Back to school! Tips for encouraging success in music class.

Back to school! Tips for encouraging success in music class.

Ready to get back to school?! Get ready for music classes with these tips!

Including music classes as part of your child’s education is something we feel is essential!  In D97 string classes and band are offered beginning in fourth grade. While I wish these classes started as young as Kindergarten or earlier, starting as soon as possible will prepare your child to join one of the ensembles in middle school and high school where they will have the opportunity to develop relationships with peers who are motivated and invested in something positive and worthwhile.

Here are some tips for beginning your child’s musical education journey on a high note:

1. START EARLY: Did you know that many students studying at OPSA begin lessons at the age of 4 or 5 years old and continue through high school? Consider preparing your kindergarten or early elementary student now by starting lessons with a local teacher.  While we are partial to violin lessons at OPSA, we can help recommend teachers in the area for many other instruments.

2. QUALITY FROM THE START: Find a great teacher right from the start. Many a student has quit and decided they didn’t have musical ability simply because their first experience was not designed in a way that built in success. This is heartbreaking. Avoid having to undo bad habits–both physical and mental—right from the beginning by finding a great teacher from the start.

3. TEACHING vs. PERFORMING: Ask about pedagogical training. While a teacher should be an excellent player able to demonstrate in a beautiful and skillful way (and demonstrate often in the lessons), being able to play is NOT a sign that one can teach. This would be like assuming that a farmer can cook great meals. Maybe, but maybe not. A desirable teacher will demonstrate in the lesson (after all, music is a language that needs to be heard. Not hearing it would be like trying to learn French by only reading it–tres absurde!) as well as provide assignments for practice that leave the student and parent feeling like they know what to do, how to do it and exactly how to tell that they have achieved success in their practice.

4. CORRECT SIZE: Make sure your teacher helps you find the right size and quality instrument for your child. Did you know that violins come in different sizes? Did you now that one of the biggest demotivators for kids is having a violin that is too big which makes it harder to play? You may have heard that violins are like wine–the older the better. Without your teacher’s guidance, how do you know what makes a good violin for your individual child?

5. PLAN FOR SUCCESS: Make sure your teacher has a plan. Whether it is helping you select a violin or actually playing the violin, you need guidance. Playing the violin is not like piano or even most woodwind and brass instruments. Playing the violin is one of the most challenging things your child might ever do. BUT WAIT! Please don’t run away. Having a teacher with a plan (which often arrives from a combination of pedagogical training, experience and getting to know the particular student) can truly make or break your child’s experience. A step by step plan given in small increments can help to make the process fun, enjoyable, and most importantly–successful! At OPSA, we pride ourselves in helping every child know that they can do anything they put their mind (and time) towards. Musical talent is not inborn!

6. COOPERATION NOT COMPETITION: Cooperation and inspiration–not competition. OPSA includes a community of students (and parents) that are well trained. Some may look at the success of our students and think that it is achieved through competitive pressure. This could not be more incorrect. Rather than dull drilling, berating, pressure and competition, we provide our students with goals that they can strive for among a group of peers who inspire one another to be the best they can be by following through and committing to a path of excellence. We provide our students with clear assignments that help develop not only a beautiful sound, skill, and heart but also a sense of what mastery means and an appreciation for an art form that can (when developed skillfully) express the joys and sorrows of humanity. (Whew! What an awful lot at stake!). It is not uncommon to see a parent of one OPSA child congratulating the child of another because they’ve seen their struggle and been down that challenging road themselves and know just how much work they’ve all put in to arrive here.

7. FIND YOUR MUSIC COMMUNITY: No matter how much a child may complain about practice, I have never heard an adult come up to me and say, “I am so glad my parents let me quit.” In fact, I hear the opposite quite often; adults telling me with tears in their eyes, “I used to play and I wish I had kept it up. I’m trying now, but it is much harder.” Having friends and family around who also play or are learning to play instruments can help provide your child with a sense that this is something many people do and enjoy. Family jam sessions (no matter your ability level!) can be great fun and go a long way to encourage ownership for a budding musician. A pedagogical plan, a community of students and parents who are on a similar path, an individualized approach, and support for the parents are all necessary in order to keep the musical journey going.

Finally, learning how to play the violin in a way that teaches one how to break down something so challenging into smaller, more manageable steps is a skill that we all want for our children. On those days when they are grown and adulting just becomes too much for a moment, we hope that being able to go play chamber music with their friends, or simply for themselves, will be enough to help them recharge and find peace and beauty in their life.

OPSA welcomes new violin faculty member, Angela Thompson

OPSA welcomes new violin faculty member, Angela Thompson

Joining the OPSA violin faculty this September, violinist, and Suzuki specialist, Angela Thompson.


Angela received her Bachelor’s Degree from the National Conservatory of Peru in violin performance. She has played as a soloist with the Cusco Symphony Orchestra and has taken master classes from internationally known violinists, such as Ray Chen and Rachel Barton Pine

Angela has over a decade of teaching experience. In 2015, she co-founded the Capulitaki School of Music in Lima, Peru, which currently teaches Classical and Latin American traditional music to children of all ages. Her students have participated in musical festivals, concerts, and institutes and have toured various cities throughout Peru. Angela has completed Suzuki training courses for Books 1- 8 as well as numerous enrichment courses with some of the most skilled teachers of our generation including, Nancy Lokken, Marilyn O’Boyle, Ann Montzka, Nancy Jackson, Fernando Piñero, and Carol Dallinger. She has also received training in the Dalcroze and Kodaly methods. She has taught at festivals and institutes around Peru and was the elected Violin Coordinator of the Suzuki Association of Peru from 2015-2017.

Angela loves traveling, her two cats, and learning different styles of music. She occasionally dabbles in amateur theatre and dance. 

We hope you will all warmly welcome Angela to our OPSA community!

(Read about our other remarkable faculty here!).