Zlata Brouwer is the mastermind behind violinlounge.com and the wildly successful Violin Lounge TV youtube channel.
I found her by searching for different violin technique tips, and to see what other people out there were doing. Her youtube channel is a fantastic resource for people looking to improve their technique (so that all your technique questions can go her way and I can stick with the pop songs!)
She graciously agreed to answer a few questions about herself, her site, and her violin playing-enjoy!
How did you get started playing the violin?
I did a year of general music education, which I hated (I was always a misfit in groups). There was an introduction lesson for the violin and I loved it immediately... First I preferred the cello, just because it's bigger (that's how children think), but my parents didn't want to carry a big instrument around, so the violin it was. Now I still prefer the violin above any other instrument.
Violin... and all the rest is accompaniment ;).
Do you feel like you have stayed true to the classical violin model in your teaching and playing?
I play allround, but mostly classical.
My teaching is inspired by various violin pedagogues and music pedagogues... I take what I like and leave what I don't like. Besides that I try out things on my students and see what fits them. Not every method works for all students. I search for the best way for each individual student.
Do you teach private lessons? Do you incorporate your multimedia programs in your private lessons?
Yup, I teach loads of private students, almost fulltime. Lots of them watch my videos on the side. Some do my online programs and combine these with my private lessons. When students can't come to me weekly, I recommend having the online program on the side to help them when I'm not there.
In what situation would you send a private student to your site to learn instead of working on it in lessons?
Most of the times I teach them in the lesson and refer them to the site, so they can repeat it for themselves at home. I have them watch videos about theory and maintenance things that don't need individual and live guidance. The combination of video lessons and live guidance is golden.
Are there any areas of teaching where you feel like you would prefer to send students somewhere else (such as violinlikethat.com for pop songs)? Where are your go to resources?
Most of the times students find their videos faster than I find them for them. Yes, I like violinlikethat.com very much for pop songs. For background information I send them tothestrad.com or violinist.com
What is your favorite violin memory?
The moment I first touched a violin and the moment I got my first very own 4/4 violin in Czech.
Can you tell us a little about your business model and how you make money from your youtube channel, practice programs, and teaching programs?
At the moment I pay my bills with the income from my violin shop and my teaching studio. Online I make money with the Violin & Viola Academy (now Violin Lounge Academy, but soon to be renamed), which is a growing database in violin and viola basic technique, selling violins and viola's and Skype lessons. On http://www.violinlounge.com you can find all the free stuff (100+ tutorial videos) and paid services I currently offer.
Do you perform regularly? What elements do you add into your performances to make them more "audience accessible" (such as humor, show tunes, popular music, etc.)
Yes, I perform regularly. I think the repertoire (interesting mix of tunes people recognize and less known classical pieces), the length of the performance (not too long!) and the place (ie outside on a festival) make it accessible.
I play 1st violin in a professional string orchestra that plays a lot of movie tunes and jazz (Vegas Strings): this repertoire makes a classical ensemble more accessible.
On the other hand we should stay true to ourselves: some people simply don't want to dive deep into classical music. That's ok, but it shouldn't keep us from performing the less known (perhaps modern) composers and works.
What do you think of "cover culture", where students learn instruments exclusively to play songs and to impress their friends? Do you take advantage of this in your teaching?
Well, I think people who want fast results will be happier playing guitar or piano than violin. Violin is quite difficult from the start and takes long to play well... the instrument selects it's students. I don't have much students who want to impress their friends. Sometimes they want to play a certain tune and I make a plan what technical studies they should do before they can: the tune becomes a reward for good work on the violin.
What do you feel you, as a professional classical violinist, are doing to bridge the gap between the public and your music and how are you going about that?
I mainly bridge the gap by teaching people how to play the violin or viola in a flexible and modern way that respects the past. I offer beautiful violins and viola's for reasonable prices, that people can buy or rent. Both things I do world wide.
What are your goals and dreams with your violin playing and teaching? Do you feel like you are taking active steps to be where you want to be in ten years?
I want to serve many violinists and violists world wide by making them practice happy and play beautifully on a violin or viola they love. In this way the world will sound better. Besides that I want to love my life, love my work, be happy, creative and free. I'm taking steps to achieve this every day.
What do you think will be different about violin teaching in ten years? In twenty?
I think there are many things that will be the same for ages, just as we still apply things from the book of Leopold Mozart written hundreds of years ago.
What will change is the freedom of time and location. Online learning will be more and more available. It will make good quality violin education more accessible for players world wide. I hope to be contributing to this development.
In the future I think students will not only learn classical music, but will also want to improvise, play a broader repertoire and make their own music. I hope to educate allround violinists and violists.
Do people ever ask you how long you have been playing? Do you think the amount of time you have been playing makes a difference in how you teach or not?
Yes, they ask a lot. I play for about 23 years and teach for about 10 years. A better player doesn't always make a better teacher, but I think it does help to have good skills and vast experience.
How long do you think that it took you to really have a strong rappor with the violin and really feel comfortable with the instrument? Do you feel like your students take more or less time to get there than you did?
I think one gets to a new level or dimension as one progresses. Every level a new devil!
I don't remember when I really felt comfortable. It's been quite a while!
My students often don't spend as much time practicing as I did and are sometimes not as fanatic as I was/am. They tell me all the time: You are so talented, for you it's so natural. I actually think I am quite average, just a hard worker, and students who invest the same practice hours will take as much time as I did (I guess). Practice discipline is one of the most difficult things for students.
Do people ever ask you to play "X" song? What is the most popular song people ask you to play?
Father Jacob, I think.
Orchestras are closing down right and left. I, as a freelance orchestral player am seeing that much of the work is turning towards "gigging" shows, where we play concerts that don't use the traditional repertoire on a more and more consistent basis. What do you see the future of classical music looking like?
I think the key is in education. It's easy to enjoy pop music (lots of tunes are similar), but one has to dive a bit deeper to really understand and enjoy classical music. When we educate our audience (via schools, music schools, private studio's, the internet, whatever and wherever), classical music will be more popular. On the other hand classical concert situations should be more adjusted to our time... why do we have to sit all the time, why is it so long, why can't we have a drink and some food? I think making some concerts (not all!) a bit more relaxed, will speak more to a younger audience.
Thank you so much for answering all my curious questions! I thought my customers and students would find your site and youtube channel incredibly useful and I hope that you continue to be successful in everything that you do!
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