Music volunteering with Tutorfair - Madlena's story

September 10, 2015 by Lucy
Image Madlena is a professional violinist and one of our most committed music volunteers, and spent a term at Westminster City School dedicated to the orchestra. She focused on getting Noah, a violin beginner, up to speed so that he could perform in the end of year concert. And a fabulous concert it was too! Here's Madlena, to tell us about her life in music and fulfilling experiences at Westminster City.

I still have a slightly vague memory of my first Violin lesson – I was 4 years old, sitting in the living room with my mom and the violin teacher. I remember his big curly hair and the “surprise” in his hands – the violin. He made the lesson like a fairytale. He told me the story of Princess Violin and helped me take in my hand her magic wand – the bow. After 30 minutes I was feeling so enthusiastic to bring the violin home with me, to make other sounds and play more with it. Somehow, my first teacher managed to light my fire for music and here I am now - playing the violin for 21 years since.

All this years I have been playing as a soloist, quartet primario as well as an orchestral musician. However, almost two years ago, I realized that I wanted to share my passion for violin and to involve other people into the art of music. So, I started my journey as a violin teacher!

After graduating last year from National Music Academy in Sofia I moved to London. The city is enormous and this can be frustrating in the beginning for a traveling tutor. Actually, it turned out to be an incredible experience - month after month I was being reached by pupils of different ages, stages and cultures.

In the meanwhile, I decided it was a good idea to gain more work experience in group teaching, as I was giving mainly individual lessons to my pupils. Here is where Tutorfair came to rescue. I signed up with them 7 months ago because I liked their approach to both tutors and pupils. Their team is friendly-like, enthusiastic and always ready to help the tutors with every need the latter may have. Actually, they are mind-readers as well! I was offered the opportunity to do music volunteering with Tutorfair, in the orchestra classes at Westminster City School, just when I was looking for opportunities to work in a school environment.

I accepted with great enthusiasm and actually, the time spent in the school turned out to be far better and amusing than I expected!

On my first appearance in the music room at the school I was a bit nervous. In front of my eyes were staying children playing all kinds of musical instruments – drums, violoncello, trumpet, trombone and yes! - there was one violin player. I wasn't only going to help a group of violinist, but a whole orchestra!  Then I met Sarah and later – Elliot, two great teachers/conductors of vocals and violin. They were great to introduce me and bring in the details of the program. I am happy to say that with their help I managed quickly to become part of the team, as we soon started sharing opinions regarding the orchestra program. We agreed on Ode to Joy of Beethoven's 9th symphony as a music piece for the upcoming concert.  And then the amusing part begun!

Already feeling relaxed and having on my back 11 years of orchestra experience, I started to get to know the children. Like most teenage groups of schoolmates, they were often a bit noisy, talkative and easily distracted. It was a challenge for me to find the way to keep their attention and most importantly, not to be just stern, but to make them enjoy the time spent in classes.

When I teach, I always keep in my mind the image of my fairytale lesson. It helps me remember that every child is unique and that it is my duty and pleasure to find the exact way to make the child have a good time with the instrument. When something is fun and interesting you want to do it again and again, right? Keeping that in mind, I was talking with Ioan, Jordan, Azhy and Noah about violin stance, dynamics, bowing and fingering, but also showing them how to lead their groups and how to seek carefully for a good quality of the sound; and all that presented in a child-friendly way! I took care to teach them the complex ability of playing together and how to simultaneously listen to the other players, as well as watching the conductor. Wow, that isn't easy at all!

I started to click more with some of the children, finding the way to their mind and heart. With Noah, for example, we were clapping together in order to feel better the rhythmical patterns we were about to play. With the drummer boy we were often talking about favorite jazz and rock bands and the personal style in their playing. This got him very interested and eager to show me what he had practiced and later mastered.

At the end of the school term, the orchestra took part in the final evening concert. It went great, the children looked beautiful and played very well! And in a way, I felt proud!

After my experience in the school I became even more passionate about teaching violin. I realized that there isn't a big difference between teaching one or six children together, if you always strive to give a proper attention to the individual likes and dislikes of the pupil. Above all, it's most important to make them happy with the instrument! Some of them may continue playing the violin for years, some of them may stop at some point. But what counts in the end is the memory of the violin experience that will remain in their minds. For them, one day to stroll down memory lane with a smile – that's my goal!
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