'm not hiding a secret MD, they've opened the group to other members!) The program is a really fun one to play, and is called "A Celebration of American Composers." The pieces are An Outdoor Overture by Aaron Copland, A Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin, and Symphony No. 2 in D-flat Major, Opus 30, W45, “Romantic” by Howard Hansen. The piano soloist for the Gershwin is a high school student here in NYC.

It was a really fun and productive day practicing by myself, with a few friends, and lastly with 60+ other people. I came home around 11 PM completely exhausted but extremely satisfied with the way my time was spent. I'll post about a day of teaching soon!

Practice Methods & Focus

A friend of mine posted this article from on Facebook a while ago: (

I’d read it a few months ago myself, but not as closely as I read it this time. It’s a great article for anyone who wants to be better at anything, and in a nutshell, stresses being present and mindful in your practice. Read it if you have time! It’s short and well-written.

I too am a violinist. I saw a lot of my own habits in the article, both the good and the bad, and agree with most of what was said.

I’m currently setting weekly goals for my violin and viola practice. This week I focused on left hand dexterity by using my metronome to play passages faster and more accurately. I found that the more thought and deliberation I put into each passage at their slowest metronome marking, the more accurate my intonation and rhythm were once I got to my goal tempo. In contrast, when practicing the etudes at their slowest markings while daydreaming about what was in my crock pot and trying to remember where I’d put some batteries I recently bought, I made nowhere near the progress I’d made earlier when I was truly focusing.

This coming week I’m going to continue working on my left hand dexterity in my violin and viola practice. However, I’m going to practice nothing but focus when it comes to composition. I hope to have something decent to share next week!

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