Brian Lewis – Part 2 – Report from 7th European Suzuki Teachers Exchange

Summary of student masterclasses:

As well as teaching a masterful session on the Bach Violin Concerto in A Minor, Brian also taught a number of student masterclasses. Amongst others, students played pieces by Bach, Wieniawski, Viotti, Severn, Potstock and Kreisler, which were performed by the students either in individual masterclasses or as group sessions. The following is a selection of highlights drawn from these classes.


With his animated presenting skills, Brian entertained students and teachers alike, by stimulating their imagination and challenging the students to think about their tone in the form of colours and textures. Brian challenged the students to play a passage in the style of the great composers like Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Stravinsky, and reminded us that ‘the changes you are able to make [as a violinist] allow you to become a very adaptable musician’.

Composer’s lives:

During the masterclasses we heard humorous quips and entertaining stories of Brian’s encounters with Suzuki in his childhood. Brian also shared his substantial knowledge of little known facts about the composers’ personal lives, which shed light on how the pieces could be interpreted.

During an individual masterclass, Brian helped a student understand that Wieniawski led a wild life and died from the excesses of life in his 40’s. Therefore, his music needs to be fiery and wild to reflect this. However, Mr Lewis carefully reminded us that virtuosity is not about speed, it is about control!


Brian discussed the importance of studying tone production at all stages of development, which is an idea central to many great pedagogues, and well known to all Suzuki teachers due to Suzuki’s emphasis on beautiful tone. Brian explained that ‘people tend to judge us by our sound, and our job as soloists is to be heard’.

Brian explained that even with his most advanced students, he uses Suzuki’s Tonalization exercise to emphasise resonance and ringing notes. Brian also has his students watch the string physically vibrate, which aids their understanding further.

With each student, Brian worked on dramatically changing their sound, and discussing sound-related terminology differences that teachers have used in the past. Galamian spoke of lanes, Suzuki spoke of the Kreisler Highway, and Delay spoke of the Forte sounding point. However, they are all referring to the same sound concepts that we as violinists need to internalise.

Brian talks more about Suzuki’s Tonalization in the following video:

String Crossings:

During a particularly informative masterclass, Brian worked with a student to develop the depth of control over string crossings. Brian introduced the daily string crossing and scale exercise No. 2 by Eugène Ysaÿe, which aims to develop the difference in arm levels when crossing strings.

Whereas Suzuki asked his students to practise Tonalization every day, DeLay asked her students to study shifting exercises every day, and Ysaÿe required his students to work on the string crossing exercise. When working on the exercise, the student needs to bare in mind that each string has three potential angles or elbow positions:

1. To the right of the string
2. Centered
3. To the left of the string





Ysaÿe’s exercise lends itself to being learned in chunks, and being added to when the current stage is mastered. All of the exercises should first be practiced slowly, allowing the ear to develop along with the fingers towards attaining faultless intonation. Speed will develop in a much more satisfactory manner AFTER practising the scales slowly.

Brian also reminded us that the exercises should not only be instructive but also inspire the student to create a beautiful musical result. It is interesting in how similar Ysaÿe’s fully developed exercise is to the Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

To learn more about Ysaÿe’s exercises, watch Brian teaching the exercise to a young student in a masterclass:

Helen Hines: Report from 7th European Suzuki Teachers Exchange, Part 1


Helen Hines
Studio Director of ‘Violin with Helen’ in Reading, United Kingdom


Helen holds an MA in Instrumental Teaching from the University of Reading (where she graduated with distinction), and violin teaching diplomas from Trinity College London (ATCL), and the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (DipABRSM).



8th European Suzuki Teachers Exchange Convention in Germany
28 – 31 October 2016

We hope to meet you all again for next year’s Conference, and extend an invitation to all violin, viola and cello teacher of the worldwide Suzuki community.

EVERY Suzuki teacher
and interested string teacher
is very WELCOME!


Become a member of our ISTEX facebook group!


ISTEX – International Suzuki Teachers EXchange

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