For the Love of Music

Nadine Artuhavana discusses how a chance encounter with a fellow student at Belarus Minsk Conservatory sparked her love of teaching and how she tries to encourage the same level of enthusiasm for music in her students.

Nadine Artuhavana graduated from the Belarus Minsk Conservatory and has taught Conservatory students in Minsk, Belarus, to a professional level. She has seven years’ experience giving concert performances in Europe, while touring with the Minsk Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. When she isn’t in her classroom teaching for GEMS Music Hub (GMH), a music institution proving quality tuition for children and adults, Nadine currently performs as a solo violinist in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. She is the concertmaster and the solo violinist of NSO Symphony Orchestra in Abu Dhabi where she often performs with the orchestra in the Emirates Palace auditorium.

How did you develop an interest in the violin and how long have you been playing?
As a child, I was always singing and in kindergarten I played a few instruments such as the xylophone, gusli (an instrument almost identical to a Kanun, a Turkish string instrument), and the block flute. When I was four, I started taking accordion lessons, and at seven I met my first violin teacher and that was the moment when I felt that the violin was the best extension of my voice. Although I was able to play the piano quite well thanks to my accordion lessons, I appreciated the violin the most and chose it as my main instrument. I was also fortunate to meet the right teacher who could understand my desires and develop the right repertoire that reflected my feelings while maintaining professional discipline.

What inspired you to start teaching and how long have you been with GMH?
My first teaching experience was in the Belarus Minsk Conservatory. A friend of mine failed her exam and I thought I could help her. I coached her in high-level composition pieces, and I was excited to apply my knowledge to help my friend. She achieved a high grade in the next examination which allowed her to gain a scholarship. After this, I started taking on a few more students, which provided me with many great experiences and improved my knowledge. I have been teaching with GMH since 2008, and I teach all levels from beginner to advanced.

What is the best part about your job?
I love to see the results of all the efforts when my students are performing successfully and taking part in competitions. I also enjoy playing with them, either by accompanying them on the piano or playing duos on violin.

How do you organise, plan, and execute your work? What techniques do you adopt or adapt in order to teach your students?
When I meet my new students, I always ask their parents about the child’s musical background. This guides me in the best way to interest the child in the violin from the first touch of the instrument. All my other lessons are planned based on the results and short notes that I record for myself during each lesson. Some children love to take exams and get certified, so we prepare for The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) exams.

Some children prefer to take a different approach and prefer to learn to enjoy their instrument more in a social setting. Having taught children for many years, the involvement of a parent in the musical development of the child makes a crucial difference in progress, so I communicate with parents very closely by giving them progress reports as often as needed, including feedback from every lesson. I compose pieces for my students to showcase their strengths and improve their weaknesses in their playing skills so they can develop more confidence in themselves. It always works.

My favourite way to encourage students is to make an audio recording of them playing with me accompanying them. This exercise covers a few aspects at the same time: it provides a much stronger focus while recording (as psychologically this is not an easy task and everybody including adults starts making mistakes); it allows students the opportunity to analyse the recording and to understand that it doesn’t sound the same as what they hear while they are playing; and it allows students to practice with the recording at home in the correct tempo with the accompaniment.

I use many different approaches for each child depending on their talent, background and desires, but recording them with my piano accompaniment in class is the best encouragement! I believe good work in lessons starts from gaining trust from the student. It usually takes a couple of lessons or longer depending on their sensitivity or life experiences. However, a child needs time to understand my expectations in lessons and to settle into their practice routine, which is more effective if supported by their parents at home.

How do you mentor a student? What improvements do you see, and how does it help their knowledge and skills?
I am quite a strict teacher and I treat my students like adults, so they feel I take them seriously, which makes them feel proud of themselves and encourages harder work. The best way for me to support a student is to share my own ups and downs, which builds trust. Some younger students may need a little more praise, but most of my students become strongminded, learn to work harder and become more focused. They gain more respect for their teachers and other hardworking students. It’s amazing to see how their performances reflect the building of their character.

How does learning to play violin benefit a child?
The violin is one of the most beautiful but difficult instruments to play. Practicing on such a challenging instrument develops the child’s self-esteem and brings out their best leadership qualities. Generally, playing a musical instrument helps a child to succeed better academically because music requires constant counting and focus on detail while practicing. Music helps children to communicate with each other in many ways — they can enjoy time playing together and learn to be more patient with each other and to be a kind, sensitive team players.

Nadine Orchestra