music, but we didn't have many opportunities. They put me in school orchestra, which was one of the best things they could have done. They provided me with private lessons, classical music recordings, my grandpa's violin, and they appreciated the progress I made. When I was 16, they encouraged me to start teaching neighborhood kids violin lessons. Soon after that, I moved pipe for two summers to be able to buy a nice violin of my own. We had never heard of a music camp, or any other outside musical opportunities. Because I loved practicing, I practiced hard. During the summers I practiced almost all day every day, but with no guidance from a teacher since it was not customary to take lessons in the summer back then. I noticed that my Dad expected less out of me in the way of chores when I was practicing so that helped motivate me. I only participated in any kind of festival for about 4 of my formative years. I played in maybe 6 recitals my whole life by the time I was 21 years old. When I was almost 18 years old, I went to college and majored in violin. I thought that I was very well prepared, given all the opportunities I had had. What I soon learned was that I had been in my own bubble living my own fantasy without any clue as to what would be expected in a college setting. I thought the scales I had been practicing were way above and beyond what anyone would ever expect me to play, and yet I was barely proficient at them to make it into the program. What I thought was excellence had been nothing but mediocrity. I had one tool that many of the other students did not have, however, and that was desire. To this day, I have only found a handful of people that love playing the violin as much as I do, and this has proven to be my greatest asset. Even though I was behind the other students in ability, many of them have quit playing altogether, therefore, I am now caught up with them. I was shocked at the abilities that they possessed at the time, and became very depressed when I realized how behind I was. Luckily, I was in a New Testament class in which I read Mathew 23:11 where Jesus says, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." I took that to mean that if I wanted to be the greatest violinist, I needed to help the other violinists in any way I could. I began by helping any that wanted by listening and offering advice, and helping them with the skills with which I was more proficient (which was one). I never became the greatest, but I was happy. Ever since those days, I decided that my calling in life would be to provide opportunities for youth that I never had, and that would have made all the difference in my pursuit to become a great violinist.
This brings me to what every parent should know. In order for students to become proficient in there abilities, they need opportunities. Not just those provided by the government in the education system, but opportunities. String players need to be exposed to the great performers of their instruments to really know how to rise above mediocrity. If they want to be pilots, they need the opportunity to learn from great pilots in addition to theoretical book learning. Students need to be exposed to other students who share similar interests. This is not so they can conquer their peers and reach the top, but so they can learn and grow together. My wife and I run Mountains & Strings so to provide that opportunity. We could just be content teaching private lessons to our local students, but we know that that is not enough. So many string students take school orchestra and private lessons all the way through high school and never play a real piece by a real composer. If a violin student has played through Suzuki Books 1 - 5, they have only played one real violin piece: The Bach Concerto for Two Violins. Although this is a beautiful piece, it is only the beginning of a world of music that only great violinists can play. Many high school students have never even heard a chamber music piece let alone played one. Chamber music is one example of music that can be enjoyed one's whole life regardless of vocation or other interests. Many others have scarcely performed in a solo situations and are uncomfortable doing so. What a tragedy to sink all that money into our child's instrument, lessons, and books, only to have an expensive souvenir sitting in the closet for the rest of his or her life. The purpose of our music camp is to provide that often elusive element that binds all the other elements of what makes a great musician.. We are not limited to violin geeks, but invite all dedicated string students to come and explore their instrument to a greater level than they previously have done. Some will discover that a life in music is not for them, while others will discover a much deeper love and appreciation for what music is all about. Don't let money get in the way of this wonderful opportunity. Plan for it, let your child work hard. Explore the possibilities. Make time for it. If you have tried all of this, then talk to us, and we will find a way for them to come and partake of this essential part of a young musician's development.