Teaching the Violin and Viola: Creating a Healthy Foundation

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Course Date: 23 September 2014 to 02 December 2014 (10 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

In a practical 10-session format, Creating a Healthy Foundation presents a holistic approach to beginning violin and viola pedagogy, offering both new and seasoned string teachers a step-by-step exercise guide and repertoire that will have students looking and sounding terrific.

Estimated Workload: 3-5 hours/week

Course Instructors

Stacia Spencer

Stacia Spencer is a senior lecturer in string pedagogy at Northwestern University Bienen School of Music and string coordinator for the Northwestern Music Academy. She also has been on the faculty of the Northwestern National High School Music Institute teaching violin, viola and chamber music. Prior to moving to the Chicago area, Ms. Spencer was an assistant professor of music at Indiana University School of Music, where she taught classes in violin and viola pedagogy and was the assistant to Mimi Zweig at the IU String Academy.

Ms. Spencer has a special interest in contemporary music, working with composers and performing new pieces. An eclectic musician and performer, she has been a vocalist and jazz singer in the Jon Eaton Pocket Opera Company in Chicago and New York. As a singer and electric violist she has also performed and recorded in the rock genre and was the singer and co-songwriter for the band Eggs @ 8:14. 

Ms. Spencer is a founding artist and co-creator of NON:op, an experimental, mulit-arts, non opera collective that produces site-specific works for non-traditional venues. She received her bachelors and masters degrees in viola from Indiana University School of Music, where she studied with Mimi Zweig, Kim Kashkashian and George Janzer. 

Ms. Spencer’s students have won many competitions and have been featured on “From the Top." They also participate in their school orchestras as well as the Chicago Youth Orchestras and the Midwest Young Artists Orchestras.  

Course Description

Join us as we explore the fundamental principles and early stages of teaching violin and viola through a series of engaging video lectures and lesson demonstrations, including:

  • Master classes with some of the world’s top string pedagogues
  • Individual lesson demos of teaching violin/viola set up, left and right hand technique and pieces from the early violin/viola repertoire
  • Group lesson demos of teaching music theory, ear training and fun activities that encourage good playing habits
  • A “field trip” to the violin shop, where we will outfit a new beginning student with a proper instrument and bow

You’ll also engage in a series of discussions and reflections with colleagues and peers across the globe. Upon completion of this course, we hope you’ll return to your studio with confidence, a new curriculum, and a renewed approach to sharing with your students the joyful experience of making beautiful music.


Session One: Beginning Stages
Leading philosophies and pedagogical theories for teaching children the violin

Session Two: Bow Arm and Hand
Violin setup and positioning

Session Three: Putting It All Together
Putting the violin and bow together

Session Four: Pieces in the Key of A Major
Teaching fundamentals via beginner pieces in the key of A Major

Session Five: Playing with the Whole Bow
Playing with the whole bow, and the "Adult" bow hold position

Session Six: Pieces in the Key of D Major
Pieces include "Long, Long, Ago," and "Butterfly, Flutterby"

Session Seven: Pieces in the Key of G Major
Pieces include "Minuet in G" and "The Happy Farmer"

Session Eight: Note Reading, Vibrato, and the Group Class
Best-practice teaching techniques for note reading, group dynamics, and beginning vibrato.

Session Nine: Favorite Exercises for the Older Student
Exercises include "Poof Bow" and the "Invisible Violin"

Session Ten: The Master Class
Learn from top pedagogues Mimi Zweig and Roland and Almita Vamos.


This course will feature weekly recommended readings, discussions, reflections and video content (including lectures, group/individual lesson demonstrations and master classes).

Suggested Reading

Early Violin/Viola Repetoire

01.  Bonnie Greene Violin Tune Book Series:  oneworldstrings.com

02.  Royal Conservatory Violin Series

03.  New Tunes for Strings: Stanley Fletcher

04.  O’Connor Method:  Mark O’Connor

05.  The Sassmannshaus Tradition:  Early Start on the Violin Vol. 1

06.  Suzuki Violin School

07.  The Adventures of Egbert: Mary Cohen

08.  Egbert’s Circus Games: Mary Cohen

09.  J.S. Bach Easy Violin Duets

10. Children’s Fiddling Method:  Carol Ann Wheeler

11.  Solos for Young Violinist:  Barbara Barber

12.  Quick Steps to Note Reading: Neil A. Kjos Music Company

13.  Fiddle Magic:  Sally O’Reilly

14.  Beginner Violin Theory For Children:  Mel Bay



01.  Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching by Ivan Galamian

02.  The Teaching of Action in String Playing: Developmental and Remedial Techniques for Violin and Viola by Paul Rolland

03.  Building Violin Skills by Edmund Sprunger

04.  Helping Parents Practice by Edmund Sprunger

05.  A Parents Guide to String Instrumental Study by Lorraine Fink

06.  The Music Parents’ Survival Guide: A Parent-to-Parent Conversation by Amy Nathan

07.  Nurtured by Love, The Classic Approach to Talent Education by Shinichi Suzuki

Websites & DVD’s








Course Workload

3-5 hours/week

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