Stepping out of your silo: Connecting through a professional learning community for the private studio

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String teachers often find themselves isolated, both within their own studios and within the specific level of students they teach. I propose that breaking out of these silos can create a healthier private studio environment and lead to better outcomes for string students.

In private studios, the teaching and learning process is often confined to the teacher, the student, and sometimes a parent. This perpetuates the secretive nature of the traditional master-apprentice model, which tends to be exclusive rather than inclusive. Such an environment can foster insecurity and competitiveness among both students and teachers.

Simultaneously, there’s a prevailing attitude of “staying in your own lane.” Teachers specializing in beginners may struggle to attract more advanced students, and those working exclusively with advanced students may lack the skills required to set up a beginner. Professional communities of teachers may consist mainly of those working with students at similar levels.

Student outcomes can vary significantly for teachers working with (a) beginners, (b) intermediate students, (c) advanced students, and (d) string performance majors. Within each category, teachers may have different goals for their studios.

Teachers working with beginners may prioritize fostering a love for music over skill acquisition, understanding that not all their students aim to become performers. Conversely, string professors may face challenges when auditioning students lack the necessary technical foundation or background knowledge in music. The purpose of this lecture is to explore ways to reconcile these differing goals for the benefit of the students.

I propose breaking down the barriers between teachers by establishing a professional learning community. The ultimate goal of this community would be to align student outcomes and encourage mutual support among string teachers, regardless of the level of the students they teach. Just as we emphasize the importance of connecting with audiences through music, we should also underscore the significance of connecting with each other to enhance our teaching effectiveness.

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About the speaker

Maureen Theodora Yuen, Violin and Viola

Maureen Yuen, Ed.D. (Columbia University, USA), M.Mus. (University of British Columbia, Canada), is a Canadian violinist, pedagogue, and researcher committed to scholarly inquiry and advancing the field of one-on-one pedagogy. Currently serving as Assistant Professor of Violin and Viola at Drake University (USA), Dr. Yuen’s global career is characterized by artistic excellence, pedagogical innovation, and fostering inclusivity within the classical music world.

Before joining Drake University, Dr. Yuen taught at Columbia University (USA), Mercyhurst University (USA), and the State University of New York (SUNY) Fredonia (USA), where she was honored with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in teaching, chosen from nominees across the 64 SUNY campuses. Her students have received graduate scholarships and assistantships at prestigious institutions such as the Juilliard School, Indiana University, University of Massachusetts, Bowling Green State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and more. Dr. Yuen is also a member of the College of Examiners of the Royal Conservatory of Music (Canada) and serves as a senior adjudicator and strings specialist for the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program (formerly the Carnegie Hall Achievement Program).

Her active performance schedule includes solo and chamber music performances, recordings, adjudication, and master classes worldwide, including appearances at the Hong Kong Schools Music Festival, the University of Nairobi (Kenya), and various locations across Japan as a mentor with the New York Symphonic Ensemble. In solo performances, Dr. Yuen curates programs that highlight works from underrepresented composers, enriching the musical landscape with a tapestry of voices often overlooked in traditional settings. Her debut solo recording, “Violin Music by Women: A Graded Anthology, Volumes 1 & 2,” released by Albany Records in 2023, is available on all major streaming platforms, and CDs can be purchased at Albany Records and Sleepy Puppy Press.

In addition to her performing and teaching roles, Dr. Yuen is a published scholar with articles in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at international conferences. Her research focuses on access and equity in applied music, challenging traditional pedagogical models, and promoting diversity in the performing arts. Most recently, she contributed the chapter, “Challenging Tradition: Examining Access and Equity in the Master-Apprentice Studio Model,” to the book, “The Applied Studio Model in Higher Music Education: Critical Perspectives and Opportunities,” edited by Kelly Parkes and Ryan Daniel, to be published later in 2024 by Routledge/Taylor and Francis.

As a dedicated advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion in the arts, Dr. Yuen actively engages in professional service. She serves on the editorial board of the American String Teacher Journal and as the string editor of Rising Tide Music Press, which supports emerging composers of color, contributing her expertise to shape the future of music education. She has also served as a grants panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts (USA). Dr. Yuen performs on a Storioni composite violin, ca. 1750.

Follow her on Instagram at @drakeuviolinviola.