William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Learning Never Ends

What's most important in learning than learning itself?

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick explores the concept of learning and how it actually "never ends." How can that help you in your violin practice?

Released on October 2, 2019

    
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to teach in another language? "Une autre langue"? Well, I hadn't ever considered that as a possibility until moving to France. After spending two, I think probably more accurately, three years learning the basics of the language and working for a few more years as a violinist and violist in a few chamber orchestras, I ended up getting a position teaching 33 students at the Conservatoire, the Levallois-Perret in the Parisian suburbs. It was here that my newly learned language skill was absolutely put to the test.

So as time wore on, I definitely became bilingual, but I really wanted to stay American so I didn't become bi-cultural. It was this distinction which caused me serious issues with describing what I had learned through my self-interrogations in French. You see, in order to teach something, say like shifting, I had to go back and ask myself how I learned it? In English, of course, and then I had to translate what I uncovered to French. To do this, I really needed to understand what I was doing, how how was doing it? And finally, to clarify exactly where I should do it.

I remember the first week of lessons at the conservatory, I felt in over my head, but decided that to make it through I had to come up with a plan, and I did. After every student played for me that week, I asked them what was their favorite something? Like, I don't know, food? I asked them what they liked to do? You see, I needed time to evaluate where they were as players, as people.

Well, they were completely taken aback, startled, but this is what I did. You see, I've always been averse to saying things quickly, as the consequences from being wrong were far too consequential, were far too great. So I did this, and when the week ended, I was totally shaking this. No one played like me, not one of them shared my point of view. Now, I was in big trouble. You see, what could I say to them next week?

Well, I spent the weekend contemplating and still had no answers while I was on the train to the conservatory. Then, while walking from the station it came to me, I would tell them something irrefutable, so logical that we could build on it with no problems. Well, what did I say? Well, I told them that we didn't need to push the string to the fingerboard and keep it there to be able to get sound. I mean, that was so easy. So true. Well, I did it that week and I felt so good over the weekend as I had accomplished my mission.

Now the next week started, and the first student came in and played, but to my astonishment they pushed the finger all the way to the fingerboard just as they had before. I said nothing till the end of the lesson and then I asked if they had understood me, and this student nodded yes, but said, "Monsieur, that could never work because if you don't press the string all the way down to the fingerboard then there's no sound."

Well, that started my little French revolution, because was forced to battle and prove that I was right here all year long. I was forced to dig deeper. I need to understand more and then be able to explain it in another language. Explain it in French. It was now that I understood that simply translating didn't cut it. So the bottom line, in my experience, is that by having to teach in another language, I became so much more literate in my ability to express, explain what I believe it takes to be a very, very good violinist.

Now let's fast forward a bit, and you see, I returned to the United States in 1998. And well, it happened again, as this time, I had to turn all that I had learned in French back into English. So I guess learning never ends. Thank goodness.
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