Sweet Sounds of Strings in the Lower School

A unique program in our Lower School is violin lessons that begin the second grade. Every year, Dr. Jeannine Mongeon, Instructor of Strings, introduces second-grade students to the violin. Lessons begin with a mock violin made out of a box and ruler, and bow made out of a wooden dowel and eraser. The students use the box violin while learning skills that they will use with a real violin such as rest position, playing position, bow rhythms and bow exercises. Students also learn the names of the parts of the instrument and how to care for the violin.

They practice new skills such as lifting the bow into the air and doing a retake, a “circle,” during their Hoedown song. The classes continue to refine the ability to move the bow properly, use the bow to perform rhythms, and begin the first steps to coordinating the use of the bow and fingers.

“All the students are trying their best to learn the basic violin skills on the box violins,” said Dr. Mongeon. “Sometime during the second quarter, the students try their skills with a real violin, which is always an exciting moment. This is when the students transfer all of the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired on the box violin to the real instrument. Now the students are confronted with the next step of how to produce a pleasing sound.”

Third-grade students continue to refine their skills, posture and knowledge. They start the year by reviewing the parts of the instrument, bow touch, posture, bow rhythms, left-hand finger placement, and tone. There is a progress chart that the students will use to chart their progress with music pieces. The pieces they learned in November include “Hot Cross Buns,” “Burnt Buns,” “Buns in Arabia,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and “Descending Scale.”

As the second quarter progressed, students became more familiar with referring to their notes by the actual pitch name of the note. They worked on their left-hand posture and technique and learned about how to form a “tunnel” with their left-hand, which will allow them in the future to play more accurately in tune, as you cannot make a tunnel with a bent wrist. In the farther future these students will be able to play two notes at one time! Each student has a little ‘cheat sheet’ and a music book in their cases to help them learn how to play each song. Dr. Mongeon provides parents with links and resources to help.

“My third-grade students continue to try their best and make progress. I am very pleased with all the good habits that are forming this year, such as correct posture, beautiful tone, as well as accurate notes and rhythms. It is a joy to hear the students perform their pieces well and with confidence. These are proud moments for everyone in the classroom.”

We look forward to the time when we can see and hear these students perform!