Exploring Estonian Approaches to Teaching Violin to Children

Table of Contents


Estonia has upheld a music high school within its educational system for over six decades, nurturing young musicians from grade 1 through grade 12 (ages 6 to 19). Ivi Tivik (1936-2022), a prominent figure in Estonian violin instruction, dedicated nearly half a century to this institution and authored a comprehensive violin methodology.

This school provides three volumes, each comprising a rich collection of 55 musical compositions or exercises, covering:

1. “Violin ABC (2021)”: This volume draws inspiration from the color-strings method and includes compositions by Estonian composers, including contributions from Arvo Pärt.

2. “Lisa’s Violin Book (2009/2021)”: This book offers a diverse array of etudes and exercises meticulously designed for effective skill development.

3. “John’s Violin Book (2013)”: A curated compilation of compositions, including works by renowned Estonian composers such as Arvo Pärt, Ester Mägi, and many others.

Our primary aim in curating these collections was to introduce a wide spectrum of techniques and styles tailored for young instrumentalists.

Additionally, we’ve published “Lisa and John’s Scales,” an engaging resource facilitating scale practice, including numerous illustrations for a fun and playful approach.

We frequently find ourselves learning musical instruments from the same tired repertoire. In an effort to invigorate our selection of pieces, ESTA Estonia has initiated a project in which we’ve engaged young Estonian composers to create character pieces of suitable complexity.

At present, we offer thoroughly arranged collections for violin, viola, and cello, crafted specifically for string players. Students can access audio and video recordings featuring performances by esteemed Estonian soloists. Notably, Hans Christian Aavik, the 2022 Nielsen competition winner for the violin, and Marcel Johannes Kits, who secured the 3rd position in the Queen Elisabeth competition for cello, have contributed to these recordings. It is also planned to publish a collection of double bass pieces in the near future.

This recording is only for reference and consultation by the participants of the ESTA Porto 2024 Conference. All contents are protected by copyright and its violation is a crime. Illegal downloading and sharing of content or part of it is strictly prohibited

About the speaker

Kaido Välja, Violin

Having grown up in a family of musicians, Kaido Välja started his violin studies at the age of 7, setting the course for a professional music career. He and his musician spouse are parents to six children, with five actively pursuing and engaging in instrumental music studies.

From 1992 onwards, Kaido Välja has been a violin teacher at the Tallinn Music School (currently named the Tallinn Music and Ballet School), maintaining this position until today. A significant number of his students have gone on to pursue further studies at prestigious music institutions in Tallinn, Helsinki, Frankfurt, and elsewhere, with many of them evolving into esteemed colleagues in the field.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he is actively involved in orchestral and chamber music. Between 1993 and 2009, Kaido Välja held the position of concertmaster for the second violin section within the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. Since 2010, he has been a concertmaster for the second violin section of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra.

As of 2014, Kaido Välja has been fulfilling the role of president for the Estonian String Teachers’ Association. Under his leadership, the association organizes popular summer courses for young string players in Värska (in 2024, for the 27th time). These courses attract 120-150 young string players and approximately 30 educators each summer. Within the Estonian String Teachers’ Association, he has initiated mentor training programs for Estonian string educators. As an educator, he frequently conducts methodological training sessions and masterclasses, as well as participates in the jury of string player competitions both in Estonia and internationally.