Few teachers have the opportunity to truly grow alongside their students. Many of them change a student's life, but may never get to see that student live up to their potential after they leave the classroom unless the student reaches back to tell them how important they were to their development. When someone is a music teacher, however, that relationship has the potential to extend throughout a child's life and become just as integral to their development as the relationship between the child and their parents.
Eloise Hellyer began her teaching career in an unexpected way, after she became a mother. A Chicago native, she studied the violin with Edgar Muenzer, Hannah Armstrong, and Ludwig Schmidt. After a move from the United States that took her family to a remote part of the Middle East, she learned to teach violin nearly in a vacuum, if it weren't for her methodology classes in the United Kingdom. The need to share with others was strong and deep in Hellyer's personal ethos, but the teaching process was new to her, her classroom was in a remote desert town, and her students few and far between. Still, she remained undaunted. Her first student was her daughter, whom she taught how to play the violin. Her second student was Diana LeGrand, now a Grammy-nominated violinist and soloist for Forever Tango, whom she began teaching when Diana was three-years-old.
Hellyer has worked as a teacher for a long time, and found that writing about her experiences was important to her, but so was the act of sharing them. She describes teaching as almost like a "spiritual activity" that is not only an exchange of information, but an exchange of energy: love, devotion, happiness, challenge, success. Her book 1 Teaches 2 Learn: Private Music Teaching and You is a labor of love decades in the making.
This book is built into twenty chapters, each with a topic of consideration. Hellyer takes each of these topics and expands on them using her experience as a teacher and examples from her real life. Many chapters deal with the struggles of self-doubt, what to do when students don't want to practice, and how becoming a child's secondary adult influence impacts relationships with parents. It's the chapters on interacting with parents that are particularly interesting, as Hellyer reframes parents as part of the teaching narrative by putting them in a teaching role as well. Rather than feeling exasperated at the phrase "my child doesn't listen to me, but they listen to you" Hellyer claims that it should be a moment of empowerment for both teacher and parent by recognizing the important roles each of you play in the student's life. There are things the student will only do on the recommendation of their parents, after all. Below is a selection of the themes covered in 1 Teaches 2 Learn:
Are You Qualified?
Characteristics of a Teacher
The Role of Emotions in Teaching
Why Students Don't Have Fun and What to Do About It
Help for Parents and Students
So You Want to Open Your Own Studio
These themes and questions are all things that many teachers have thought about, dealt with, or found themselves trying to figure out on their own. This is the essence of the book's title as well: when one teaches another, both the student and the teacher learn and experience something new. The book is also written in a conversational style that allows for quick reading and moments of genuine reflection. In her review of the book Celia Cobb of The Strad writes:
"[Hellyer] mixes (often hard-hitting) questions with thoughts, opinions and anecdotes from her long teaching career, as well as offering practical suggestions and advice to both new and established teachers ... the conversational style of the writing make it tempting to read large chunks of the book in one go, which I found had a similar effect to having an interesting chat with a fellow string teacher over coffee."
In addition to Hellyer's own research and experience, the latter half of the book is dedicated to a series of interviews she has conducted with fellow violinists, including Salvatore Accardo, Gidon Kremer, Chloé Trevor, and many more. Hellyer continues to keep record of her experiences as a teacher on her blog, which you can read here, though 1 Teaches 2 Learn is a culmination of years of experience and dedication to the craft that must not go unnoticed.
If you are interested in becoming a teacher, are a teacher yourself, or are even a student wanting to learn more about how a teacher approaches violin pedagogy, this book is for you. And what better way to learn than reading the friendly voice of someone extending their hand to you in joy and kindness?