About Your Guide

About Your Guide

Hi! I’m Lora, your guide at RedDesertViolin.com. Here I am with two students. (They’re related to each other. Can you tell??)
I started learning violin in the 5th grade through the public school system. I learned through the “traditional” system, which combines note-reading with beginning violin technique. I started becoming aware of the Suzuki method four years later, when I met Evan, a hot shot violinist from Sunset Junior High School. I had heard of him before, and I knew that he had learned Suzuki style.

I was so jealous and regretful that I had not been given the opportunity to learn by that method. From that day on, I always had an inferiority complex for not having learned via the Suzuki method—you could say I was fixated on it—but it made me practice harder because I felt I had to compensate in order to compete with all these Suzuki miracle kids.

Music did not come easily to me, but my dad had always told me (and I believed everything he said!) that I could do anything I wanted to if I wanted it badly enough, and was willing to work for it.

Well, I definitely wanted it badly enough, and I certainly knew how to work hard. I worked my tail off! I didn’t watch TV, didn’t go out with friends, I practiced on camping trips, on family vacations to Half Moon Bay. I never went anywhere without my violin.

I kept this up from 5th grade through a Master’s Degree in violin performance. I buried my head in music and solitary practice. The best illustration of how single-minded I was, is that while living within 50 miles of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1998, I had not heard about it until Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death. THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING!!!!

Why did I work so hard?

It was a combination of BAD teaching, an inferiority complex, and a highly competitive personality.

Why do I say bad teaching? Because my teachers should have realized that I was over-practicing—banging my head against the proverbial wall and accomplishing nothing—or at least not getting the results I should have for the effort I was putting in. (No one taught me HOW to practice for results, with focus, and to have fun!) I just believed what my dad told me, thinking if I practiced 6 hours per day, I would achieve my dreams!

Well, I did finally achieve my dreams—full ride scholarships, professional orchestra membership (as principal second violin), solos with several orchestras…I made my living making music—but the price was so high!

When I slammed my finger in a car door, I was in San Francisco collaborating with a composer on a film score. My life flashed before my eyes—all the missed opportunities to go roller blading, or play basketball, for fear of injuring my hands. I saw 15 years of my life devoted to my instrument, and the possibility that it was gone.

Fate gets you either way.

The moral of the story? Have Fun! Don’t be afraid! Think more, work less. There is no harm in a shortcut, and you don’t have to suffer for success!

My finger did not heal 100%, even with surgery. I now have a slight “hammer finger” where the end portion of my middle finger on my left hand droops, making vibrato on that finger and certain passages a little compromised. Oh, I can absolutely still play, but it caused me to struggle more than ever, and my confidence was shot.

How I Started Teaching

Out of the blue, I was given the opportunity to take over another violinist’s entire studio of students. I had never ever taught before! I had never really wanted to teach. But suddenly it made sense as a financial security blanket while I figured things out with my finger.

To make matters even more freaky for me, this teacher used the SUZUKI approach! I was so worried, but she assured me I already knew how to play very well—if I just attended a week-long Suzuki Teachers Institute, I would learn the basics on starting beginning students.

I lucked out and got the BEST Suzuki instructor in the world, Ed Kreitman, and indeed, at the end of a week, I had faced all my Suzuki demons and was convinced that there is NO BETTER WAY for any beginner to learn.

For adults, it can be a little childish, but it can be adapted easily for more mature players. And for kids—it just appeals to them.

If you want to know more about the Suzuki Philosophy and method, click here.

Three points of the Suzuki approach are my favorites.

  1. Delayed note-reading allows complete focus on technique
  2. The mother-tongue concept of learning music like your native language
  3. The belief that Every child can learn.

Shinichi Suzuki was not out to create little kid-geniuses. He was out to help develop better human beings. He didn’t “audition” kids and pick out the best ones as his students. He took even the difficult ones.

This concept is near and dear to my heart, as I believe there is no such thing as a hopeless case. If a student is willing to put in the work necessary, then the right teacher can help them to achieve their goals.

In my studio, I prided myself on accepting the difficult kids who no one else wanted to teach. It challenged me as a teacher, it was extremely rewarding, and it helped me to heal some of my own wounds as a child who was basically left to my own devices—who practiced like crazy and got results slowly and painfully, and never really had a teacher who recognized my passion and efforts!

While at that Suzuki Institute, I learned some basic concepts that should have been taught to me in grade school, and others that I should have picked up somewhere between a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Violin Performance! I was suddenly painfully aware of the deficiencies in my own violinistic education. I found myself as an accomplished violinist, with a Masters Degree in Violin Performance learning things that I would be teaching to children—things I NEVER KNEW—things I should have been taught by my “teachers.”

At that point, I realized that my teachers had failed me, and that I owed my success to two things: my Dad telling me I could be anything I worked for, and my Mom’s enthusiasm for classical music—attending EVERY concert, making me play in church as often as they would allow, and pretending to swoon anytime I played Meditation from Thais.

I hope this site can give you some pointers, either as a teacher needing pointers for your students, as a parent helping your child, or as a self-instructed student.

Remember—Nothing is as important as your OWN BELIEF that you can do it….but it’s awfully nice when someone hands you a key which opens the hidden door in that brick wall! DON’T BANG YOUR HEAD!

I highly recommend that you find someone to check your progress once in awhile, either with a web-cam lesson with me, or a teacher in your area. Please see my article on “Choosing a Good Teacher”.

20 Comments

  1. Mary

    Hi Lora,

    I just came across your Youtube videos which led me here to your site. I saw that you had referred to Tucson, AZ in a previous post and wonder if you are local to that area and if so, if you offer in person lessons in Tucson. I’ve found your videos extremely helpful!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Mary

    Reply
    • Lora

      Hi Mary!
      I am about 5 hours north of you! I appreciate your positive comment. Glad you like the youtube videos!
      I encourage you to check out my online lessons…..they are extremely good, I don’t mind saying, and the proof is in my students who are learning to play VERY well in 37 countries!
      Find those lesson offerings on the home page of http://www.RedDesertViolin.com
      Not to get too salesy, but the lessons are more organized and planned out than my private lessons. (I teach private lessons on Skype)
      The main advantage to private lessons is you get instant correction and personalized feed-back.
      I currently have a waiting list for SKype lessons, but I can always make room for a one-time consultation lesson.
      My online students occasionally set up a private lesson with me on Skype to check them, so that’s like having your cake and eating it too.
      Anyway, nice to meet you! -L

      Reply
  2. Kathy Taylor

    Hello Lora. I just found your website and I am interested in taking online lessons. I have taken beginner lessons in the past at NKU with the String Project for a few months, but I had to stop to take care of my mother-in-law who has dementia. I am ready and excited to begin again and I think I would like to try online, since NKU is 30 minutes away. We were using Essential Elements for Strings. I haven’t located the cost of your lessons for the Suzuki, book one, lessons yet on your website, so please let me know what it would be. Also, I am renting a violin from Antonio Violins in Cincinnati, OH. and I wonder if you are familiar with their violins? I am renting to purchase, but the beginner violin I am renting is about $900.00 to purchase. Thank you for any information you can give me. Kathy

    Reply
    • Lora

      Hi Kathy
      You caught me while I was out of town and out of signal! But I’m back now.
      It’s nice to hear from you.
      The lessons are still $47 per month.

      I am unfamiliar with the violin shop you are referring to, Antonio Violins. There are so many it’s hard to know them all.
      But it’s an advantage taht it is a brick and mortar store. That means you have in person service, and assistance as needed.
      $900 is high for a student violin, unless it is a very good student model. (and it could be, I just don’t know)
      ONLINE prices are around $600 for a very good student package….that’s from Southwest STrings in Tucson, Arizona. (THe Yuan Qin package I LOVE, and have played on many samples)
      But, there is something to be said for buying local, being able to rent to buy, so that you can trade it in and get something else if you choose to….more flexibility….so that’s where the other $300 goes…..flexibility and convenience, and non-committal.

      It depends on what those things are worth to you. It is probably a decent violin, but you are paying for the flexibility. So, unless you can ask someone there who knows what they are talking about for a second opinion, it just comes down to a leap of faith on your part. Either put your faith in this local dealer, or roll the dice on something from the internet. (at least I can vouch for Southwest STrings and their Yuan Qin package. Some people purchase violins knowing NOTHING about the dealer, and that is really really risky)

      Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.
      Essential Elements is an excellent book, by the way!

      Reply
  3. Annie Shaw

    Lora, We had the same parents! I’m starting now at 61 ,and channeling my dad’s words. At 97, my mother will see me play in my first recital soon. I do believe it, and I bring quite a bit of other musical background; piano, guitar, choir singing, and a strong foundation in theory. It’s great to be able to come to a new instrument with a large toolbox at my disposal. I’m in my second month, and soon recognized that I need to develop the ability to recognize if/when a piece is within my ability to learn now or if it goes on the list to come back to. I hope to be able to refine this so I’m not missing out on playing something I can do or attempting something out of range and not progressing with it properly. It’s so great to be able to augment and expand upon my private lessons and all that you make available to us and vice-versa. In addition, the FB group Adult Starters-Violin is a wonderful place to meet & share with other adult learners. Thank you for sharing your journey, and so much more!

    Reply
    • Lora

      Hi Annie
      Thanks for this comment. I feel very fortunate to have the parents I do.
      It’s fantastic that your mother will see your first violin recital! She will be thrilled, I’m sure!
      Knowing when you are ready for a piece does take experience and wisdom….until then, you will know if it is out of reach after you work on it for a week or two of trying to play it. When that happens, do your best to make a list of things that are keeping it out of your reach. Shifting, 3rd position, 2nd position, difficult keys, long slurs, spiccato, double stops, etc. Then you can seek out etudes or lessons that will help you to acquire those skills.

      Keep up the great work! I wish I could join the facebook group, but they don’t allow teachers, and I actually think that is a GOOD thing. Glad you found them!
      Keep up the great work!

      Reply
  4. Beth Carr

    Hi Lora – Your videos are great! I want to begin using the “Building left hand speed and dexterity and Building right left/right hand coordination. I don’t know what “Low 2 finger pattern, half step between 1-2” and “High 2 Finger Pattern”, etc are. Do you have a video describing how this works to get the different keys?

    Reply
  5. Don Rhudy

    Well, here I go again. Near the OKC bombing? When Boise City was bombed by the US Army Air Force in 1943 I was six years old, watching my dad watch a bomb fall behind our cow shed. That bomb and the others made a heck of a sound and great craters for a first-grader to play in afterwards! I began self-teaching fiddle about two years ago with a Cecilio CVN 400 which others tell me produces good sound. I think it does, too. I’ve been using Essential Elements for Strings (Hal Leonard) and am about to move to Book Two. I can’t seem to get connected to your site. Must I adopt a different name and email address? It says I am connected but I am not.

    I sure miss Oklahoma and Texas and I am envious of you for continuing to live there. Should I outlive my dear wife, which I hope does not happen, I will become an Okie again down near Battiest, near Broken Bow. Thank you for the You Tube productions I have been able to play and re-play.

    Reply
    • Lora

      Hi Don
      What a life you have led! You seem to be in the heart of the action!
      May your fiddle find more peaceful places to play!
      I will have technical support contact you about getting connected to the site, and helping you sign up for Book 2.
      Sounds like that book will be perfect for you!
      Talk to you soon!

      Reply
  6. alex

    how can I see my grades

    Reply
    • Lora

      Hi Alex
      There are no grades for this class. It is self-paced and self-assessed. You can ask questions any time and I will answer them, and you can also send photos or videos if you need me to check your progress.

      Reply
  7. Lynn

    Dear Lora,
    You are a gifted and passionate teacher. It was a privilage to be a student at your recent San Diego area fiddle workshop. Thank you for a wonderful learning experience and grand day. Sincerely, Lynn

    Reply
    • Lora

      Hi Lynn!
      It is great to see you online! And even more great to meet you at the workshop and do some face to face learning!
      I see you have signed up for the fiddle class. Keep me posted on how that is going! Golden Slippers is the first song….but it is not easy! Let me know if you get hung up! Talk to you soon!

      Reply
  8. David

    Hi Lora, I was just Curious, Are you planning on doing lessons from Suzuki Book 4 in the near future? I just started Suzuki book 2 and plan on going into book #3 with you when I graduate from book 2 I was just wondering what’s in store for life after Suzuki book 3? Also, Your fiddle lessons are interesting to me! but, after I finish Suzuki book 2, 3, and maybe 4, your fiddle lessons may be to easy for us Suzuki book 3 graduates. ???? Are there any plans to have more advanced fiddle lessons in the future for your advanced students? Love your teaching style!!

    Reply
  9. Cheryl

    Lora, I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful teach and talented fiddler you are. I loved my class at Wallowa Fiddle a Camp and had a wonderful time. You gave us so much information and it was fun. I wish you lived in Portland. I got hot and tired, but it was a great experience. You ignited my passion for the fiddle. (Gee, maybe I’ll even practice more) I hope you realize what a gift you are. thank you
    Cheryl

    Reply
    • Lora

      Hi Cheryl!
      It’s really good to hear from you here!
      Wallowa was a wonderful camp! The people there are all so nice and just good people.
      I enjoyed having you in my class….I enjoyed your wry humor! You had to be a good sport in there, with kids and all….but I think everyone walked away with something to chew on for the year.
      Hope to see you next year!

      Reply
  10. adele

    Hi Lora,
    Love watching the passion and love you show when playing the violin. I have learned in a methodical manner following your lessons day in and day out.
    Your teaching accommodates young and old. In spite of my age, learning as a child has been great for me. It is wonderful that your past experiences have yielded such a product!!! You have been graced with this gift! Thank you for sharing it.

    Reply
    • Lora

      Adele,
      I am saving your email forever! Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to write!
      This is what keeps me going…..knowing that I am helping others to learn this precious instrument who might have otherwise been impeded by location, finances, age, or physical limitations.
      I have MANY MANY octogenarians, Adele! And I am inspired daily by you! I think music keeps us young, keeps us reaching and hungry, and yet, every day we learn something new which satisfies us.

      Keep up your great work! Stay hungry!

      Reply
  11. Gayle Dancer-Wysocki

    Thank you for your video on shifting. You simplified the concept for me. I played…years ago, and have only started playing seriously again, in the past year!I stopped before I could learn to shift. Teacher problems, not the one for me! I stopped, my husband encouraged me to play again. I am even teaching 3 students. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Lora

      Fantastic, Gayle! (thank your husband for his sweet support….that is really truly wonderful)
      The key to shifting is RELAX!
      Keep up the great work!

      Reply

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