October 17, 2018

Minifiddlers brings violin to wider audience

International Minifiddlers’ video library comprises 120 lessons featuring Géza Szilvay, the developer of the Colourstrings Method.
International Minifiddlers’ video library comprises 120 lessons featuring Géza Szilvay, the developer of the Colourstrings Method.
Minifiddlers

International Minifiddlers, a programme launched by Helsinki-based Caprice, could make violin teaching a reality in primary schools and after-school clubs.

Parents around the globe are increasingly concerned about the effects of modern-day mobile gadgets on the learning and cognitive development of their children.

“This is a concern for many parents,” states Maarit Rajamäki, a professional violinist and the founder and chief executive of Caprice. “The brain isn’t developing broadly enough and children may develop attention issues.”

Rajamäki states that musical education is a means to combat the ill effects of spending virtually every spare moment fiddling with or glancing at screens no bigger than a couple of inches. Violin, for example, has been shown to have a positive impact on cognitive skills, school performance and, later, the ability to cope in working life.

“Violin requires perseverance and promotes both creativity and emotional faculties while offering an excellent way to counterbalance the incessant flow of information in today’s mobile-oriented world,” she explains.

Four-year curriculum

Caprice has sought to ensure as many children as possible have access to high-quality violin instruction since 2012, when it began developing a comprehensive online materials package for instructors interested in adopting what it believes is the most child-friendly violin instruction method available, the Colourstrings Method.

“We previously focused more on master-class level instruction, but now we’re also offering basic instruction, for which there haven’t been too many solutions – particularly ones based on distance learning,” tells Rajamäki.

Distance learning is a means to ensuring virtually everyone has access to musical education.

Distance learning is a means to ensuring virtually everyone has access to musical education.

Minifiddlers

The 120 lessons were shot during a four-year pilot project with a group of Finnish children instructed by Géza Szilvay, the developer of Colourstrings. As the same children participated throughout the process, the lesson videos also provide a one-of-a-kind window into how violin students make progress.

“This is the first time in the history of music that something like this has been done. The material is exceptional also from that viewpoint,” highlights Rajamäki.

Weekly distance learning sessions were simultaneously organised with children and violin instructors from a total of 12 countries, she adds. “The groups moved forward simultaneously, and we documented the progress they made – week by week, starting from the basics.”

The programme is marketed under the brand International Minifiddlers. It is targeted not only at violin instructors but also at parents eager to help their children to learn the instrument and at schools and after-school clubs.

“It’s helpful especially for parents who have no musical experience. They often regret the fact that they can’t help their child learn the violin, even though they’d like to,” says Rajamäki.

40 years of testing and refining

Colourstrings is based on the philosophy of Zoltán Kodály and tested and refined over four decades in Finland. The musicians who have practised with the method include Pekka Kuusisto, one of the most renowned violin virtuosos in the world today, and Sakari Oramo, the chief conductor of both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.

According to Rajamäki, the method is ingenious in how it divides violin technique and music theory into distinct elements and introduces them to learners in the optimal order, in a way that makes use of colours and images.

“The method and materials have brought us much closer to being able to bring violin instruction to primary schools and after-school clubs, to reaching as wide an audience as possible,” she says.

Caprice, she adds, is eager to also contribute to the cultural exports of Finland. The company has already received investments from a fair number of small investors and stirred up considerable interest in China and Spain, for example.

“We’re looking to raise funds to expand our customer base, support our concept development and create a new digital distribution platform – and thereby pursue robust growth,” states Rajamäki.

Caprice is a true pioneer in the field of musical distance teaching, having developed distance learning solutions in co-operation with renowned violinist Pinchas Zukerman since 1997.

Caprice is a true pioneer in the field of musical distance teaching, having developed distance learning solutions in co-operation with renowned violinist Pinchas Zukerman since 1997.

Minifiddlers

Text: Aleksi Teivainen

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