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VIOLIN SCHOOL

The new specialists


A
A innovative violin school is thinking well outside the box of traditional teaching practice, writes Toby Deller

part from the fact that there is an actual palace the actual
Palace at one of its ends, Palace Street is a fairly unremarkable central London thoroughfare. And on it wobbles a
fairly unremarkable pavement sign, until you see that rather
than advertise debt counselling or relaxing massages, it proposes a
rather different kind of service: violin lessons.
Modest the setting may be, but the aims of the establishment
are rather ambitious. Behind an anonymous-looking door are the
teaching rooms of ViolinSchool, a new venture directed by violinist
Simon Hewitt Jones.
At the moment, the slogan is Online and offline, tuition for any
age and level, which is quite broad, but we are ultra-specialist. What
Im trying to do is to gather some of the best violin minds to create
something thats so specialised but also very broad in its nature. So,
one-to-one lessons, group tuition, online learning and professional
coaching: those are the four tracks of what is offered.
He means it when he says any level, mentioning the schools professional development programme and highlighting one area where
it will be looking to provide guidance. It baffles me: why dont so
many people want coaches? I want to create a kind of culture where
before a big tour or before an orchestral audition, you can just phone
the school Im talking about proper musicians, I want to be able to

hire someone to coach me before I go on tour. Thats something that


you cant do with a conservatory.
The ultra-specialism is in the fact that the school teaches violin
only. Three things came to me as pillars: you have violin technique
(and viola technique, were including that, but nothing else; we want
to really specialise), musical interpretation and performance skills.
Underpinning this are the two things that I often feel are missing
from education, particularly with the violin, are creativity and community. Community for a start obviously at music college you get
that, but you dont with private teaching. Were trying to provide
something thats a little bit more how can I say it without saying
organic?
Hewitt Jones says that he is planning a series of events to help
bring various students together, beginning with a concert at the new
St Jamess Theatre across the road, but it is when we talk about creativity that he really gets going. It is clearly a matter of some urgency
for him. Have you seen the Ken Robinson TED talks? The first one
is called Why Schools Kill Creativity, and theres a second one four
years later saying exactly the same thing and asking why no one has
done anything. The whole thesis of the argument is in a post-industrial age, creativity should be alongside literacy and numeracy at the
top of the educational hierarchy. And right now, you see, even last

Online and ofine, tuition for any


age and level a ViolinSchool session
at its Palace Street premises

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Whats important with


technology is not to see
it as a panacea
simon Hewitt Jones

Tyrolean
Festival Erl
Winter
26 December 2012 6 January 2013
Festspielhaus

week this supposed EBacc with no arts subjects. This is just madness,
its absolute madness. Were in an environment where we as musicians and as artists and as cultural leaders we have to just say, look no
one else is going to curate this, we have to just do it.
He isnt doing it alone, of course. He has recruited (and is still
recruiting) a small team of specialists that so far includes LSO first
violinist David Worswick and Annabelle Berthom Reynolds, a
violinist and educationalist with a philosophy based on the idea of
self-regulated learning a notion that is central to Hewitt Joness
thinking at ViolinSchool.
Basically I want to create a system whereby our teachers and students can draw on all the best of all the different ideas out there and
use them to feed their own creative learning process. Thats the idea,
and where online will be a big thing. In the New Year were going to
release a load of online tools: online video for a start, but an online
curriculum, on online repertoire guide, little bit of music theory as
well, very much an integrated thing. The difficulty with that is its
always going to be subjective and Im expecting a lot of criticism because its an evolutionary process, gradually well come to a more and
more proven way of doing it but one you can dip in and out of.
So, he readily admits that he has not launched ViolinSchool as a
finished institution with all the answers. For another thing, technology provides tools that are developing all the time.
We have the facility to do Skype teaching. I think until you get
zero latency, when theres no delay whatsoever, you can only do
certain things. Holograms might be interesting, but were a good
ten years away from that. But one day! Anythings possible. Whats
important with technology is not to see it as a panacea. Its not.
But, he insists, it is also the case that music itself is developing. Its
so easy to get stuck on certain pieces of repertoire, stuck in certain
ways of thinking. Even now I meet musicians who are very stuck
in certain dogmatic ways of playing, simply because they have this
over-respect for how the tradition is structured. We dont want to be
in an ivory tower. Often education on individual instruments can be
very much an ivory tower thing: you learn the abstract theory, you
learn this art and then suddenly you go out into the real world, and
CM
you think Uh?.

OPERAS
BARTK A kkszakll herceg vra
MOZART Le nozze di Figaro
VERDI Nabucco
CONCERT
ER S
ERT
BACH Mass in B Minor
ROSSINI Petite Messe Solennelle
BEETHOVEN Missa Solemnis
New Years Eve and New Years Concert
SPECIALS
Piano Evening Stancul / Cabassi
Ensemble Risognanze
Franui

President:
Hans Peter Haselsteiner
General Director:
Gustav Kuhn

Tickets:
T +43 (0) 512 / 57 88 88 13
karten@tiroler-festspiele.at
www.tiroler-festspiele.at

www.violinschool.org
15 december 2012 classicalmusicmagazine.org 39

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