A few years ago, I was complaining to somebody about the fact that there were no violin teachers in Sevier County and I had to drive to Knoxville, which is one hour away, so my children could get lessons. He said, “Try Skype lessons!” My reaction was, “No!”
Fast forward a year and I was burned out of driving for violin lessons. The kids were not happy with their instrument, either. They enjoyed piano more and violin practice became this big stressful moment of the day.
Quitting was not an option, so I did the only sensible thing I could think of: I Googled “Skype violin lessons.” I found several names and websites of great violin performers and teachers. Two stood out, so I contacted them.
We set up a free lesson with each. We went through the lesson with each of the kids. At the end, I asked the kids which one they liked more. It happened to be the same one that I liked the best. I let the other one know we were going with somebody else and I thanked her for her time. She replied very kindly, wishing me good luck etc.
Then, I turned around and let Mary-Elizabeth Brown know that we would be delighted to join her violin studio via Skype. That, my friends, was in April 2016. As I said, my kids were in bad shape mentally about the violin. My oldest actually cried during one of the lessons, telling the teacher that he enjoyed piano more. She took the time to listen to him and worked with his frustration.
My youngest was six at the time and bouncing off the walls during the lessons. She was playing on a 1/8 violin which was impossible for me to tune at times. The teacher, again, encouraged me that it will be just a few more months on that violin. Kids grow, you know? And the next size up would be much easier to tune.
Ms. Brown also worked with my rambunctious kid and employed some cool methods to get her to be more accountable, focused, and responsible. This teacher produced all sorts of coloring incentives for practice. She had playful ways of presenting the information, to get my child to make it through the lesson.
She helped me become a better parent by suggesting several books Suzuki parents read, which empowered me to be more patient and relaxed.
Long story short, by August, my children auditioned for the Knoxville Youth Symphony and got in. In four months, Mary-Elizabeth Brown had calmed me down and prepared the kids enough to where they got into ensembles for their levels.
After 10 more months of hard work, the kids were making progress and Ms. Brown suggested we enroll them in the Royal Music Conservatory assessment program. On June 1, 2017, we drove two hours to Elizabethton to have them assessed on level 1 and 3 respectively.
Are you ready for this? Are you sitting down? They received the highest scores for their levels in the examination center AND in the whole state of Tennessee. Now, my children are not concert masters in their orchestras. There are children in Tennessee who play better than my children, obviously. But those children did not show up to this exam.
My kids received high scores, got a boost of confidence and self-esteem, and another summer rolled by. When they auditioned again for the youth symphony, our son moved up in the next level orchestra.
But the best thing was when, in November 2017, my son said to me, “Mom, thank you for making me practice. I really like the violin now. And I really like how good I have gotten with it. Thanks for not letting us quit.”
All this to say, Mary-Elizabeth Brown is one amazing teacher who can take a bad situation and turn it into a good one. And by situation I mean bowing, posture, attitude, everything that has to do with the violin.
She happens to have some openings in her studio, so feel free to contact her on her website, maryelizabethbrown.com, to set up your own trial lesson with her.