4 Quick Tips to Prepare for Orchestra

As our orchestra seasons start up for the year I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways I prepare for rehearsals and ultimately concerts. Here are 4 quick tips to help focus your practice!

  1. Listen – This one is critical. If you don’t know what the song sounds like, you may not play with the correct style, notes, rhythms, tempos, etc. If you are unsure of which recordings to listen to I highly recommend asking your teacher, director, or other musicians in the group. Bonus – Make a playlist with your repertoire for the entire season or school year.
  2. Metronome – Much of my individual preparation for orchestra is making sure I can play difficult or fast passages. I practice almost exclusively with my metronome when preparing for orchestra. Typically I start with a slow tempo (around 60 BPM). I use this slow tempo to get the passage under my fingers and improve intonation, as well as correct notes and rhythms. From there I use my metronome to speed up the passage as needed. Bonus – Use the subdivision function on your metronome.
  3. Scales and Arpeggios – I recommend practicing scales in the keys you will use for your orchestra repertoire. This will save so much practice time as many passages in your pieces are essentially scales and arpeggios. Practicing scales will also lead to better sight reading (a must when the librarian is unable to give out a part ahead of time!). Bonus – Use a drone to tune your scales and arpeggios.
  4. Mark it! – This is not only one of the most important parts of rehearsals, but a huge time saver when it comes to individual practice. I mark an “x” at the end of each line that includes a measure or measures that absolutely need to be practiced. This helps keep practice focused on the passages that actually need practice and saves time locating these spots. Once the passage is learned I erase the “x”.  During my first individual practice for each piece I mark every fingering, shift, dynamic, or bowing that I missed. This helps me focus on what to improve as I practice and is a quick reminder of what I’m supposed to do! Bonus – Put a few pencils in your case and music folders so that you never miss a note!

Suzuki Early Childhood Education

What is Suzuki Early Childhood Education?

Suzuki ECE classes are mixed age music and movement classes for students ages zero to 4 years. Children learn from one another by observing each other and participating. Young babies and children new to the class may observe many times before they are ready to have their turn. During this time they are learning by observing and their brains are developing, preparing them for the moment they are ready to try. Older children have the opportunity to develop leadership skills by demonstrating a skill so that they other children may learn from them. 

Parent involvement is critical and a parent attends each class as an active participant. Parents joyfully sing and dance, modeling each activity in class for the children around them. Parents also provide encouragement for the children through hugs, smiles, or other forms of positive feedback. Early in the stage of development a parent may take a listening turn with their child. Eventually the child will take their turn independently and even begin to move away from the parent for their turn. Parents also work to create a calm environment in the classroom by helping to keep the focus. They also actively help keep the calm by removing and refreshing their child if they are causing a disruption. Once their child’s calm is restored, they return to the class.

Environment nurtures growth. Weekly classes provide a calm and structured environment in which children will develop rhythm and melodic awareness, social skills, taking turns, focus through listening and concentration, fine and gross motor skills, singing and pitch matching, self confidence and self expression, group participation, language through vocabulary development, and creativity and sensitivity. We use a set repertoire from the SECE CD (Lullabies, Actions Songs and Rhymes by Dorothy Jones), which includes traditional lullabies, action songs, and nursery rhymes. Each family will have a CD for listening and singing at home. It is important to listen daily as the same repertoire is used in classes. Repetition and review combined with positive feedback will provide an opportunity for development and learning.

Ability develops early, allowing us to observe these skills in young babies. One activity we use in class is to roll the ball. Young babies will first learn to focus and concentrate on the ball as they sit in their parent’s arms. The next step you might see is their eyes tracking the ball, developing their sense of turn taking and focus. Once the baby can sit and have observed their parents, teachers, and the other children roll the ball many times, they may begin to experiment with their own ability to roll the ball, beginning to develop their motor skills. Their self confidence will develop through successfully rolling the ball (success breeds success) and positive feedback from those around them (encouragement is essential). Once they can roll the ball they are participating more actively in social skills such as turn taking and sharing, as well as developing sensitivity. They may also be working to regulate their emotions as they wait their turn. During this process they are also listening to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, developing an inner sense of beautiful music. During cuckoo they are not only using the aforementioned ball rolling skills, but also listening and beginning to match the pitch with their voice. Once they feel ready they will take their solo “here I am, here I am.” Every child can learn to do these skills given the time, opportunity, and proper environment. 

In class, children have the opportunity to hear and play musical instruments such as drums, glockenspiel, triangle, xylophone, and shakers. In addition to playing instruments, children will sing, dance, listen, participate in rhythmic activities, clap, be involved in social interactions, read, and count. Story time is included with each class. Parents will participate in parent education topics, observing, participating, helping, encouraging, and journaling. Children learn from each other, the teachers, and the parents as singing, nursery rhymes, and rhythmic activities are modeled for them.

The SECE curriculum was developed by Dorothy Jones, a world renowned Suzuki specialist in Early Childhood Education. It takes the core Suzuki principles used in Suzuki instrumental lessons and is designed to develop the whole child musically, emotionally, mentally, and intellectually. SECE classes prepare children for environments such as music lessons, school, and other group activities.


Winter Workshop 2019

We had a wonderful time at our Winter Workshop this weekend! Friday night we had our first repertoire class at Overstreet Dance Center. On Saturday we had another repertoire class where we did some great review, took Aunt Rhody on an adventure, and learned about keeping the beat with our lollipop drum. Brad taught a fun ukulele class where we learned how to play Happy Birthday, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Baby Shark, and Someone to Lava. La Jean made awesome music tote bags for us to decorate in our crafting class. After lunch we had our Masterclass, String Olympics (events included bow spiders, musical twister, and violin/viola caterpillar), and Play Down. We finished the weekend by creating a sound track with violin sound effects to a Tom and Jerry Cartoon.

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Group Class

Group classes are an essential part of the Suzuki approach and our musical journey. Not only is playing with others incredibly fun, it provides motivation and an opportunity for teamwork. Group lessons are a time for students and parents to connect with their peers and enjoy being a part of the Suzuki community. Group lessons provide a number of opportunities to grow at each stage of development. Group classes are an opportunity to practice old skills and learn new ones, as well as how to interact with a group, play together, follow a leader, become a leader, and to perform. Group class provides each child with an opportunity to learn from a peer and become a leader or teacher themselves. It helps to grow their confidence and self-esteem. Group classes also provide a supportive environment to practice performing, develop ensemble skills, and develop social skills. Review in group classes greatly supports the review efforts at home. Older students get extra review practice, while younger students have the opportunity to be active listeners of pieces they will soon play. Playing with others is one of the most joyful musical experiences!

The most successful Suzuki families are committed to creating the time in their schedules for daily practice and listening. They are also committed to attending weekly lessons, group classes, recitals, and workshops.

Don’t forget that our first class of the year is this Friday, January 11th from 5 PM to 6 PM! We will be at our new group class location, Overstreet Dance Center. We will be holding classes in the blue studio, which is adjacent to their beautiful waiting room! Directions can be found here.


Join Me!

Winter Teacher Workshop 2019

I just registered for the Winter Teacher Workshop with Carol Tarr A Super-Hero Twinkle Sandwich: Some Insights and Nourishment forTeaching Toddlers! I hope that you consider joining me! Registration is only $25 for SAC Members ($35 for non-members). The teacher events are always so much fun – including lunch, professional development, and socializing/discussion with other local Suzuki teachers! Register now to reserve your spot:


Our Fall in Review!

Congratulations to everyone for a fabulous fall semester at Andrea Coyle’s Violin & Viola Studio, LLC! There has been so much amazing practicing, performing, and listening going on in the studio. Below I’ve listed some of the highlights of the past few months. I also wanted to announce that our Friday group classes will now be held in a beautiful studio space at Overstreet Dance Center! More information about our spring group classes is available in your most recent newsletter.

Most recently we went “caroling” at a local nursing center! Students played a range of holiday tunes in two parts! Don’t they look lovely in their festive attire?

Holiday Recital 2018

In October we had our Fall Recital (complete with costumes)! In addition to performing solos, students participated in several group pieces. Our Fall Recital marked the end of our Fall Listening Challenge. Participating students were entered into a drawing for a change to win CDs!

Fall Recital 2018 4Fall Recital 2018 1

In September, studio students attended the SAC Denver Fall Festival where they participated in repertoire classes, a play-in, recitals, and enrichment classes. Parents had the opportunity to attend a parent meeting and I attended a teacher workshop as part of the festival.


We had several book recitals this fall, including M. (viola Book 1+) and S. (violin Book 1).

We had four students audition for All county and all four students were accepted!

  • Charlie (High School Viola)
  • Madelyn (Middle School Violin)
  • Lily (Middle School Viola)
  • Kaitlin (Middle School Viola)

Lily was also accepted to play viola in the orchestra at the 1st Suzuki Convention of the Americas in Mexico. I’m so excited to hear about her experience this May!

Many of the students in the studio play in school orchestras, after school music programs, youth orchestras, and more.

In addition to all of these special events and accomplishments the studio had 436 private lessons, 10 group classes, 2 studio recitals, attended concerts, and have had countless hours of practicing and listening.

In addition to teaching this fall, I also performed viola with the Evergreen Chamber Orchestra, attended a teacher workshop through SAC, served as Secretary of the Suzuki Association of Colorado, and led classes and the viola play-in at the SAC Denver Fall Festival. In the studio I continue to learn about teaching, practice my violin and viola (both classical and fiddling), read, and work on my writing for an upcoming project.

Happy holidays! I’ll see everyone in the new year for another amazing year of music!


Looking Forward

As I prepare for the 2018-2019 year I thought I’d share some studio updates! I’m so pleased with our thriving studio of 30+ violinists and violists! We have been working all summer long on our Ice Cream Challenge and Choose Your Own Adventure. I’m really looking forward to hearing everyone perform their piece of choice at the recital this Saturday! I hope to play a few pieces myself! Many students are already finished with their Ice Cream Challenge and are looking forward to our ice cream party on September 7!

Parents Night – Mark your calendar for August 31 at 6 PM at the studio. We will work to create community by sharing information about practicing, tips and tricks for Suzuki parenting, the schedule and studio information, along with a few new things for the year (including chamber music!).


Challenge yourself to Practice

If you are having a tough time getting in all of your practice, challenge yourself to do more! Consider following along with a 30, 50, or 100 day challenge. Or challenge yourself to do 5 days a week for 1 month. You will notice a difference! Don’t forget to follow Andrea Coyle’s Violin & Viola Studio on social media for practice ideas and inspiration! Why wait until the new year. Think of how many repetitions and hours you could practice between now and 2018! Knowledge plus 1000 times equal ability!


Practice and Plan!

Half the battle of practicing is finding a time to practice and assembling all of your practice tools. I use several methods of keeping track of my practicing including to do list, a calendar, and notebook. I’d love to hear what you use to organize!

To Do List
Post its:
I use these to jot down quick reminders. These typically last only a few minutes as they are meant to be a temporary brain dump.
Wunderlist: I love this app! I can use it on my phone or computer. I can have multiple lists with subtasks and notes all in one place. A few of my lists include daily activities (such as a specific piece I need to listen to or practice), shopping list, gift lists, and books to read. I also have a master list for my music studio that includes things like marketing, photo copies, professional reading/listening, wish list, and large project task lists (such as my new studio notebook). I love that I can create separate lists, subtasks, and priority items. I can easily reorder items to show priority.
How to use it for practicing: Create a list (or lots of lists) for practicing. Ideas for practice lists include: practice strategies, repetition ideas, techniques, practice spots, review pieces, pieces to listen to, favorite composers, favorite violinists/violists, daily order of practice items

Google Calendar: 
I have a google calendar that syncs across all of my devices and onto my website. My MMS calendar and ECO rehearsal schedule sync to this as well. I schedule everything on this! Important practice sessions, lessons, rehearsals, family events, appointments, meetings, library due dates, etc. Any thing that has a deadline, or requires my attention, gets a spot on my calendar.
How to use it for practicing: Create an event that repeats everyday for practicing! Figure out a time that you can practice everyday. I recommend trying to schedule a morning practice session. That will leave time later in the day for additional practice sessions.

In addition to my to do lists and my calendar, I have two primary notebooks. The first is used for daily notes and ideas (like a journal). This book is primarily used for personal goal and record keeping (such as practicing everyday). My favorite notebook is a tiny paperback notebook that I use to write all of my music and professional notes from conferences, meetings, and business research.
How to use it for practicing: Use a physical notebook to keep track of what you practice, when you practice, what you will practice next time, and any practice questions you may have.


Summer Recital and Fall Practice

Andrea Coyle’s Violin & Viola Studio Summer Recital July 29, 2017

What a great Summer Recital! Congratulations to everyone who performed on violin, viola, and ukulele! I’m so proud of everyone for their hard work this summer. Keep up the good work!

I look forward to starting our fall lessons on September 1st! Please start working on your school year practice schedule. Fall is a busy time for scheduling school, homework, lessons, birthday parties, dance classes, and sports. Please don’t forget to schedule your daily practice in addition to your music lesson, group classes and recitals!