Starling-Delay Symposium on Violin Studies, part 1

Hello, all!

I’m so happy to be back in town after an absolutely brilliant week at Juilliard’s Starling-Delay Symposium on Violin Studies. It’ll certainly take more than one post to pass along the wisdom shared by so many great violinists and colleagues, so let’s start off with one of my favorite events — Sarah Chang’s master class.

To begin the week, world-renowned soloist Sarah Chang offered not just her expert violinistic advice on major repertoire, but a prime example of positive teaching at the highest possible level. She frequently used questions to help students identify their individual musical intentions for each phrase, thereby giving students the confidence to present their own artistic interpretations with conviction. Meanwhile, her upbeat encouragement, quick humor, intelligent teaching process, and warm smile made her master class both a tutorial on technique and musicality as well as one on how to inspire your audience!

In talking about her own legendary teacher, the incomparable Dorothy Delay, Sarah Chang mentioned the importance of making disciplined learning fun. As one of the most skilled child prodigies in musical history, Sarah Chang still confessed to having watched an hour of TV after school every day — “Saved By the Bell!”

With Sarah Chang!

May Recital 2015

Spring is here and we’re all ready to perform!

While the older LHS musicians complete their orchestra placement auditions, our littlest violinists have put together quite the show for you and the residents of the Sugar Land Atria Senior Living!

Please join us for performances and awards this Saturday, May 16th at 6pm at Atria. Bring a smile and your applause!

Studio Challenge – Sign Up Now!

Welcome to the 2015 LHS 100 Days of Practice Challenge!

Registration is now open and will close when the Challenge begins on Friday, March 20th. Dust away the dreary winter and infuse your practice sessions with excitement, motivation, and progress!

Celebrate the milestones along the way, and join us for a party honoring your accomplishments at the conclusion of the Challenge in June. Signing up for the Challenge will give your family step-by-step support and motivation. We’re in this together!

Check out to learn more about setting students up for positive and effective practicing. Sue Hunt, its creator, provides endlessly helpful tips! My favorite article about the 100 Day Challenge is targeted at teachers, but the diagrams help everyone understand how consistent practicing is the key to musical success:

Next up, grab your own copy of the 100 Day Practice Journal and we’ll get started!

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

Game On! Making Practicing Fun

I still remember the fun practice games I played with my parents as a young violinist. You too can use practice sessions to bond, build self-esteem, and develop positive determination. Playing a quick, relaxing activity in-between practice repetitions helps keep the mood happy, and your involvement demonstrates to your child just how important their progress and happiness on the violin is to you.  Here are some of my favorites for your family to enjoy!


1.) Candy Land

Candy Land is an ideal practice board game because it requires little play time per turn, keeping your practice session on track. Each time it’s your child’s turn, have them play a measure (or song, or new technique) before rolling the dice. What a great way to involve the whole family in practice time fun!

2.) Glitter Wands

There’s something about a glitter wand that mesmerizes even studio parents! Kids and parents alike set up their bow hold on the glitter wand and keep the hold relaxed and accurate until all the glitter falls to the bottom of the wand. Turn the wand upside down and start again!

3.) Arts and Crafts

Give a Rainbow Loom Rubber band to your child for each repetition and see what you can build in a day. Trade play-throughs for feathers, beads, craft supplies, everything. For each step in your project, play a review song. For the true artist, grab a coloring book and fill in part of a picture for every repetition. Paint-by-numbers works especially well for determining how much to fill in for each repetition.

4.) Build Them Up!

Legos (or Duplos, for younger kids) are an awesome way to help kids understand how each practice session takes them to new heights of achievement! Start a Lego village and add a piece for every conquered difficulty. For younger kids, put together a Duplo scene each day, rewarding each effort with a new Duplo. At the end, they’ll have a visual representation of their achievement!

5.) Third Time’s a “Charm!”

For every three times in a row your little violinist plays something correctly, give them a “charm” (a bead for a bracelet). Alternatively, use rhinestone embellishments and glue one on to a project for every three repetitions. Use these creations as presents for friends and family!

6.) Suzuki Review Games

You can find dice, review cards, and other Suzuki-specific games at You can use these dice to play Review Song Bingo as well!

A note on electronic games – while gaming on the iPad may sound like the ultimate practice reward for each kid, I don’t recommend it because isn’t centered around parent-child practicing, and earning screen time makes practicing seem like a chore that must be rewarded. Instead, practicing should be a time when parents and kids work together and enjoy the experience itself. 

Above all, remember that every child’s first priority is making you proud with their playing! Praise their hard work, and let them know that trial and error is part of the process – we practice so much because we know that some things are too advanced to play correctly the first time!

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

Meet Your Musical Family!

“I want my children to love music, but I’m no expert. How can my spouse and I give our kids the very best music has to offer when we’re so new to violin?”

Here are my favorite ways to help your kids learn!

Attend Every Lesson

Ask questions, videotape, take notes, and try playing a few songs yourself. The more involved you are, the easier everything will come to you and your young musician(s)! Teachers don’t expect you to be an expert — they hope you’ll be their teammate at home, supporting your child each step of the way. Not only does this effort help you keep up with your little violinist, but it also demonstrates to your child how much you love them and value their hard work. Remember that kids will mirror your attitude — if you’re positive and dedicated, they will be as well.

Talk to Other Parents

If there’s an obstacle standing in your way, you can bet someone else in the studio recently faced and conquered it. Friendships with other studio parents can be a huge resource. Ask your teacher to set you up with another family.

Attend Concerts

Youth Concerts — Recitals, local youth orchestras, and high school musical productions inspire us all. “Look how much fun those kids are having together! Are you excited to play with them someday soon?

Professional Performances — Symphonies often have special concert series targeted at families. These family events often take place on Saturday mornings, making it easy for you to bring even the youngest ones along. Make it a special occasion and celebrate how grown-up the kids are at their first concert!

Houston Families: Check out the Houston Symphony (especially the Family Season!), Virtuosi of Houston, the Houston Youth Symphony, and the American Festival for the Arts.


Put on a favorite CD and let the kids spin around the room. Encourage them to move to the music — slow when the music slows, speed up and twirl when the music does the same. Encourage brave musical expression from your children by getting up and dancing with them!


Show children the fun of expressing how they feel through their voice. Sing in the car, on long walks, whilst doing the dishes, and, most importantly, whenever the kids are happy. It doesn’t matter what you sing or how everyone sounds: you’re building self-esteem, a love for music, and perceptive ears!

Rent Your Own Instrument

It may feel intimidating, but renting your own instrument and playing along with your child for the first few months is one of the most effective ways to jump-start progress at home. Who knows, you too might catch the Fiddle Bug!

Set Your Home to Music

Let listening to music and singing along work its way into every aspect of family life. Have a new favorite song each week, listen to your new Suzuki CD until yours neighbors could play Allegro, and show the kids how fun listening to Beethoven over breakfast can be.

"Okay, everyone, let's play!" The Haley Family  in the early 90's.
The Haley Family

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

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