The Patriot Violins visited Peabody Institute of the John Hopkins University along with their families and teacher, Claire Allen, on Saturday, February 22. They observed a chamber ensemble coaching, a violin masterclass, played in a group class co-taught by Ms. Allen and two preparatory teachers, Ms. Maya Shih and Dr. Elizabeth Adams, and participated in a masterclass taught by Ms. Allen’s former teacher at Peabody, Professor Keng-Yuen Tseng.
“It’s always important to seek inspiration when you’re studying music, and perspectives outside of one’s own ‘bubble’ are so valuable,” said Ms. Allen, Violin Teaching Artist at the Academy. “Peabody is where I studied pedagogy and began my own teacher training, so I have a strong connection to it. I feel really lucky that my own teachers and the other teachers at Peabody were so generous with their time and talents to give my students and me a glimpse into their program.”
Ms. Allen attended Peabody from 2011 to 2013, and received her master’s degree in violin performance while studying with Professor Tseng. She also studied pedagogy with Rebecca Henry, co-chair of the Peabody Preparatory String Department, and with whom she continues to study violin and pedagogy.
Inspired by her own time at Peabody, Ms. Allen planned the visit while teaching for Peabody’s Allegro strings camp in summer 2019. She worked with many teachers at Peabody in both the Preparatory and Conservatory divisions to make the visit happen, including Ms. Henry, Lenelle Morse, Ms. Shih, Dr. Adams, Dr. Tremblay, and Mr. Tseng.
Upon their arrival, the Academy families witnessed an advanced level chamber group rehearsal, performed by high school string students from Peabody’s Preparatory Performance Academy, followed by a masterclass with Boston Conservatory Professor, Katie Lansdale.
“We had a wonderful time at the Conservatory,” said Jinah Gwon, a Patriot Violins student parent. “Joshua really enjoyed watching the advanced string quartet. He was writing a lot of notes on his notebook while listening and compared his thoughts with the professor’s comments.”
Gwon said observing other performers in concerts, recitals, and music competitions benefit her son’s instrumental learning in a different way. “Joshua loves to be on the stage, and watching those talented students’ performance boosts his passion to music and makes him want to practice more.”
Besides class observation, students joined violinists from Peabody Young People’s String Program for a group class with Ms. Allen and Ms. Shih on fundamental techniques before the group took an in-depth analysis with Professor Elizabeth Adams on bow strokes and performance interpretation of “Humorosque” by Dvorak. After an insightful session, the Patriot Violins played “Tango” by Michael McLean, side-by-side with the Oistrakh and Kreisler group.
The Patriot Violins continued their visit and toured the Athur Friedheim Music Library, where an extensive collection of sheet music, scores, recordings, and books are collected, preserved, and made available to Peabody students and faculty for their studies.
The group ended their visit with a masterclass with Allen’s former teacher and Peabody professor, Keng-Yuen Tseng, who offered practical tips on playing the instrument and shared stories of building a healthy relationship with the instrument.
“The first part of training is the hardest,” said Professor Tseng. “String instruments, like violins, are extremely difficult to learn, and it tak es years to build a solid foundation. You shouldn’t rush to learn new pieces at the beginning of your study. You must spend time perfecting your techniques and finger position; otherwise, you will never achieve greater performance.”
Besides the students received new knowledge on their musical study, Allen loved seeing other teachers interacting with their students and learn new perspectives and methods on teaching.
“It was fascinating to see highly effective teaching approached in many different ways,” said Ms. Allen. “One of the Peabody teachers, Maya Shih, led our students through an open string martele exercise and inspired me to share it with my private students. I’ve been practicing it myself ever since the class, and it’s been really helpful.”
The Patriot Violins is designed to provide serious violin students with training and experiences that support them in becoming skilled musicians. It also gives them an opportunity to be in community with other like-minded violinists. Ms. Allen intentionally creates curriculum, activities, and performances around these core believes. Since being established in fall 2019, the Patriot Violins have performed at Arts By George, the MasonARC research conference, and the Academy winter recitals. They have played alongside the Green Machine at a Mason men’s basketball game, where they also performed The Star-Spangled Banner. The visit to Peabody was the most recent experience for these students.
“I loved seeing my students’ eyes light up during an observation when they heard incredible playing and just to see their excitement as we toured the school,” said Allen. “I can’t wait to see how the new ideas and inspiration influence my students going forward!”
The Patriot Violins are continuing their work digitally online, and we hope to see more creative projects from them very soon!