Wayne Shen – Project Violin

Hello A Street Music blog readers! I am Justin Stanley, Education Director here at A Street Music, LLC in Quincy, MA. Check out my other posts for more information about the store.

It’s been a couple of weeks since my first two entries, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking regarding the future content of the blog. When I was studying at the New England Conservatory, the Music-in-Education department introduced me to a framework they call, “Artist-Teacher-Scholar.” In a nutshell, this concept advocates for well-rounded musicians who use artistry in the way they create music, teach music to others, and continuously learn about music.

I’ve decided to use this idea to write about members of our faculty. This will not be the focus of every blog post, but if you’re looking particularly for entries about the artistry of our teachers, you can use the “Artist-Teacher” tab on the blog.

Wayne Shen, one of our teachers for violin and piano, is the first teacher I’m covering for this category. Wayne is in the process of creating Project Violin, an “organization that will use the tools of the internet and new distribution methods to provide a violin learning resource to which people would not normally have access.”

One of the most notable aspects of Project Violin is that its distribution methods will be based on an open source philosophy. Wayne told me that part of the purpose of the project is to “provide an educational resource to thousands of kids who would otherwise not have access to quality violin pedagogy,” though he advocates for private lessons and in school string programs as well. Videos on fundamental technique will be available free of charge, and potentially with the benefit of interactive exercises online where students are encouraged to share their work. More advanced training will be offered for a minimal fee.

When I asked Wayne about what he wanted to achieve with Project Violin, he referenced his own experience learning violin: “looking back on my early violin lessons, I often wish that my teachers had shown me certain ideas or techniques earlier on in my development.”

I think that a lot of teaching musicians look back and see things that they would improve about their early musical learning. For instance, I received almost no music theory training until college, and I think that has had an affect on the way I approach teaching. A former teacher of mine told me the story of his first experience with his clarinet: his mother put him in a room with the instrument and a music book, set a timer for 30 minutes, and shut the door. He’s dedicated a large portion of his life to finding out how children learn, particularly through music.

Wayne will draw on his experiences to “address the elements that [he] felt were lacking in [his] own development as a student of violin, as well as draw on both traditional and progressive violin teaching methods and techniques, to provide a versatile and well-rounded program of instruction.”

Wayne also happens to be a photographer, and I found it really interesting how his interest in visual art might influence Project Violin. In addition to speaking about the quality of instruction and open-source availability, he emphasized the user-friendly quality of the website and the aesthetic quality of the videos, adding that “as a unifying stylistic element, videos will be filmed against a white background, as in the Apple ads.” He’s put a lot of thought into the visual aspect of the videos, stating “not only do I want to provide concise and efficient instruction, but to provide them in a manner that utilizes high production values, good visual sense, good lighting… something that looks very professional which can appeal to any user-base.”

I also learned that learning the violin often relies on visual feedback. Project Violin works especially well in this sense, since if “something doesn’t look quite right [while playing violin], there is a high probability that something is wrong.” Project Violin will help students find the correct technique by checking in on progress through feedback from multiple senses.

I’ll keep everyone informed on how this project progresses. Videos should be online soon, and I’ll provide links here. In the meantime, things keep getting busier here in the store. I’ll try to be a little quicker with my next update. Let me know what you think of the blogs! What do you want more of? What do you want less of?

Until next time…


About Justin Stanley, Teaching-Artist
I'm a musician and educator based in Boston, MA.

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