Mason Community Arts Academy Violin Teaching Artist Claire Allen was named the 2019 Outstanding String Teacher Award by the Virginia Chapter of the American String Teachers Association (VASTA).
“I’m honored to receive this recognition from my colleagues,” said Allen. “As a new teacher, I was welcomed into the teaching community with fantastic teachers who have offered practical advice and tremendous empathy over the last several years. I am thankful to be considered in their company and humbled to receive this award from them.”
An Arlington native, Allen is an active performing violinist and teacher in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area teaching private lessons and group classes. Allen joined the Mason Community Arts Academy, the community arts division of George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, and has expanded the strings program to provide the students with various types of classes, camps, and performance opportunities.
“The Academy is thrilled that Claire decided to join our faculty in 2013,” said Elizabeth Curtis, Executive Director of Mason Community Arts Academy. “Our students have all benefited from her hard work and dedication, and she is so worthy of this recognition. Under her incredible leadership and guidance, we have an excellent comprehensive strings program that serves our students and families with distinction.”
Under Allen’s instruction and support, her students have participated in regional and national performances and competitions such as the American Protégé Competition, the Boulanger Initiative Launch Festival, District XII Senior Honor Orchestra, and Academy’s Music Competition. Several of her students have been placed in the American Youth Debut Orchestra, the American Youth String Ensemble, or top orchestras at their middle and high schools. Other student success, including achieving superior ratings at Solo & Ensemble festivals and the American String Teacher Association Certificate Advancement Program (ASTACAP).
“I am so excited for Claire to win this award!” said Jennifer Gibson, whose daughter, Lindsey, has been taking private violin lessons with Allen since 2014. “Claire puts 110 percent of herself into her teaching, so it’s nice to see her get some recognition outside the studio.”
Allen’s teaching focuses on building a healthy technical foundation and inspiring a vision of each student’s musical future. She aims to create an environment of support from peers for her students, where they can learn from one another.
Heidi Graff, a student parent, described Allen and her lesson as “clever and effective,” and a teacher who looks for innovative ways to teach skills. “Claire is an exceptional professional who cares deeply about her students,” said Graff.
“Claire has high standards and is always looking for new ways to engage the kids as they grow older,” said Gibson. “She builds not only great violinists, but also a strong community within her studio and group classes. Both are done intentionally and with great care for each student. She is a great role model for my daughter.”
“I want to provide spaces where my students can share their love and joy in music, commiserate over the frustrations, and just have fun with other people who understand what being a violinist is like,” said Allen. “Watching my students grow up together like a big extended family is one of my favorite parts of my job. They invite each other to birthday parties, coordinate their summer camp schedules, and greet each other warmly in the hallway between lessons.”
Allen received her Master of Music degree from Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University and Bachelor of Music degree from Baldwin-Wallace College, Conservatory of Music. She credited her education and her former teachers—Estelle Roth, Gene Pohl, Lisa Cridge, Julian Ross, Burton Kaplan, and Keng-Yuen Tseng—for inspiring her roles as a teacher and a violinist.
“I am particularly thankful for my current teacher, Rebecca Henry,” said Allen. “Her pedagogy class at Peabody showed me that private teaching was the career I wanted to pursue, and her mentorship after graduation continues to shape my teaching today.”
Beyond teaching, Allen is a professional violinist, and her recent activities include orchestral performances with the Tysons-McLean Orchestra, chamber music performances with Academy colleagues, adjudicating at ASTACAP, presenting and performing at the Boulanger Initiative Launch Festival, and attending the Starling-Delay Symposium at The Julliard School.