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Slapin-Solomon Duo and Studios

(413) 345-5062

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VIOLIN AND VIOLA LESSONS

“I feel strongly that every child – not just the musically gifted – should receive some musical instruction. With rare exceptions, children have an instinct for music, are to a certain extent musical, and should be musically developed. For the child’s own future enjoyment and his own satisfaction, he should learn to play an instrument. These days, when we are trying to make things easier for our children, we may be too timid about the process of their learning an instrument. Children should be forced to learn an instrument, gently but firmly.”

- Jascha Heifetz

Teaching Philosophy

Our main goal in the lesson is to help you build a solid technical and musical foundation in an enthusiastic and non-judgmental atmosphere. We gear our lessons to the individual and endeavor to foster a deep love of music and sense of accomplishment.

The emotional benefits of both playing and listening to music are well documented. A good teacher can help make your musical journey fun as well as give you technical advice that only comes from much experience in the field. We have extensive knowledge of many approaches from which to draw, and we do not believe in the "one size fits all" method of teaching.

In addition to playing great music, learning an instrument also comes with social benefits. Once at a certain level of proficiency, it is possible to join a community orchestra and to read chamber music with like-minded people.

We have taught students of all ages, and it is never too late to take up a string instrument if you have a passion for it. We enjoy teaching students along the full spectrum, from complete beginners to advanced professionals, and the unique challenges at various stages of progress keep us in shape as teachers. We look forward to meeting you and coming up with a plan that is best suited for your personal situation.

- Scott and Tanya
Tuition rates for Amherst and South Hadley (please inquire about Skype rates and individual lesson rates):

​Private violin lesson/viola lesson rates $150 - $280 per month 
Rates vary depending on length of lessons (30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 1 hour) and location.

Locations:

Amherst, MA
South Hadley, MA
Online lessons via Skype

Sign up here for lessons via Skype or in Western MA!

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(Photo by Diana Isabel Smith)

FAQ:

What instruments do you teach?
We each teach the viola and her little brother the violin. Scott also teaches composition. 
Do you teach people my age?
If you are at least 8 years old, yes we do. We also have many adult students...it's never too late to take lessons!
Where do lessons take place?
We have a studio in South Hadley, MA where most lessons take place during the week. On Saturdays, we teach in Amherst, MA (just north of the UMASS campus).
How much do lessons cost?
That depends on how long your lesson is and where it takes place. Lessons can cost as little as $150/month for 30-minute lessons in South Hadley or as much as $280/month for 1-hour lessons in Amherst.
Do I need to purchase a violin/viola first?
It's a good idea to at least rent a violin or viola before your first lesson. Please avoid purchasing instruments online (Amazon, Ebay, etc). That is a very risky move. You may end up with an instrument that is ok or it may be awful. Without seeing it and hearing it in person, you are taking a chance. Please get in touch with us about local violin shops.
Why should I take lessons with you? There's a violin teacher right down the road from me.
There is a big range in teachers. While we don't know how your neighbor teaches or plays, we have a great deal of experience both in teaching as well as performing as soloists, chamber musicians, and in full-time orchestras. We have studied with some of the leading teachers at well-known conservatories such as the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. You can even hear us play on many recordings (look for us on iTunes or Spotify)! We also have many videos up on Youtube. We would love for you to check them out as well as those of other teachers you are considering! 
I have soccer sometimes and might have to miss some lessons. Can I get a refund for missed lessons?
While we understand you have other interests ouside of the violin/viola, we are still reserving a specific time for you every week. We will likely not be able to fill this time so we cannot refund money for those lessons missed. To keep scheduling easy for everyone, we ask that you look over the upcoming year and choose a time that will work from September through June. Of course, in the event of a real emergency, we'll try to work with you.
I live in California. Can I take Skype lessons?
Of course! We have taught over Skype for many years (from Australia to Austria!) and we think it works very well for those with some experience. As long as you have played previously for at least a year and have high-speed internet, we are happy to give you lessons over Skype. 
How much are Skype lessons?
SKYPE lesson pricing: 45-minute lessons $220/month, 1-hour lessons $260/month
I'm not sure if I should take 30-minute lessons or 1-hour lessons. How do I decide?
Generally, students under the age of 12 take 30-minute lessons (unless they are quite advanced already or have a much longer attention span). For everyone else, usually 45 minutes or 1 hour is a good length for a lesson as we have more repertoire/music to work on the more advanced you become. Sometimes adult beginners ask for 30-minute lessons if their work schedule is especially busy and we are generally able to accomodate that.
I want to play in an orchestra. Do you offer that?
Yes! We have a string ensemble that rehearses 2 Saturdays per month during the year in Amherst. Generally, students must be age 12 or older (including adults!) and around Suzuki book 3 level or higher. It's a mixed level group that ranges from people who have played only a couple of years to those who are quite advanced.
I'm 60 years old. Can I still learn to play the violin/viola?
Of course! Anyone can learn at any age.... we've taught students over 80! We are careful with adults to help them steer clear of injuries that can sometimes arise from playing, and we go out of our way to take their specific needs into account when making lesson plans. 
Can you come to my house to teach since I have 2 children who want lessons?
Unfortunately we don't travel to teach, except to our studio in Amherst on Saturdays. If we can find a time, we can try to schedule your two children back to back (we do not teach group lessons). Please inquire.
I live in a retirement community and can't drive to lessons. Can you teach me here?
Unfortunately we don't travel to teach (see above). However, if you can get several people to sign up for lessons in your community, please let the community manager know and perhaps we can work something out.
Do you teach Suzuki?
While we don't teach the "Suzuki Method" specifically, we do use the books for beginners. If you are starting the violin/viola at age 2-5, a Suzuki teacher can be very helpful. In general, we stick to the most standard materials for developing technique both in repertoire (such as the pieces contained in the Suzuki books) and in etudes such as Wohlfahrt, Kayser, Kreutzer, Rode, Gavinies, and Paganini.
I only have time for 1 or 2 lessons per month. Is that ok?
We believe that weekly lessons are the best option, especially for beginners. Based on experience, we do not offer only 1 lesson per month as we do not believe it leads to success. However, we may offer two lessons per month (South Hadley only) if that is the only option for you (except for beginners and younger students). This is determined on a case by case basis. It's very important to have continuity in the beginning otherwise you will forget important things in between lessons leading to bad habits that are hard to get rid of. Having someone there at regular-enough intervals to remind you how to play correctly is key.

Sign up here for lessons via Skype or in Western MA!


Where do you fall on the spectrum?

How to Find the Right Private Teacher For You

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Most people of course are not at either extreme but somewhere in the middle. This is likely good for society! 

However, it's through exploring the extremes that we can find our own tendencies. Since we're not having a face-to-face conversation right now... be honest with yourself: What are you looking to do? And where does this put you on the spectrum? Sure, your goals likely will change over time in one direction or the other, but you need to be able to evaluate which teacher in the area might be a good fit for you right now. (Or whether it's worth driving out of the area or studying with someone over Skype.)

Before even considering a trial lesson, you should do some research. This is the part most people skip, and it's probably the most important part of the entire equation. Even if you lean more toward the left side of the spectrum, where this is mainly a fun activity with few serious long-term goals, you'll at least want to make sure that a prospective teacher has a minimum proficiency on your instrument, a history of teaching, accepts students in your (or your child's) age range, at your (their) current level of ability, and you'll want to find out about other details including pricing, where their studio is located, policies, etc. This should all be easy enough to find on their website. Should all of that look good, it could be this is all you need to be ready to contact them about a trial lesson.

The farther toward the right and toward the more serious side of the spectrum you lean however, the more additional research there is for you to do. How qualified is this person to teach what I'm interested in learning? Do go ahead and read their bio and teaching philosophy to get a sense of their education, professional experience, and ideas. Find them at YouTube, listen to recordings. Ask any good musicians you know for advice/recommendations. Only at this point might it make sense to take a trial lesson with someone.

While one-off trial lessons are not a great time to find out about their qualifications (that should be done before), they are good for getting an assessment of where you currently are and come up with a plan going forward. Trial lessons are a good way to give you a sense of whether you can get along with the prospective teacher or not. You want to make sure that both of you are on the same page as to what you're looking to accomplish--- and that you simply like being in the same room together for an hour at a time! Longer trials such as a month or three months are obviously better to see how you will work together, but if you don't have that luxury, one will give you a general idea.

In lieu of research, some people like to schedule a week of trial lessons to "audition" multiple local teachers, which we'd have to advise against. To start with, unless you happen to already be an advanced musician yourself, you likely don't know enough to assess who is the best teacher for you/your child from one trial lesson alone. Friendliness is great, but it shouldn't be mistaken for ability either in performance and/or teaching. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, you'll need both of these to *some* degree. Secondly, not all teachers will agree to be 'auditioned' in this way. If they sense a parent is letting their young child choose, and the child is shopping around for the most fun, easiest experience (i.e. no one will make them practice!), some will simply not agree to the audition, and you may be missing out on a real opportunity.

Anyone can say they are a private violin/viola teacher. Let me repeat that: There is a wide range of people who will offer to give you lessons in exchange for money, and there is no regulating agency to oversee them. There is no sort of federal, state, or local licensing procedure. If you wouldn't hire a plumber without a license and recommendation, then you shouldn't hire a violin teacher without the right credentials etc. either! 

There are many highly skilled teachers out there simply with differing competencies.... and you should do the research to find one who is right for you. We specialize in teaching adult students, and we have taught quite a few students younger than that as well. However, we're good at assessing and are very up front if we don't think we're the best fit for your needs. As you are putting your (or your child's) education in the hands of someone who will be a strong influence on you (or them) musically and perhaps generally as a mentor as well, we believe in not wasting your time if we're not the right fit and will happily refer you to someone else.

In the age of the internet, research is easier than ever and the best tool you have to do the work to find the right teacher for your needs.

“Providing violin and viola lessons to Western Massachusetts, including South Hadley, Holyoke, Amherst, Northampton, Easthampton, Longmeadow, Hadley, and Springfield."

©2019 Scott Slapin and Tanya Solomon
All rights reserved.