Wilfrid Laurier University and Western University are the first Canadian postsecondary institutions to offer a unique string pedagogy course, modeled after the curriculum developed by Mimi Zweig and Dr. Brenda Brenner at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Students enrolled in this course develop their musicianship through a comprehensive study of how to administrate and successfully teach beginning string students in a private studio setting, classroom, or community music program. Throughout the course, students learn how to implement various pedagogical philosophies and method books (i.e., Paul Rolland, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, Mimi Zweig, Ivan Galamian, Simon Fischer, Kurt Sassmannshaus, Dr. Robert Gillespie, Dr. Gail Barnes, etc.) with beginning students in a variety of teaching capacities through sequential skill acquisition and early repertoire. Students are expected to demonstrate the following learning outcomes: how to structure early lessons and establish the “triangle” (student/parent/teacher); set up the instrument and bow hold; teach various bow strokes; communicate the teaching points of the early Rolland and Suzuki repertoire; and introduce a sequence of scales, etudes, early shifting, and early vibrato exercises. Students also acquire the knowledge of current technology (online resources and Smartphone applications) that may be used the early stages of learning, and how to successfully establish, market, and manage a private teaching studio with group class instruction within a given community.
In addition, the university students enrolled in the string pedagogy course have the unique opportunity to implement the knowledge that they accumulate on a weekly basis through hands-on teacher training. Students at Wilfrid Laurier University observe private and group lessons of Laurier String Academy students, and teach weekly helper lessons to an assigned LSA student. In a similar fashion, students at Western University observe and teach students studying in the Forest City Talent Education program. Western University students also have the opportunity to implement their knowledge through community engagement with the El Sistema Aeolian program. Through the practical application of the pedagogical material and immediate instructor feedback, the students experience valuable teaching opportunities that have a profound impact on their future careers, competence, and confidence as string educators.
The high quality string instruction available for Laurier String Academy students and the teacher-training component of the string pedagogy course create an ideal musical learning environment for all involved. In addition, there are advantages to having a string program for young children within a university setting: public exposure (performances at Kitchener City Hall, nursing homes throughout Kitchener-Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University functions, etc.) and valuable recruiting opportunities for senior String Academy students who wish to transition to the music program at WLU. Laurier String Academy students also have access to the excellent university facilities, faculty pianists for all performances, and the opportunity to perform on the Maureen Forrester Recital Hall stage every spring for the final group concert.