Robin Williams -
Violin/Fiddle, Viola, Cello
Where and how did you get your start in music?
My mother was a fine pianist, so some of my earliest memories are of sitting very still in her lap and watching her fingers as s
he played. Daddy had a beautiful voice – although he only knew the first line of any given song, and could change keys at least 3 times before he got to the end of the line! At 5, I heard a lady play the violin at our church. I had never heard such a lovely sound. That was it for me. I knew the violin was going to be my instrument. I took piano lessons, but never caught the bug. It seemed so easy for Mamma and it was so hard for me! The piano and I have maintained an adversarial relationship ever since. Though I did pass my piano barrier, there was that little proviso that I never play the piano in public. I’m okay with that! In 6th grade my school offered orchestra and I finally got the chance to play the violin.
What is your favorite style of music to play/ What is your primary instrument?
I have eclectic taste in music. I love to play Bach but I also enjoy playing fiddle tunes – anything from good ol’ Texas swing to bluegrass and Irish fiddle. The fiddling kind of came about by necessity when we had first opened Arbor Music. Rachelle Butaud came in wanting fiddle lessons for her son, Mitchell. I told her that I was classically trained but would do my best to learn along with him. It opened up a whole new world for me.
Who is your favorite composer/musician?
The 4 B’s : Bach, Brahms, Bartok, and Bob Wills.
What inspired you to teach/what do you enjoy about teaching?
Four incredibly dear violin teachers inspired me to teach - each one with different strengths. Marilyn Llewelyn started me off with love of excellent intonation and strength of tone, Rosemary Jodeit gave me her sensitivity of phrasing and a wise approach to fingering. Melissa Pierson successfully rebuilt my bow hand and showed me how to release tension in my playing, and finally, David Chassow, taught me how to practice. I try to bring their gifts to me into every lesson.
How do you motivate students to practice
I try to find what ignites their spark. Some people respond to science, some to number, while others are poets and story tellers. We find the thing that inspires. M&M’s work pretty well, but some people like Starbursts better! All levity aside, I know how difficult it is to find time to practice. Ideally, I would like all of my students to practice daily - not because it is forced upon them, but because they simply love to express themselves through music. That is not what happens in the very early stages of playing. Don't let yourself fall for the "I shouldn't have to tell them to practice" line. There are rare self-motivated children (I teach more than my fair share of them, by the way!) but more often than not, your child will need you to help them pass quickly through that miserable brand-new beginner stage. This is for the best for your child because their success gives them legitimate and merited self-respect. This is best for your family because you will begin to hear lovely music, skillfully played.
What are some unique things you do to make a positive impact on students’ musical growth?
I spend a great deal of time in setting the bow hand and posture. So much frustration can be avoided by making sure their technique is healthy from the start so that they will be able to make steady progress without having to backtrack to fix bad habits.
I insist that my students play in tune, and most importantly,I try to help people become teachable.
If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
I would be a pine tree – because because they are so lovely and tall and somebody in our family should get some altitude