Josh Brown plays and teaches violin. Josh Brown | Courtesy

If you walk into the lowest floor of the Howard Music Hall on a weekday, you may occa­sionally hear a young student bowing through “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on a violin, accom­panied by a college-age instructor.

One of these instructors, senior Josh Brown, teaches 12 beginner vio­linists at the Howard Music Hall and at Gier Ele­mentary School in Hillsdale. Brown’s stu­dents are gen­erally children ages 5 through 8 years old, which he says brings both blessings and chal­lenges.

“Younger children are usually easier to teach due to having no pre­con­ceived notions of what it means to play the violin,” Brown said. “The biggest chal­lenge, however, is under­standing and adapting to each student’s indi­vidual learning style.”  

Junior Keely Rendle first learned violin through the Suzuki Method, a teaching approach that applies the concept of learning a lan­guage or native tongue to rec­og­nizing the noises and sounds of a violin. Rendle teaches three stu­dents, two on campus. She also works as an observer and assistant to senior Laura Salo who teaches a Suzuki class to local children.

Both Brown and Rendle first got involved in teaching through Melissa Knecht, pro­fessor of music. Rendle began teaching violin last spring as a sophomore, and Brown began teaching during his junior year.

“I really enjoyed it from the beginning as a fun outlet,” Brown said. “Teaching violin to stu­dents adds an entirely new dimension to the instrument that I had not con­sidered.”

Most lessons for beginning vio­linists last about a half hour.

“For myself, I did not start doing lessons lasting forty-five minutes to an hour until my sophomore year of high school,” Rendle said.

The time length can pose some chal­lenges depending on the attention span of the stu­dents, so instructors will some­times introduce games to break up the monotony.

“For some younger children, this can be a chal­lenge,” Brown said. “I’ll some­times try and change things up with a game or having them step away for a few minutes to come back with a fresh mindset.”

Salo agreed that it’s good to be cre­ative in helping stu­dents learn.

“Remember that every student is an indi­vidual,” she said. “What worked for one student might not work for another student. However, I have never met a student who couldn’t learn. So there is a way to teach every student, you just have to find that way.”

Of course, the job can be dif­ficult some days.

“There are moments that are chal­lenging when you wonder if you have done a good job with a student,” Rendle said.

However, Rendle added the expe­rience is beyond rewarding. One moment in par­ticular stood out for her when an adult student thanked her and expressed appre­ci­ation for her instruction. “Those moments are encour­aging,” Rendle said. “It’s fun when I see a student make progress and they enjoy it.”

“I would tell someone inter­ested in teaching violin to enjoy the lessons they teach. If they are having fun, their student will also have fun,” Salo explained.“

Brown agreed.

“It has to come from a place of wanting to help young people learn,” he  said. “The biggest joy comes from watching stu­dents struggle with some­thing and then it clicks — that moment of clarity. If you do it because you enjoy seeing the process, it is very rewarding.”