Vanessa Balkwill

Wigston, Leicestershire

Qualifications A.L.A.M (Hons), Cert. G.S.M.D

Teaches Violin

Locale Wigston, Oadby, market Harborough, Blaby, Countesthorpe, Leicester Forest East, Broughton Astley, Lutterworth, Hinckley, Loughborough, Anstey, Birstall, Markfield, Coalville, Ashby-de-la-zouch

Vanessa is a private instrumental tutor with 23+ years’ experience of teaching children of all ages on a one to one basis and in small groups. She has a background in drama so she can make lessons a great deal of fun for the youngest of children, where an imaginative and creative approach appeals. She has worked extensively with music and drama in the early years sector, running her own music and movement groups for pre-school children and so have extensive knowledge of the needs and developmental levels of this sector.

Violinbabies and Vanessa

Violinbabies is an innovative approach to teaching young children the very foundations of musicianship in an enjoyable and easy to grasp manner. Children not only learn how to play their chosen instrument with aplomb but they also develop a musical ear, learn the connections between sounds, grasp the fundamentals of music making and get to compose their own pieces! All at the earliest of ages and often even before they have begun to read.

Violinbabies can therefore also greatly aid learning in other areas of the curriculum as children happily engage with their first (symbolic) language (musical notation), learning to read from left to right and connecting symbols on the page with their meaning in physical terms. The pieces the children learn to play are fun, relevant, familiar, and graded to allow a steady technical progression from beginner to exam level.

My thoughts on teaching music

Every child is different and will learn in different ways!

I think it is essential, when teaching any child, to get to know and understand their individual learning approach and tailor lessons to suit. I am very quick to gauge a child’s individual personality, their level of understanding and their approach to learning (e.g. logical, creative) and I like to approach further tasks in this preferred style initially.

Learning the violin should be fun so I often introduce age appropriate games to encourage practice in correct technique and style. I like to engage a child’s imagination whenever I can as this leads to more expressive playing and develops musicality. The written manuscript is usually either telling a story or painting a picture which needs lifting off the page to be truly enjoyable for musician and listener, so the more a child can be encouraged to engage their imagination, the better.

Musical experience

Music has been a huge part of my life from birth. My mother was head of music at Stonehill High School in Birstall and my father was a peripatetic French horn teacher for the Leicestershire County music service. It was inevitable that my brother and I would learn instruments. I started on the clarinet at age 4 but later changed to the violin after hearing a violin class in progress at my junior school and falling in love instantly with the instrument’s sound. A year after taking up the violin, I added a second instrument (flute) and haven’t looked back since!

I passed grade 8 associated board of the royal schools of music with distinction at the age of 14 and it was around that age that I first started teaching. My mother would pass on to me pupils that were struggling with their current peripatetic teachers and I would use creative approaches (gleaned through my drama exploits) to engage them. I had 100% success rate with these children and, at age 18, went on to teach violin part time at “Cygnet” (The Northcott Youth Theatre in Exeter) where I was following a professional drama programme myself but teaching violin to young children who attended the college in the evenings.

After graduating from full time drama school in Birmingham in 1988, I started teaching violin (and now flute) again privately and have been doing this part time ever since, taking many many children from the earliest levels to grade 5 associated board with 100% pass rate. Most have gained merits and distinctions.

In 1997, after the birth of my third child, I began working for “Singing Sally’s” (an under 5s music and movement business) as a music session leader. I ran sessions here for 11 years, writing many of the songs featured in the curriculum and I enjoyed every minute of it! This brought me to a connection with very young children, using both music and drama and lead to the formation of my own business, in 2008: “Tickled Skink” combining music, movement, drama and the natural world with children aged 2 years to 7 years. I love working with this age group. They are fresh, imaginative and eager to learn! So it was such a delight to find and learn the Stringbabies method and to be able to apply it to my teaching!

Vanessa on the internet

Vanessa’s website [Tickled Skink]

Vanessa in social site[s]

Facebook page for Tickled Skink!

Use the site contact form to get in touch with Vanessa – via Kay