Tell me about your viola studio!

Lucy Adeney said: Jul 12, 2013
 1 posts

Hi everyone—greetings from Australia.

Do you have several viola students? Tell me about it! I’d love to hear how you recruit—do you tend to move students from violin to viola, or start them on viola? Do you have separate group lessons or include the viola students in your violin groups?

Which institutes are the best for viola students? I’ve heard of Stevens Point but I don’t know about the others.


Christopher Cavanaugh said: Jul 12, 2013
Christopher CavanaughViolin, Cello, Viola
Manchester, NH
2 posts

My viola experience is shallow. Usually carry a couple students at a time.
I can say any of the bigger institutes will have a good viola representation.

Chris Cavanaugh
603 785-1884

Merietta Oviatt said: Jul 13, 2013
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

Throughout the years I have had hits and misses with violas. The times where I have had the biggest viola populations in my studio are when I’ve actively worked with viola sections and/or school orchestras. I’ve also just put it out there to violists that I am a violist and I want viola students. For example, my current studio has 14 students of which 8 are violists. More violists than violins! A couple of them came because a colleague of mine dropped a handful of students when she became pregnant and wanted to make sure her viola students went to a violist. A few others came from when I worked with a school orchestra and volunteered my time once a month to hold sectionals for the violas—the deal was I would work for free but got to give the kids a flyer regarding lessons each time I came (win-win for the orchestra teacher, by the way). After the kids got to know me after a few times they were asking their parents to please give them lessons. And finally, the usual, I started a couple of them on viola and switched a couple from violin to viola.

I do hold separate group classes for my violists. Luckily, right now I’m in a larger program where there are many teachers who teach groups with me, so all of our violists go into one class and it makes a decent sized group. Regardless, unless I only had one or two viola students I would be sure to offer a separate group (violists like to feel special). I do not look at the individual institute, I look for who the teachers are. For example, if I have a book 4 student and I see that Betsy Stuen-walker is teaching book 4 in Colorado then I encourage that student to take book 4 at that institute. Same goes for Dee Martz, Bill Preucil, etc… (there are so many good viola teachers!) This actually accomplishes a few things: it helps to encourage institutes to offer more viola options and it gets my students to teachers I know and adore for summer work.

I hope this helped! Good luck on building your viola studio!

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
[javascript protected email address]

Jennifer said: Jul 18, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
9 posts

Currently, I teach several families who have multiple children taking lessons. A couple of these students chose the viola in an effort to be different from their siblings who play violin. I often encourage parents to consider this as an option because siblings can be competitive yet be different, and they can also play together as they advance. I have one family that has 8 children, and the oldest kids (ages 5 and up) all play instruments. Four of them study with me—three on violin, and one on viola, and it works very well. In our school, I try to offer brand-new students (who have yet to choose an instrument) choices and play each instrument for them. Most of the kids don’t even know about viola unless they have a school orchestra program, and many who hear it like it better than violin (”no screechy E string,” haha!) I’ve found that many students choose violin without knowing what a viola is and later want to switch once they learn about the viola.

Sometimes I have group lessons for beginning violin and viola students together and simply work on listening, coordination, music games, etc., which are appropriate for both violin and viola students (these are usually for young, beginning students). As they get older, I hold separate violin and viola group classes. I occasionally have a violin class and a viola class play for each other, and then we will discuss as a group the similarities and differences in sound, technique, etc., they can ask questions, and they are similar enough that they can lightly critique, and they all love it.

The thing I hate most though is that small student violas seem to have the nastiest sounding C strings! We try changing them out for “nicer” ones, but not much better…Some of my teacher friends start students on violins for this reason and switch them to viola once they get to full size.

Jennifer Visick said: Jul 22, 2013
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

As a violist I tell parents of young beginning violin students up front that I don’t teach the violin past a certain level (book 4, at the moment). While I have a few people who have started on viola, I introduce all my book 4 students to both instruments. If they have more interest in studying violin at a more advanced level, I pass them on to local colleagues who are violinists, making more room in my studio for violists and new violinists (who might become violists eventually).

Finding a local luthier who is willing and able to do ‘hole-in-the-heart’ violin to viola conversions on fractional sized violins (since it’s very hard to find student violas that are smaller than 12 inches) is helpful in getting younger students to enjoy the viola.

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