Music Teachers Magazine - STRINGS issue.


I had to admit I held off looking into this DVD because I found the cover so off--‐putting…….Fortunately as soon as you hear Faith Whiteley speak in her pleasant and engaging manner, it becomes clear that this is a resource for all, whether or not the particular teaching situations shown resonate strongly with you. Whiteley has condensed her forty--‐odd years of teaching experience and learning regarding technique into one neat catalogue of what to cover, when to do it and how to do it.

Having video clips for every ‘entry’ in this catalogue allows the viewer to observe realistic results at every level, from the youngest beginners through to advanced school--‐ leavers.

It is really instructive to see Whiteley’s clear explanations and task setting, her rigorous demands and focus on the positive.

As set out in the helpful DVD inlay, the disc is organised into three main sections: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced; plus Warm--‐ups, Scales and Extras in the form of handy RDFs.

Within each of the main sections are sub--‐ sections titled Supporting the Violin, Bowing Technique and Left hand Technique.

And within each of these are many sub--‐ headings, for example, Dropped or ‘Thrown’ Bows within which come several further separate teaching points.

It is worth noting that some teaching ideas are included exactly the same in every level, perfectly illustrating their simplicity and also what it takes to master them.

There are many brilliant teaching ideas, some original and many a homage to great pedagogues. Perhaps inevitably, there are also one or two controversial ideas but these are only significant enough to spice up ones interest in a very worthwhile resource to be referred to again and again.

The Australian String Teacher's Association magazine 'Stringendo' by Mary Nemet-Elliot

As Faith Whiteley says in her introduction to her beautifully produced DVD, this is the product of a lifetime of learning how to teach.

Over 50 years, Faith has taught violin from beginners to very advanced performers, in every type of school in the English education system, and at university and in specialist music colleges including the celebrated Menuhin School.

She was Head of the Guidhall's string training program for 17 years and continues to teach in their Junior Department. 

Her many past pupils, now professional musicians, are testimony to her training. With a total playing duration of almost five hours, this DVD is all-encompassing in its scope.

Starting with beginners, exercises demonstrate the fundamentals in clear and concise ways. Intermediate and advanced techniques follow, all clearly set out in the accompanying leaflet as well as on the menu. There are demonstrations and helpful tips on many techniques, including double-stops, chromatic scales, sautille, practising fast passges, developing vibrato, string-crossing, legato playing and shifting.

Warm ups for both left and right hand are invaluable aids, as are the sensible tips on how to practice and the helpful suggestions for parents and teachers. We should be extremely grateful to this dedicated tutor who so generously shares her lifetime experience of teaching.

Her warmth, honesty, integrity and intelligence clearly come across in this remarkable film. It is a splendid resource for teachers and students alike, no matter what their status. 

REVIEW from ARCO the European String Teachers Association magazine by Matthew Lee

This DVD comprises of violin teacher Faith Whiteley’s lifetime collection of exercises and lessons, from the first lessons to advanced performances, showing her ideas on how to develop a sound technique. Faith has specialised in teaching the violin to children from beginners to very advanced performers in every type of school in the English education system, university departments, specialist music schools and the Yehudi Menuhin School.

As the introduction states, the exercises and lessons contain the distilled essence of Faith’s lifetime of teaching. The DVD is a resource of exercises, demonstrations and lessons for teachers and students. Its intention is for use as an encyclopaedia, not as a continuous narrative.

This DVD can be approached at a number of levels:

The student who is considering taking on some teaching will find a wealth of ideas and practical approaches with which to begin their own teaching journey, a foundation from which to grow and develop their own ideas.

The inexperienced teacher will find it a very useful tool in developing their approaches to specific issues that arise. String teaching can be a very isolated profession for some and therefore a resource like this will provide a necessary lifeline when moments of support are needed and there is no one around to ask for ideas. I can imagine that it would also be a very useful resource when preparing to take one of the accredited teaching diploma qualifications on offer by the various teaching boards.

For the more experienced teacher, much of the material available will provide an ‘aide de memoire’ of ideas used within our own teaching, assimilated over the years from experiences with our own teachers, mentors, Inset and ESTA training sessions and some ideas that we have developed in parallel using our own pedagogical skill base. Some of the content we will find refreshing and innovative, others taking the form of ‘old wine in new bottles’ and some, no doubt, we will disagree with. This is the case in every item of pedagogical literature that any experienced teacher comes across, the true worth of the material being the encouragement to question and evaluate our personal teaching practises and beliefs.

I think that Faith should be applauded in putting her teaching ideas on film. It is probably as difficult for a teacher to set their ideas down in such a lasting way as for any performer to record their definitive version of unaccompanied Bach. Faith has tackled it with complete honesty and integrity. Her enthusiasm, knowledge and skill are there for all to see and use in what ever way they best can, it is a shame that more of our colleagues do not take the leap of faith and provide us with the ultimate insight into their work and experience. This is definitely a resource that I will be revisiting throughout my teaching on occasion when I need input on a practical level about specific topics.

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