I never showed any interest in learning an instrument when I was a kid. I am the eldest of three so there were no older siblings practicing away, inspiring me to do the same. My earliest musical memories involve Orff classes and listening to music in the car, asking my mom what the lyrics to each song meant. My local public school had a great strings program that began in grade four. I remember auditioning for the program (you had to sing Happy Birthday and clap some rhythms) and being thrilled when I was accepted…although thinking back, everyone who auditioned was, luckily, accepted. I chose to play the violin because that was what my best friend had decided to play. I was excited to bring my violin home but I would have been just as excited if it was a tuba. It was something new, not something I loved.
Practice, Cry, Repeat
Making sound on my violin was wonderful (no matter the quality during those early years!). As a teacher, I now find myself ardently against cardboard violins as they stand for everything I stand against as a MUSIC educator. Much of my experience as a student has influenced what I now do as a teacher. I was the type of kid who liked to be good at things and did not like to get things wrong. I remember practicing my violin, tears streaming down my face because it was difficult, and I wasn’t good at it. Everyone dislikes practicing at some point but for different reasons. My personality as an eight-year-old worked well with the concept of repetitions, working on something daily, and putting in effort but my perfectionist streak made it difficult to understand just how much time it takes to become proficient. I can totally relate to my students who get frustrated, do not like to make mistakes, and get upset when things are difficult. These feelings never go away but it’s important to learn how to manage them so that energy, that sign that you really care about something, can be used to grow and improve. Music lessons provide the crucial opportunity for young children to see and hear the benefits of hard work and dedication, a lesson that can be applied to all areas of life. As I began to improve on my violin, I too learned that lesson.
To teach, or not to teach?
By the time I was in high school, I had reached a comfortable place in my music education. I enjoyed playing, I worked hard, and I had made some great friends along the way. But did I love violin? I asked myself this question as I began to make plans for university. I was pretty sure I loved music, but playing the violin? Practicing for many, many hours each day? There was another problem as well - I do not like performing. A university performance program was not for me… but music education was. I applied for the music education program at the University of Toronto and planned to teach high school strings after graduating. I swore that I would never work with young children and that I had absolutely no interest in students younger than fourteen. Well…things didn’t turn out that way, as I’m sure many of my young violin students can tell you! I volunteered with a Suzuki violin class during my first year of university and that changed everything. I realized that it was early childhood strings education that I loved.
What Music Means to Me
And so here I am. I have 35 wonderful violin students, many of whom are the young students I mistakenly thought I did not want to work with, as well as three Suzuki group classes. I have graduated with honors from the University of Toronto with a degree in music education. I think the most important thing I have learned on my musical journey so far is that music is what you make it to be. Learning the violin from an early age is great, but there is no reason you can’t start at any point in your life. You can perform music, but you can also listen to it, read about it, compose it, and teach it. You can play and listen to classical music, but it isn’t the epitome of music. There are endless ways to engage with music so no matter your age, experience, or preferences, dive into music and you’ll be much happier for it!
And So I Bid You Adieu…
It’s time for me to say goodbye as I embark on a new journey of musical engagement and exploration. In October 2018 I will begin a Masters in Arts, Creativity, and Education at the University of Cambridge. I find comfort in the saying, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you” as I prepare to take this big step forward. I wholeheartedly thank all my students and their families at Upper Beaches Music School for helping me find my love of teaching. I wish you all the best and many more years of happy music making!
This post is part of a series that features Toronto's musicians' journey to becoming a professional musician. To read more of their stories, click here.
Hayley Janes is a violin teacher and the Suzuki Coordinator at Upper Beaches Music School. She is passionate about finding fun and innovative ways to engage her students during their lessons. When she is not playing the violin, Hayley enjoys reading, being outside, and watching movies with family and friends.