Advice for teaching masterclasses

Miranda Fedock said: Jul 6, 2013
Miranda FedockViolin, Viola
New York, NY
8 posts

Hello all,

I’m a fairly new Suzuki violin teacher (just finished long-term teacher training for all books and have been teaching for the past two years). I just found out that I’ll be teaching at the NC Suzuki Institute this year, starting this Monday. I’ll be teaching five hour-long masterclasses each day of the week, four students in each class, ages 5-9, mostly Books 1 and 2 (plus one class with 6 year olds in Books 3 and 4). I’m very excited, but also could use some advice. I’ve never taught a masterclass before and am not sure how to alter my teaching from what I usually do in my weekly lessons. I’ve observed plenty of masterclasses with much older students, but almost none with students this age. I’ll see each student for approximately 10-12 minutes every day for five days in a row. Any advice on pacing, content, format, etc would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!

  • Miranda
Barb said: Jul 6, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Hi Miranda,

No expert advice here…just from observing such masterclasses at institutes…
- one point lessons with a short project to practice between lessons
- be ready for the kid who has to go to the bathroom when it’s their turn (may or may not tell you)
- have a fun finger-puppet or something (or several props!) on hand (living in your case?) to break the ice with young ones
- a quiet theory paper appropriate for age/level can help the school-aged ones waiting their turn
- “if you finish your paper early, do a sketch of your instrument on the back”
- in one masterclass with slightly older kids, in book 3 I think, the first several minutes were spent together working on tone—I think they had done this tone/bowing exercise as warm-up all week, but I was only there at the end of the week, so it may have only been a few days
- taking turns with who goes first can help avoid some feeling like they only get the few minutes left at the end

With thanks to all the teachers I observed in Idaho the last few years…hope you might find some of that helpful!

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
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Laura said: Jul 7, 2013
Laura Mozena
Suzuki Association Member
Palm City, FL
105 posts


Stick to the one point lesson
Focus on things that can be accomplished in a short time (tone etc.)
Since you don’t know the student yet, make sure they play for you a polished piece first (not the newest)
Try something they may have never done before

I will always remember one institute where I learned that I could play Lightly Row completely on the A string using 4th fingers instead of open E. I knew how to play 4’s of course but I hadn’t realized somehow that I could play Lightly Row this way. My institute teacher said that I could pretend that my E string broke and I could still play a song for the “recital” I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world! ;-)


Miranda Fedock said: Jul 7, 2013
Miranda FedockViolin, Viola
New York, NY
8 posts

Thank you both, this is very helpful! I’m hoping I can depend on the parents to keep the kids who aren’t playing occupied, though I do hope to involve them in each other’s lessons in some way or another. I love the idea of working on tonalizations together in the beginning. Thanks again!

Melanie said: Jul 7, 2013
Melanie Barber
Suzuki Association Member
Maple Valley, WA
24 posts

You can do things to involve the other students. For example, if one student needs to work on what lane the bow needs to be in, have the other students take turns counting how many times the bow goes astray. Another example is when working on focus, have the other students try to distract the violinist. The only rule is no touching the player. Good luck!

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