Violist Sarah Kienle teaches beginning violin for 20 fourth graders at Peak Preparatory Academy, an East Dallas charter school. The FACP violin program at Peak, which just concluded its fifth year, is the only music program on campus and fourth graders are the youngest students to participate in our program. Ms. Kienle has taught for FACP for two years and, in general, her students are not only receiving violin instruction for the first time, but it is their first exposure to music class.
How old were you when you started playing? Do you play other instruments? I’m a “full-blood” violist and started playing at age 7. I took six years of piano lessons when I was young and I can still find my way around a keyboard, albeit a little clumsily.
So, your instrument is viola, but you’re teaching violin. Is there a lot of crossover between the two instruments? Both playing and teaching violin and viola are very similar. In fact, it is not uncommon for violinists to switch to viola or play both. Every once in a while, a violist will switch to the violin. They are held and played the same way, although there are some minor idiosyncrasies to each instrument that require a little adjustment. The viola is slightly larger than the violin and rather than having E, A, D, G for strings, violas have A, D, G, C. Viola music is also written with the alto clef, or C-clef, although sometimes our music switches to treble clef when there is a risk of too many ledger lines (it gets difficult to read because it is too high).
What did you study in college, and where did you study? I received my Bachelor of Music in viola performance from the Colburn School and my Master of Music in viola performance from Indiana University. My outside major in college was beginning violin and viola pedagogy — I love to teach beginning violin.
Who is your favorite composer to play? Beethoven.
What do you love about teaching young violin students? Their excitement! Violin is still so new and fascinating to them and it’s inspiring to see.
Have you taught other ages? I have taught ages 8 – 65.
What is a particularly memorable recital or performance of yours? I’ll never forget my first experience playing a real symphony when I first moved away from home. My youth orchestra was playing Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, and I was blown away by the experience of sitting in the middle of such a powerful sound.
What piece of advice would you give 11-year-old Sarah? Always make sure to have FUN while you play!
What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? I love the sound of choirs, especially small ensembles or those singing early music. My least favorite sound is any sound that wakes me up when I’m sleeping.
Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? I’m excited to see what the old masters (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven) do with today’s music technology.