Damon Flanagan Teaching Ethos

Teaching Ethos

I first taught the violin at the age of 16, putting a pupil through an Associated Board grade three exam within 18 months and gaining a merit. My interest in teaching first developed due to my desire to understand how the violin works. During my practice I enjoy breaking problems down into small components and slowly bringing all the elements together to rebuild the music. I view teaching as an outlet with which to explore this process further.

During my years in teaching I have studied how to further students' problem solving skills. I have learned that you can not just provide them with the same system that works for me. I cannot make students a clone of myself. I see the teachers role as someone who can provide the desire and intrigue. For example, no matter how many times you tell a violinist to keep their bow straight, and explain all the reasons such as improved sound, control etc a straight bow will not be achieved until the pupil desires to have a straight bow. The teacher must guide the pupil to want and yearn to create a great sound. An academic may talk about the deep “Brahms Sound” and the use of lush vibrato which can help to create this. But it is the teacher who can make the pupil want to create this sound for themselves. I have found that this can be achieved by making the pupil aware of their sound, vibrato, straightness of the bow and many other technicalities through their verbal descriptions of them. Having the pupil describe their sound, posture, tension etc verbally focuses the mind on them in a very detailed train of thought. Then by having the student describe what they want to hear, feel in absolute detail the student can find their own “Brahms Sound”.

The violin is no mystery in the way it works: it is pure physics. My teaching breaks down the playing of the violin into very simple easy to learn blocks. This can achieve very quick results. Tone, for instance, can be altered by factors such as weight put into the string, bow speed and point of contact of the bow on the string. Once these three factors can be understood and controlled the violinist is set free to produce whichever sounds, colours they wish. Students can solve problems themselves with a teacher's guidance and only then will the pupil feel empowered and want to create the sound again and again and improve on it when their imagination and musical concepts develop further. This style of teaching forms the foundation of my work.