Creative Strings Workshop: Part One

 "Stuy" Hall on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University. Our home, rehearsal space, and classroom for the 2018 Creative Strings Workshop.

"Stuy" Hall on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University. Our home, rehearsal space, and classroom for the 2018 Creative Strings Workshop.

Despite the overwhelming Midwest heat of Central Ohio, I made the journey from Seattle to a long-awaited Creative Strings Workshop earlier this Summer. The Creative Strings Workshop is the brainchild of renown string educator and jazz violinist, Christian Howes. I first came across Chris' work through YouTube videos and subsequent content on Facebook, podcasts, and conversations with other string players. What attracted me was Chris' story, and his passion for the violin and how the instrument can be a tool for creative expression regardless of style or genre. The workshop hosted a diverse gathering of 60 string players from all corners of the world with varied musical background from conservatories to fiddle camps. With players from France, Japan, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and beyond, it seemed the strings world converged on small-town Delaware, Ohio for this special week of music making. (It was also nice running into fellow Pacific Northwesterners, too!)

So what were we all doing here then? 

As with many string players, including myself, a traditional pathway toward learning the violin, viola, or cello was taken typically through either the Suzuki method or primary school orchestra. In either case, a prescribed selection of songs, typically "Classical" music was laid out and development grew out of preparations for recitals, concerts, auditions, and shows. For my formative years, this became an important foundation for my discipline, ear training, and technique. 

Through circumstance and curiosity, my musical interests have expanded outside the classical realm.  I imagine with many other workshop attendees, we discovered our instrument can exist outside of a recital hall or an orchestra pit. We dabbled in jamming and harmonizing to rock and pop covers, sat in old-time fiddle circles or heard a jazz violin solo in passing. Creative Strings Workshop offered us a chance to delve deeper into non-classical genres in a way that pressed against long-held notions of learning music "by the book" while uncovering our unique voice as string players. Clinics and ensembles emphasized skills like developing improvisational proficiency, broadening our backing band and jamming techniques. Whether playing in a jazz combo or fiddle circle, we quickly realized how valuable these skills are exploring these new playing styles.

The workshop was such a rich confluence of new musical experiences and knowledge for me. The intensity and perpetual nature of the schedule left me both exhausted and excited as each day passed.   Because of this, I am finding it best to share my experience in a series of blog posts in the coming weeks. Beyond being a journal piece, my intention through is to offer insight into how this workshop supports to my teaching philosophy and perhaps promotes future musical opportunities to interested families. 

Please check back on this site and my social media channels for further updates.

Studio News - October 2017


Studio News - October 2017

In the Groove

I hope you are all settling into the rhythm of the new school year. I can definitely sense my students' renewed energy for their instrument. Beyond lessons, I've got exciting events and partnerships planned to keep your violinist energized throughout the year. Please read for more...

Studio Event Dates

As many students are progressing and learning more tunes, participating in jams will be even more enjoyable. Please save the following dates for our scheduled jams and performances.  In addition, I am partnering with other musicians and neighborhood teachers to keep growing this musical community. More on that later.  
  • Fall Studio Jam - Saturday, November 4th 1:30-3:00pm (Collaboratory)
  • Carolling in Columbia City - Sunday, December 10th
  • Winter Jam - Saturday February 3rd @1:30pm (Collaboratory)
  • Year-End Showcase - Saturday June 16th @4:30pm (Collaboratory)

Policy Quiz

Thanks to the returning families who responded and participated in the policy quiz last month. I wanted to clarify one part of my policy regarding rescheduling make-up lessons.  As catch-up weeks are built in opportunities to schedule make-up lessons, they are not the only time to do so. I will post regular time slots on the calendar or will convert any cancellations for make-up lessons. Please visit the calendar to see any upcoming availability or just send me an email to schedule any make-ups

Discovery Workshop Referrals

This past weekend marked the end of the Fall Discovery Workshop at the Collaboratory. We had a great time learning the position songs and all the music this instrument makes.  I will be hosting a workshop again in January.  If you refer a family to attend the workshop, I am happy to provide a referral credit toward tuition. 

Did You Know: Auto-Pay

Auto Pay will automatically pay emailed invoices. The system will charge the invoice total to the card on file. If you would like to save a card to file and/or enable the auto pay feature:

  1. Click "Settings" in the top-right corner.
  2. Select "My Preferences" from the drop-down menu.
  3. Click the green button that appears in the "Stored Payment Options" section.
  4. While entering your billing details, you will have the option to enable "Auto Pay”.
Video performances have turned out to be a great way to watch our kids grow through music. And kids get excited about making them.  Beginning next month, I will be featuring a student video at the end of this monthly newsletter to highlight the progress of a student. 
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Studio News - September 2017


Studio News - September 2017

Welcome Back!

Between the high temps, a record rainless streak and a total eclipse, I’m guessing your summer was quite eventful.  Here’s hoping the transition back to school is seamless for your family. The first official week of lessons is on the horizon: lessons begin the week of September 11. The open enrollment period is underway. Please visit your online studio account to sign up for your regular time slot if you haven’t already. 

I'd like to make every effort to make sure these mailings are relevant and readable to all my families. Please take a moment to read through and let me know if there is anything you'd like to see.

Sign-up for the 1st Week

Policy Documents and Quiz

I will be sending the updated policy documents - studio policy, calendar and rates by email next week.  In lieu of an agreement form to be signed, I am asking all returning families to take a One-minute Policy Quiz. This will also include a media release form just so I know it's okay to share your kids photos and videos.

Lesson Protocol

In addition to the policy documents, I’ll also send out a new sheet which establishes lesson protocol. I published one a few years back but wanted to update with notes on hygiene, lesson transition and parent attendance. 

Did You Know: Update Contact Info

Contact information out of date? No problem, you can update this information in your "My Preferences" section.

  1. Click "Settings" in the top right corner and select “My Preferences” from the drop down menu.
  2. Under the “Personal Information” section, click the blue “Edit” icon.
  3. Make the necessary changes before clicking “Ok”.

Save the Date

First Week of Lessons - September 11-15

I will be sharing student videos throughout the year to celebrate and highlight a student's progress. Feel free to share any video of home practices and performances. 
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Happy Thanksgiving

In the spirit of the coming holiday, I want to share my gratitude to all my students and families.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to teach you or your child this instrument. Thank you for committing time to come to lessons and practicing. And thanks for being so eager and willing to learn.  It gives me a great deal of pleasure teaching and watch all of you progress. I am excited for what’s to come.

Learning with others is fun and meaningful. We don’t learn to speak fluently in a room alone.
— Jonathan Harnum, The Practice of Practice


Our first studio jam of the year was a success!  We had a good mix of young students and guest musicians covering standard and folk tunes like Stand By Me and La Bamba.  I was excited to see my young beginners add there styling to the songs. I look forward them contributing even more next time around.

Have a listen to the audio clips I captured of a few of the tunes.  If there were any parents that took videos or photos, and would be willing to add them to the gallery on the left, please send them my way  through email.

Thanksgiving Week

Please note that aside from pre-arranged lessons, this is a No Lesson week for students. We’ll start up lessons again during the week of Nov 29th.  Please have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

One last request...

Though my schedule offerings are becoming more limited, I am always looking to continue to grow my roster. Referrals are extremely helpful.  I am happy to offer a referral discount for current families who help bring in new students. Another helpful way to grow our community is by sharing a review of the studio. You can visit my website to post a review. Thanks again!

2015-16 Studio Jams

The school year is in full swing and lessons are well underway.  I have to say that I am very excited about my students particularly my beginning students who are learning their Pre-Cabbage tunes and working on their bow position.  I am also excited to announce a few dates for this years Studio Jams.  

For those unfamiliar, Studio Jams are studio-wide events for students of all levels to come listen, learn and play music WITH each other.  Rock and folk jams, Irish sessions, hootenannies - however it's called - these informal music gatherings are my favorite way of playing and learning new music and meeting friends.  My studio jams are beginner friendly. We'll typically teach a few notes of the tune that they can easily follow and loop.  I'll invite my other musical buddies who play instruments like piano, guitar, bass and drums so you can feel what it's like to play with a band. 

We cover a range of songs from classical, folk even a little rock and motown. The jams will be held again this year at the Hillman City Collaboratory just a few block from my studio.  They typically last 90 minutes.  

So here are the dates, times are TBD:

  • Saturday, November 
  • Saturday, March 5
  • Saturday, June 18 - Year-end Recital/Jam will include a short recital program to celebrate our young students.

Please mark your calendars, they will be added to the online calendar as well.  Note that except for the June date, these are for students and parents only.  The Year-End Jam/Recital on June 18 will be a time you can invite other friends and relatives to celebrate your student's hard work.

I'll send more information about the events as they approach.  I hope you can join us.

Here's a taste of what the Jam is like

October Studio News

I hope everyone is adjusting well to the new school year. We've got a great roster of students shaping up with more coming on board in the coming weeks.  If you happen to know other interested in taking lessons, I welcome any referrals and would be happy to pass along a bit of a discount if you help bring in new students. 

Even though I see you on a weekly basis, I want to try and stay connected regarding more general studio topics. You might expect to see an email from me about once a month.


As the fall is in full swing, there is increasing risk of illnesses which can affect your playing and my teaching ability.  Please consider the following the cold and flu season approaches:

  • As a general rule, I ask that you/your student stays home if she is feeling ill. My policy allows for discretion if late notice is given regarding make-ups for medical reasons. 
  • I've not been consistent in the past, but I would ask students and parents who are coming inside the studio space to remove your shoes. I am happy to provide slippers if desired. 
  • For both hygienic and performance reasons, students' fingernails should be trimmed and hands cleaned.  This also help maintain your instrument. I will provide an alcohol free hand sanitizer in the studio.

Lesson Protocol:

Considering the last point, it might be ideal to arrive a couple minutes before your lesson to use the bathroom.  There may be time when your lesson follows another. If I know there are back-to-back lessons, I will usually leave the front door unlocked but have the room door closed. Please let yourself in and wait quietly on the stairs or in the hallway for your lesson. 

I hope you're enjoying the violin and look forward to a fantastic year. Stay tuned for more of these updates, particularly some dates for our Studio Jams which are always fun events!

Summer Session

Summer is upon us an with it comes a chance to break from the regularity of verses and refrains and weekly schedules. I plan to do the same this summer with my family, though I want to offer my students the opportunity to continue with lessons during July and August.

Year-End Showcase + Jam

When: Saturday, June 27th at 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Where: Hillman City Collaboratory
Who: All violin students and their family and friends
Bring: Your instrument and maybe a tune, light snack or drink to share

The final weeks of the studio calendar are upon us. It's been a fun year for me getting to know all of you and helping you grow in your violin playing.  I want to thank everyone for all the time and effort you've put into practice and improving your violin playing.  

I hope you can make it out to our final jam of the year. This jam will be slightly different as I take some time before the jam to feature and recognize a few of our younger students.  Family and friends are invited to come and see the fruits of their work.  After the showcase portion, we'll form a circle jam and work out some licks and tunes with the help of some of my musical buddies.

Please look for an invite to RSVP in the coming days. 



Spring Jam

When: Saturday, March 7th at 1:00pm - 2:30pm
Where: Hillman City Collaboratory
Bring: Your instrument and maybe a tune, light snack or drink to share

The 2nd Studio Jam is upon us. We've got a great group of musicians joining and sharing in the some really fun tunes. We may revisit some of the tunes from last time and of course, we'll do some Boil 'em Cabbage Down. Feel free to think of any new rhythm patterns we can play with it! 

For a little preview of what we'll be playing, here's a peak at the playlist. If you're bringing a guest musician who needs chord sheets for the tunes, you can download one below.

Holiday Listening Challenge 2014

Happy holidays all!

I want to send a message wishing all my students and their families a safe an joyous holiday season!  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to teach to you or your child the violin.  I love this work and appreciate all the time that you put into learning to play.  I hope the coming year will find you with renewed excitement to play and expand your abilities and repertoire. There is much to look forward to in the new year for the studio!

I also want to take this chance to throw down a Holiday Challenge - if you choose to accept.  The scheduled winter break will be a chance to step back from routines in order to celebrate and be with family.  I don’t expect you to keep up with your violin studies entirely  (but of course wouldn’t mind if you did).  I do see an opportunity to get some good ear training/theory work in. 

This challenge is about listening and identifying INTERVALS. An Interval is simply the relationship between 2 notes. When playing two separate notes on the violin, the second note is either higher, lower or the same (unison) than the first. The distance is measured in DEGREES. We determine intervals on the violin by the distance between our fingers.  Learn more about intervals HERE.

Holiday Listening Challenge 2014: Match the Interval Degree of the melody’s first two notes of the following songs:

  1. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
  2. Joy to the World
  3. Greensleeves
  4. My Favorite Things (from the Sound of Music)
  5. We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Possible Answers: Minor 2nd, Major 2nd, Minor 3rd, Perfect 4th, Perfect 5th 

Tiebreaker: Create a list of Holiday Songs that you hear on the while you’re out and about and determine out the interval of the melody’s first 2 notes.

Feel free to ask for help with this from parents, musical friends but try to grasp as much of the concept as you can. If you would like I can point you to good exercises online to help you understand intervals more.  I will judge the submissions and the winner of this challenge will receive a gift card to a local Columbia City business.

Good luck and have a Happy Holiday season!

Recap: Inaugural Studio Jam

It's not an easy thing for any beginning student to come into an unfamiliar situation to learn and play new music on the spot.  My students were up to the task and contributed wonderfully to this new experience of the Studio Jam Session.   We tackled every thing from pop to roots music and even included a beautiful rendition of Pachabel's Canon in D.  All in all it was a great success and it's an event I'm looking to put together on a regular basis. 

Here are some audio clips of the tunes that were played:

Fall Jam 2014 - November 15th

Where: Hillman City Collaboratory, 5623 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 9811 
When: 1:00pm - 2:30pm
Cost: $10 per student/musician/family
Bring: Your instrument and maybe a tune to share

This is a wonderful opportunity to bring all my violin students together, get our instruments out and play music WITH each other. We'll have other musicians joining - so it will be like playing with a band!  This is one of my favorite ways to play music that is casual, fun and a great way to learn new tunes.

This jam is for musicians solely so anyone expecting to just listen should be prepared to play (i.e. singing, hand clap, percussion, etc.). Any parents, siblings, or children are welcome to bring their instruments and join us!

I'm asking that each student/musician/family contribute $10 toward the expense of renting out the space.  I can provide some light snacks and drinks. 

FAQ: Parents of a Violin Student

How can I be involved in my child's progress?

  • Make sure your child arrives prompt and prepared for each lesson. 
  • Work with your child to create a “container” of time and space for practice. Find a place where distractions are minimized and time is sufficient, not rushed.
  • Be encouraging instead of demanding about practicing on a regular basis. If it seems a struggle, find a tradeoff where practice time is not sacrificed.
  • Listen to music - it’s the most important part of playing music!  Pass along music you enjoy to your child, pop in a CD in the car. Give music as a gift. 

What should my child be practicing?

  • At the end of each lesson, I will either send an lesson review recapping activities for the lesson, or will write on a sticky note exercises that your child can work on.  
  • Be creative about practice time:  Music listening, concerts and related music events can be considered a portion of practice time.  Ask me for other ideas.

How much time should my child be practicing?

  • Strive for DAILY practice times - at least 5 days a week - aiming for 20 minute for beginning students; 30 minutes once we start learning tunes.
  • Practicing in shorter duration, more frequently may be more beneficial to longer, grudging sessions when your child is less motivated .

What if I need to cancel a lesson?

  • E-MAIL or CALL me as soon as possible to let me know.  Make sure to refer to the Studio Policy handed out at the beginning of the year. If adequate notice is given, make an attempt to reschedule the lesson rather than surrendering it to be marked "Catch-up" or “Missed”. 
  • If there is an urgent cause for canceling (i.e. health, family emergency), I will consider marking or adding additional “Catch-up” lesson, though I am not obligated to do so.


Jams and Recital Dates

I am thrilled to announce the first (of hopefully many) Studio Jams! SAVE THIS DATE: Fall Jam - Saturday, November 15th 1:00-2:30pm at the Hillman City Collaboratory5623 Rainier Avenue S., just a few blocks from the studio in Columbia City.

What is a Studio Jam, you ask?  It is a wonderful opportunity to bring all my violin students together, get our instruments out and play music WITH each other. I have invited some of my musical buddies to come and jam with us - guitarist, pianists, bassist, and more - so it will be like playing with a band!  This is one of my favorite ways to play music that is casual, fun and a great way to learn new tunes.

This is NOT a recital. As I mentioned we are playing music WITH each other not necessarily FOR each other nor for parents, relatives or other friends. There will be a time for that at the end of the year (see below).  Parents of young students are welcome but you could be asked to participate (like clapping hands, playing a percussion instrument or by bringing an instrument yourself!).

This is an event that I ask that ALL students participate - whether you just recently started, or not.  I will help all my beginning students get up to speed and many tunes we will use will be from the O’Connor book that I have been teaching from. This will be beneficial regardless of the level you are at.

In addition to the Fall Jam, I am adding to the calendar the Spring Jam and the first ever Studio Recital. All will take place at the Collaboratory and am asking for a small financial contribution to help defray the cost of renting the space.

Here are the Event Dates to put in your calendar:

  • First Ever Studio Jam - Saturday, November 15, 2014, 1pm - 2:30pm
  • Spring Jam - Saturday, March 7, 2015 1pm - 2:30pm
  • Inaugural Studio Recital - Saturday, June 13, 2015 (time tbd)

I hope you are as excited as I am! I will be providing more info to you as the Fall Jam approaches.



Greetings to all!

I want to start by saying thank you to all my students-- past present and even future -- for giving me the opportunity to teach violin to you.  It’s been thoroughly rewarding to work with each of you as you have given me a chance to share my passion and have taught me just as much. I am excited about what is on the horizon for this studio. I had some reflections over the past few months and how that relates to your involvement as student that I want to share. It essentially boils down to a couple of statements that reads:

“My teaching objective is to guide students toward a path of playing violin with confidence and joy.”

The first is my teaching objective that hopefully you have all been able to benefit from. I truly feel that, though there might be some struggles, learning to play can be just as fun.  If there is something in my teaching style or approach that you feel deviates from that statement, I hope that you can approach me with any concerns or feedback.

“My studio objective is to use the violin as a conduit toward building community.”

The second is a studio objective is something that I hope to build upon in the coming months and years to come.  As a member of a great neighborhood (Columbia City) and city that values community, I am looking for ways where the violin can foster community building. Read further for more on this.

With these objectives clear, I am implementing new features and changes for the studio:

First off, I am expanding my online presence through public launch of my studio website,, and a new Facebook Page. I will use these outlets to post media related to learning and playing the violin and music appreciation in general. Please visit and share the link with friends and families who would be interested.

Second, in order to provide the student with the best opportunity to progress and gain confidence in playing, I am implementing a new studio policy. The purpose of a studio policy is to be clear about what students should expect from me and what I can expect from students. You will receive the complete studio policy at your next lesson but here are some the highlights:

Note: Except in the area of payment, the policies apply to all students whether you have come to me through TakeLessons or not.

  • Studio Calendar A ten (10) month calendar that begins in September and runs through June which include 34 lesson weeks
  • Monthly Pre-Payment The studio is switching from “pay-per-lesson”. You will have the option to choose from one of two annual plans with monthly payment.
  • Jam Sessions and Recital: Seasonal jam session for all levels and the 1st annual Studio Recital in the Spring!
  • And much more! See the attachment for details.

Stay tuned as there is more to share and there will be more announcements to come in the weeks to come.  For all current and incoming students, I will pass along the complete studio policy, rates, and calendar at your next lessons or via email.  For any former students, you are always welcome to renew your commitment to the violin playing. This looks to be an exciting year and I can’t wait to make beautiful music with you!

All the best,