Violin Basics

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PDF video transcript: Violin Basics

Juneau, Alaska Music Matters (JAMM), Juneau, AK

Lorrie Heagy, program director

In 2010 Lorrie Heagy established an El Sistema-inspired program at Glacier Valley Elementary School, in Juneau, Alaska — a Title I public school where over forty percent of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. In this video, Lorrie, who was chosen as the Alaska State Teacher of the Year in 2011, demonstrates how she incorporates El Sistema-inspired principles into her teaching practice.

As is the case in many Venezuelan núcleos (local El Sistema programs), in Lorrie’s program children learn to play the violin when they are young — in kindergarten — using paper violins first. Collaboration with kindergarten teachers has been critical to the program’s success.

In all her lessons Lorrie tries to engage youngsters using strategies outlined in Eric Jensen’s book Teaching with the Brain in Mind — movement, emotion, relevance, novelty, and pattern or familiarity. Another effective technique she models is motivating youngsters with levels of mastery, a concept they know from video games. Her teaching illustrates the power of ensemble learning and the belief that every child is a musician from the moment he or she chooses to be.


  • Ensemble music-making is at the heart of all learning — both musical and social.
  • Performance should happen every day at every occasion, rather than only at special events.
  • No student is too young to be a vital contributing member of a musical ensemble.
  • Programs both serve and respond to the needs of a community, as well as build on the assets of a community.
  • Musicians have a responsibility to share their skills or knowledge with others who are still learning.


  • Empowering students to serve as leaders/mentors
  • Singing melodies correctly before playing them on instruments
  • Engaging students through movement, emotion, relevance, novelty, and pattern or familiarity
  • Adapting songs with movement to build strength and skills for playing violin
  • Finding patterns in music
  • Supporting memorization of music in scaffolded steps
  • Motivating students using levels of mastery


The musical activities in this unit address the following Anchor Standards of the National Core Arts Standards:


  • Analyze, interpret, and select artistic work for presentation
  • Develop and refine artistic work for presentation


  • Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work