ViOlympics: What Music Students Can Learn from Olympic Athletes


ViOlympics_ What Music Students Can Learn from Olympic Athletes

I love the Winter Olympic Games. The athletes and events are a fun diversion during the cold, dark months of winter and it’s inspiring to watch the drive, artistry and focus of the world’s best athletes. This semester, my students are participating in the “ViOlympics” (violin/viola olympics) as we look forward to the PyeongChang Olympic Games. Every week, each student must practice at least 6 days and complete other special challenges, such as bow exercises, listening, ear training, or music theory worksheets. I’ll be posting the challenge chart on my TpT page later this week for any teachers who might want to use it. As I created this new practice challenge, I started thinking about the parallels between excelling at a sport and excelling at a musical instrument. What follows are just a few observations.

In both sports and music, players must practice diligently every day in order to improve. While some sports have “rest days” when athletes don’t practice their sport, or do other exercises, instrumentalists must practice every day to develop their muscle memory so that the fingers will remember the correct notes, rhythms, and articulation. Both sports and music require a similar daily discipline. A feature article in Women’s Running magazine reveals one Olympic figure skater’s daily routine: “While her off-ice training varies day to day, she consistently trains for two to three hours on the ice every Monday through Friday. ”

Similarly, one of the all-time greatest violinists, Jascha Heifetz also knew the value of daily practice:

The discipline of practice every day is essential. When I skip a day, I notice a difference in my playing. After two days, the critics notice, and after three days, so does the audience.  – Jascha Heifetz

Athletes and musicians alike start playing at a young age, almost always during the elementary school years. Due in no small part to the prevalence of the Suzuki Method, many students now being music study around age 4. A cursory reading of Olympic athlete bios shows that an early start is also important in many sports, specifically choreographed sports such as gymnastics or ice skating, where it is not unusual to begin classes at age 3. That’s not to say that one can’t reach a high level of achievement when starting at a later age, but it seems that earlier study provides real advantages. Continue reading “ViOlympics: What Music Students Can Learn from Olympic Athletes”


Viola Hero! Rockin’ at Regular Practice

Here in St. Louis, we are currently under an Ice Storm Warning and my regular Suzuki Saturday classes have been cancelled, so even though it is a Saturday, it feels like a Snow Day. Having moved here from upstate New York, I tend to laugh at the hysteria that takes hold of Missourians when there is more than a dusting of snow (Cancel school! Mob the grocery store! It’s the Apocalypse!), but the weather reports for this storm aren’t looking good, so I’m glad to be warm and cozy inside and working on getting ready for our new semester, which starts on Tuesday. One of the things I’m finishing up is my new practice challenge. I love a good theme, and this semester’s theme is “Viola Hero”, like Guitar Hero but for viola. I also have a few violin students, so they get to use the “Violin Hero” Chart. Both charts are available at my TpT store. Here’s a sneak peak of the Viola Chart:



Not Working:

The Weekly Lesson Chart

I have pretty much always used a weekly practice chart for lesson assignments which my older students read and check off as they practice throughout the week. As I have gotten to know my students better, I began to see patterns in practicing. Continue reading “Viola Hero! Rockin’ at Regular Practice”