Fasten Your Seatbelts for Musical Adventures!

As we approach spring break, finding ways to include musical development in well-deserved vacation time is essential. Here are some tips on how to keep kids learning!

1.) Seek out musical destinations for each trip. Homes of the great composers, legendary conservatories, museums with instrument collections, grand concert halls –there’s fun to be had everywhere! Bonus points for taking pictures and creating a scrapbook of your musical adventures. Ask your teacher for recommendations specific to your travel plans.

You're never too young to start learning about the great composers! Pictured: The home where Antonín Dvořák spent the summer of 1893.
You’re never too young to start learning about the great composers! Pictured: The home where Antonín Dvořák spent the summer of 1893.

2.) Set your trip to music. Put a new CD in the car and enjoy. Encourage everyone to sing along to favorite songs and feel the power of symphonies. Return home humming Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty!

3.) Find new inspiration. Whether it’s the New York Philharmonic, a touring production of Wicked, a pianist playing jazz standards in a beautiful restaurant, or a cousin demonstrating their own musical skills, students can take inspiration from any musical event!

4.) Let theory help you get through those long flights! Bring along a Theory Time book and make a pact to surprise your teacher with how much you’ve learned! Parents, if you’re worried about getting stuck mid-flight, bring along the Theory Time Teacher’s Edition and work as a team.

5.) Practice those bow holds when you can’t bring along your violin! Make a Bow Bunny on a pen and have the bunny share in your adventures.

6.) Let a musical story transport you on long car rides. My absolute favorite is the Classical Kids series. Tchaikovsky Discovers America, Beethoven Lives Upstairs, and Mr. Bach Comes to Call…all on the way to your destination! You can find these CDs on and through your local library.

7.) Invite your violin or viola along for the ride! Check airline-specific guidelines on bringing instruments on flights. Be sure to bring a printed copy of the airline policy with you to show the agent working at the gate desk. Board as soon as possible to make room for your instrument in the overhead compartment, and be especially kind to flight attendants who can help your violin have a safe flight.

8.) Remember, grandparents make the best audience anyone can ask for, so encourage your child to prepare a special performance for family and friends on visits!

The music of Antonín Dvořák grew to mean so much to our family that we visited his former home (in Iowa) on two separate occasions!
The music of Antonín Dvořák grew to mean so much to our family that we visited his former home (in Iowa) on two separate occasions!

All opinions are by Lauren Haley and all original content is copyright 2015 Lauren Haley Studios.

The Right Fit: Shoulder Rests

The biggest step to improving technique is setting yourself up for successful playing posture.

A student who finds the violin uncomfortable or painful is unlikely to put in extra practice, and an inconvenient set-up hinders virtuosity. There’s a shoulder rest out there for everyone, so let’s find the one for you!


1.) Wolf Forte Secondo

Ideal for taller students playing on 3/4 – 4/4 violins, the flexible and curved shape of the Secondo creates comfort and security. The height adjusts for even the longest of necks, and the contour of the shoulder pad makes the Secondo reliable despite the added height.

While the grippy rubber feet of the Secondo wear out eventually, replacements can be purchased online and in many shops. For heavy use without replacing the feet, expect a product lifespan of  6 months to a year, as the screws eventually become shaky.

Note: Violists who are playing on 14” violas should select the 3/4 – 4/4 violin size of the Secondo. However, the viola version of this shoulder rest for violas over 14” tends to not fit instruments or shoulders well as the length of the shoulder pad is not long enough to compensate for the width of larger violas.

$29.95, available on

2.) Everest ES Series Shoulder Rest

These are the most durable shoulder rests on the market for the price. Everest loses points for not being nearly as customizable as the Wolf, but it makes up for that with good design. The rubber feet make putting this shoulder rest on the violin difficult for beginners, but Everests do stay securely in place during practice and performance. The plastic holes for the screws will eventually wear out, but even so, the overall construction for this one is solid.

As a bonus, Everest shoulder rests come in various colors, making them ideal for students to take to school as these won’t get lost in the sea of plain Kun shoulder rests. Everests are best suited to students who are too small for the Wolf Secondo but too advanced for a Kun. Sizes range from 1/10th violins to 16.5” violas.

$14.96, available on

3.) Kun Original

While Kun is the most recognizable brand, it offers the least flexibility for a custom fit. On the bright side, Kun makes shoulder rests in sizes for just about any violin or viola. Additionally, smaller Kuns come in a range of colors, making them more special for young students. However, these shoulder rests tend to slip off the instrument during performance and the height is limited. Further, the rubber feet tend to wear out and the plastic beneath them can break with long-term use. While this shoulder rest works for petite students, its short height and slippery grip on the instrument often results in students squeezing the violin with their left shoulder or supporting the instrument with their left hand.

$21.44, available on

4.) Bon Musica

Bon Musica is the most secure shoulder rest on the market for those with slim shoulders and a long neck. It allows the left shoulder to relax completely. Further, it stays put on the instrument during practice. While the components of this shoulder rest feel cheap for the price, the comfort Bon Musica provides to those who fit it well is well worth the cost. One more thing to know is that the size of Bon Musica shoulder rests frequently prevents them from fitting in students’ violin cases.

$46.34, available on

5.) Foam Shoulder Rest

Best for early beginners, a foam shoulder rests mimics the advantages of using a sponge without having to cut one into the right shape yourself. Some students prefer to stack two of these together to gain additional height, as foam shoulder rests tend to become flat after a few weeks of playing. The relaxed feel of foam shoulder rests helps students drop their left shoulder, making this choice brilliant for the youngest beginner.

$1.65, available on

6.) OttoMusica Magic Pad

One of the least expensive options and certainly the most fun, these work best for the smallest of violinists as well as for advanced students who otherwise would prefer not to use a shoulder rest. The small animal securely and gently adheres to the violin at the beginning of each practice session and can simply be removed for storage without damaging the instrument’s varnish. Violists, especially, who prefer not to use a shoulder rest but who do not want their shoulder to muffle the sound of the instrument may benefit from these. The downside, however, is that the small height of each magic pad makes them impractical for taller musicians.

$4.79, available on

7.) No shoulder rest

Some violinists and violists are most comfortable without a shoulder rest. If you’re considering this switch, speak with your teacher about how to achieve this without negatively impacting the speed and accuracy of the left hand.

All shoulder rests are available on, with the prices listed pertaining to full-size violins. Violists should confirm the measurements of their instrument before purchasing, and young musicians are encouraged to re-evaluate their shoulder rests as they grow to maintain comfort and posture. All opinions are by Lauren Haley and all original content is copyright 2015 Lauren Haley Studios.

2015 Winter Recital

All are invited to join us in celebrating the accomplishments of LHS students and families! Performances start at 6pm on Saturday, February 7th and will feature works of Bach, Bartók, Fauré, Massenet, and Dvořák. A special performance by Ms. Haley will conclude the recital. Reception and studio pictures to follow!


Virtuosi of Houston Studio

Memorial City Mall

303 Memorial City Way #235

Houston, Texas, 77024