Thomas Collum Violin Studio
My teaching philosophy is centered around two main prerogatives: 1) to teach efficient, reliable, and healthy body mechanics (technique), which will ultimately maximize longevity, technical facility, and of course, musical expression; and 2) to teach students how to coach themselves the other six days of the week when I'm not around to reinforce and help them to retain new and recurring concepts. One can't truly learn something as nuanced and intricate as high-level violin technique without developing the skills to practice effectively and autonomously drive their own progress. Transferable to anything we do (not just violin), these skills can take a long time to develop, and are most quickly done so with guidance.
For more about me, please visit my website at: www.thomascollum.com
I enjoy getting to teach my utmost passion of playing violin to attentive students. I also love the intellectual thrill of learning how to overcome new obstacles posed by students of all different combinations of strengths and weaknesses. What I learn from teaching has only helped me become a better player.
Frequently asked questions
What is your typical process for working with a new student?
Learning violin and viola can be daunting, so I first try to establish an initial level of confidence for my students by becoming good at one thing at a time to start. I first begin with mastering reading and understanding basic rhythms so that when we add the instrument into the mix, the amount of information isn't overwhelming. We then slowly progress and add new variables as the student seems to become more comfortable with what we have covered thusfar. From there, my progression is somewhat systematic, but adaptable depending on each student's strengths and weaknesses and how they best learn.
What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
I have been playing violin for over two decades (most of my life) and have studied with a wide variety of some of the best violinists and musicians in the world who have all had their own approaches to teaching, and to playing the instrument and music. My teachers have included Markus Placci (Faculty, The Boston Conservatory), Marc Rovetti (Assistant Concertmaster, Philadelphia Orchestra), Ariana Kim (Award-winning Aizuri String Quartet, The Knights, Cornell University), Joseph Lin (former First Violinist, Juilliard String Quartet), and Roberta Crawford (Violist, Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble).
How did you get started teaching?
I am both a performing violinist and collector and seller of violins because I have always had the utmost passion for anything and everything, violin. I also have found that I really enjoy teaching (any subject that I am knowledgable in), so teaching violin to an attentive student is even better.
What got me into teaching more readily is my realization that that teaching something makes you better at it. I am only one person with one set of challenges to overcome, but teaching helps me encounter and tackle the challenges of others that I otherwise might not have really think so in-depth about. When you have to problem-solve others or learn multiple different ways of explaining a concept, you truly begin to understand the 'how' and 'why'. It's incredibly enlightening and can be an intellectual thrill.
What types of students have you worked with?
I work with students of all ages and levels of experience. My students currently range in age from 7 years to 60+ years and from absolute beginners to adults who already have degrees in violin performance.
What advice would you give a student looking to hire a teacher in your area of expertise?
Student-teacher chemistry is not something to be underestimated. I am able to effectively teach most of my students, but there are certainly dynamics which are more effective and engaging than others.
It's important to find a teacher who not only fixes your body mechanics, but also explains what they are doing or what the goal is and why that matters.
It's also important for a teacher to guide their students on how to methodically work through new material or new challenges. This is the, "how to practice" that I hope to impart on my students.
What questions should students think through before talking to teachers about their needs?
It's important to understand how much you are able to commit regularly to learning the instrument. Consistant practice is more affective than a ton on one day (quality of practice is also important). Assuming your teacher is reasonably good at teaching and really understands how to best play the instrument, your progress is up to you, so think about what your goals are (which can be big or small) and how you may be able to fit violin/viola into a consistant routine.