Patrick Rafferty’s Violin Studio
Teaching the violin has been a nearly lifelong commitment for me. I gave my first lesson when I was 18 years old, and I’ve been teaching ever since. I’ve had the good fortune of studying with some great teachers, as well as learning from some fantastic colleagues and other musicians. So many influences go into my teaching that it’s hard to say what “school” of violin teaching I’m from. Two of my main teachers, Gerald McLaughlin and Paul Makara, studied with the premier pedagogues of their day at Juilliard—Leon Persinger and Ivan Galamian. And there was the great Aaron Rosand, with whom I studied all 10 Beethoven Sonatas.
Playing in orchestra has also taught me a lot, including how to open my consciousness and become a part of a musical experience much greater than myself. Working with world-class conductors has been a huge learning experience as well. Conductors like Leonard Bernstein, Lorin Maazel, Bernard Haitink, Claudio Abbado, Eric Leinsdorf, William Steinberg, Thomas Shippers, Kurt Mazur, Daniel Barenboim, Gunther Herbig, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Kieth Lockhart and others have instilled in me a desire to always aspire to the highest standards.
Perhaps my greatest learning experience has been working with students. Each one is special and unique in his or her own way, making every lesson a challenge. Every student needs something different in his or her instruction, depending on a hundred different factors. Regardless of the level of advancement or future aspirations, I try to bring my full focus and dedication to each lesson and tailor a program of study that will fit the student and help them develop into a well-rounded violinist/musician.
The question often comes up whether dedicated technical studies are important in developing a student’s playing. I say a resounding yes! Scales and arpeggios teach us much more than how toplay scales and arpeggios. They teach us patterns and motions in much greater concentration than we can ever get in repertoire. Show me a student who knows their scales and arpeggios and I will show you one who learns repertoire relatively quickly and easily. The same goes for etude study. Etudes allow us to focus on mechanical/physical issues in a way that we can never do in repertoire. We don’t have the distraction of our emotional involvement in music-making that can create tension or other bad physical habits. Once we have established good physical habits it becomes much easier and more natural to make music. And ultimately, making music is what we’re really after.
Good habits also come from studying the right music at the right time. Before we can run, we need to learn to walk. Before we walk, we learn to crawl. The same is true with the violin. If I want to play the Bruch concerto, for example, there is a progression of pieces and studies that will prepare me for playing a beautiful performance of that piece. If I haven’t played Ten Have, Accolay, DeBeriot, Viotti, or Mozart, then I’m not ready to do justice to Bruch. I might be able to struggle through the piece, but since my “virtuoso chops” haven’t been developed, my performance won’t be up to snuff, and I’m setting a standard for myself that I may never overcome. Playing the right piece at the right time gives us a chance at a high-quality performance and higher self-esteem.