Susan Bedell Violin Studio

About me

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Though my life’s work has centered around being a symphony musician, first with the Omaha Symphony, then with the Richmond Symphony and Williamsburg Symphonia, the joy of teaching, of working one on one with students, has offered me a welcome balance to  symphonic life. My development as a teacher is an amalgam of three influences: traditional conservatory training, Suzuki, and Feldenkrais. Though my traditional training is the source of teaching scales, arpeggios, thirds, double stops, shifting, and a myriad of etudes, it is the other two systems that have together defined and shaped my unique approach to teaching.

 

While performing with the Omaha Symphony, I had the good fortune to be asked to take a Suzuki training workshop and to join the staff of Omaha’s very impressive Suzuki Program. Thus my teaching career began in the context of a solidly tried system, the tenets of which have infused my teaching ever since. The brilliance in the Suzuki system lies in Dr. Suzuki’s ability to dissect to the nth degree exactly what happens when a fine violinist plays and then to translate that awareness into tiny bite-size learning pieces that can be repeated by the student over and over until learned and then celebrated. Dr. Suzuki was not in a hurry for students to play big pieces. Rather he took joy in, and encouraged his students to take joy in, the bigness of the little thing just learned. When done correctly, the children often take a year to learn the Twinkle Variations, giving them time to learn and absorb essential basics which can be the building blocks of a lifetime of playing. They learn how to hold the bow correctly, how to establish the core contact of the bow on the string, the movement by which the bow is opened both out towards the tip and up towards the frog; how to change string levels; how to hold the violin in an unencumbered way and establish a proper left hand formation which will allow him/her to play in tune and with facility.  It is by the proper learning of these basics that the student eventually develops an organized, peaceful, beautiful approach to the violin, one built from the natural propensity of the body to be relaxed, to have weight, to have loose joints. Pressing and squeezing do not exist in proper violin instruction. Rather, form, weight, and “letting go” in the joints are the elements of fine violin performance, elements which connect the body to the instrument in a way that allows the violin to ring, and that allows the student to connect one note to the next, creating beautiful phrases.

 

My third influence, Feldenkrais, is a body awareness through movement method which I studied under a wonderful 80ish year old woman who told me that “…after retiring from VCU as the chairman of the physical therapy department, I finally found out what I wanted to do with my life.” I mention this because I feel those words, coming from such an accomplished person, portray the value of the wisdom embodied in this method. So what, you may ask, does Feldenkrais have to do with learning the violin? When you recognize that playing the violin is totally physical - that it is akin to learning to dance – and that the quality of sound produced by the violin is affected by the motions of your body, then you can grasp the value of a body motion method which teaches that the body is one connected unit, and that when the body is loose and connected, movement in one part of the body will ripple though the entire body. It teaches one to “let go” of tensions and to allow the body to move with fluidity and grace.

 

I feel so fortunate to have fallen upon all three of these influences, and it has been my joy, connecting them, watching my own  style of teaching emerge from the joining of these three wonderful systems. I have been using this method for a long time now, and what can I say? ... It works!! It is such fun taking a student either from scratch or from anywhere along his/her path and leading him/her to make the ringing sounds which, when strung together, make what we know as beautiful music.  

 

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