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INTRODUCTION – The Beginning Group

The Indiana University String Academy accepts beginning students between the ages of 5-8.  (There are exceptions at both ends.)  These students participate in a weekly private and group lesson, as well as an additional private “helper” lesson taught by a university student participating in a pedagogy course.   Private lessons for beginners are ½ hour and group lessons are one hour. Group lesson activities are divided into playing repertoire together, performing solos, ear training and theory. 

All the beginners start out in a Beginning Group.  The maximum group size is 12. Moving to a subsequent group is based on progress.  Group changes are normally made after one of the major concerts. The String Academy is designed to be responsive to the needs of the student at all levels of development.  Group placement is based on the ability to perform the repertoire, and not on age.  It is not uncommon to have a wide range of ages in the various groups. 


The yearly concert structure at the Indiana University String Academy will look something like this.  Beginners participate in the concerts with the *.

*End of October:  Halloween Concert (group, ensemble and solo repertoire)

*First week of December:  Solo Recital Series where each student individually performs a well prepared piece.

February:  Entire Works Concert for students ready to play entire concerto, sonata, or virtuoso piece

Middle of March:  Group/Solo concert for the more advanced students

*April:  Solo Recital Series

*Middle of May:  Spring Gala Concert with group solos, ensemble and solos

The Indiana University String Academy offers two four week summer sessions.  Summer Session I begins the first week of May and Summer Session II begins in the middle of June.  The Spring Gala Concert is included in Summer Session I, and a Group Concert concludes Summer Session II.

In addition, students who are ready to perform full recitals are scheduled during the course of the year. The Violin Virtuosi, the top performing String Academy group, perform 5-10 additional times throughout the year including national and international tours.



Teaching a group class takes a different energy than the giving of a private lesson.  It is helpful to pace a group with many repetitions of a single task, to vary the tasks, and to keep all students engaged even when they are passive listeners.  After a few weeks of group lessons, young students learn how to play together, and to listen quietly and patiently to their peers performing solos.  The Beginning Group is an important experience for the young violin student. It is the hour to perform, to learn ensemble skills, and to meet and make friends with peers.

Group lessons are divided into:

The following are Group Lesson activities for week one, week nine and week fifteen (the end of the first semester).


Performing Solos

Individually have each student go through the above violin stance and play the first piece: DAD Rest with pizzicato over the high dot. See VOLUME ONE

The other students will be sitting on the floor listening.  Do not be concerned that they will be bored and become antsy.  Listening to their peers is an important part of the learning process, and after a few weeks they will learn to sit quietly and patiently.

Playing Repertoire Together

The entire group can now play DAD Rest.  After one week, it will not be polished.  Polishing will happen over the next weeks with the many repetitions.

From the first group, students learn to begin together by saying and playing, “Lift and Play”.  This ensemble technique is used throughout the course of study.

Ear Training and Theory

The next segment of the class is devoted to ear training and theory.  The following games can be played:

Concentration Game

The students imitate the teacher in pointing to the head, eyes, nose, mouth, waist, knees, and feet. This is also done in reverse and can be repeated 4-5 times.

The Sunflower - The Solfeggio Game  See Volume One

The Interval Game

Learn the octave (O) and the minor second (m2) using the piano. 

Students sing the intervals and identify them after the teacher plays them.


Show the students a staff (five lines), a treble clef, and write quarter notes (ta’s) and eighth notes (ti-ti’s) on the board on the staff.  Place the notes in two 4/4 measures, showing the bar line between the measures and a double bar line at the end of the second measure.


In the treble clef write four quarter notes, and in the bass clef write four quarter notes.  The students will clap and say ta, ta, ta, ta.  The bass clef notes are for the feet which will mark the quarter notes by walking around the room.

At the end of the first Group Lesson a nice sticker is a good parting memory.


At the end of the ninth week, the Indiana University String Academy presents the annual Halloween Concert. All students participate in the Halloween Concert which includes group and ensemble pieces, and solos. This is a significant concert for the beginners and their parents. They are seeing and hearing students from the beginning through the artist levels, and experiencing a sense of accomplishment that comes after a successful concert. After this concert, the journey that lies ahead becomes clearer.

By the Halloween Concert, some of the beginners (especially those beginning at age 6) are playing through the Twinkle Variations. If the class is on the younger side, students may not have yet reached this point.  It is more important to have less repertoire well prepared, than more not well learned.

A typical Group Lesson at week nine will look something like this:

Playing Repertoire Together See VOLUME ONE

To help the students play together and in tune the following can be done:

Ear Training and Theory

Review the Concentration Game, The Sunflower, The Sunflower with Twinkle, and The Sunflower with Three Blind Mice as a cannon.

The interval game: By now the students can identify m2, O, M3, m3 and P5.

Have the students divide up into two to three teams.  Play an interval and let the team come to a consensus about which interval has been played. Keep score.

Rhythms:  Students know sixteenth notes, eighth notes, quarter notes, half notes, whole notes and quarter note rests.  They are clapping and saying the rhythms in addition to composing their own sets of rhythms.  (LINK to Kodaly rhythms)

The book, Rhythmic Training by Robert Starer, can be used at this time.

Eurhythmics:  The teacher can make these as complex as the students can grasp. 

(End of Semester One)

Review all of the above materials. It will be possible to add Lightly Row and Song of the Wind to the group repertoire for those students who have learned these pieces. Students who have not yet arrived to these pieces, will listen as it is being rehearsed. Remember to keep reviewing all previous repertoire. The format for rehearsing the group pieces remains the same. The goal is to have each piece in tune and together.  This can be accomplished by having students play individually, two at a time, three at a time, etc. Also, stop on notes that are out of tune and have the students match the correct pitch.

To the interval training add the M7 and continue reviewing all the previously learned intervals. Students still enjoy the Interval Game.

All the practicing of Semester One culminates in the Solo Recital. Students will practice performing their solos in at least two group lessons. Solos are chosen by the teacher in consultation with the student, but remember, the teacher knows best. Preparation is the key to a beautiful performance. The expectation is to play one piece from beginning to the end, in tune and in good rhythm.

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Group Lesson: Playing Together
Rehearsing the early tunes for intonation and ensemble with the group
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Group Lesson: Solos
Performance of solos in the group class
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Group Lesson: Theory and Ear-Training
Theory and ear-training games with the class
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