TEACHING: Glowsticks & Heifetz & Star Wars, oh my!

I found myself captivated by some images of the great violinist Jascha Heifetz in LIFE Magazine (1952). Photographer Gion Mili attached a light to the end of his bow and took pictures in the dark. The photographs showed the movement of his arm as he bowed the strings and I found myself imagining the designs of my own bow arm as I played.  I immediately wanted to do something like this with my students. After some thought, I realized that glow sticks might do the trick. I invested a few dollars at the local dollar store and handed one to each young fiddler at a group practice at my studio. 

Using a tiny amount of masking tape, we attached the glow sticks to their bows, huddled in front of a mirror and turned out the lights. The effect was perfect. I sent the kids home with the extra supplies and they dashed off saying, "I can't wait to go home to PLAY MY FIDDLE!!!"

What I found delightful, is that this fun, simple experiment has deep teaching potential. Playing in the dark encourages players to use their EARS to guide tone production-- instead of looking down at the bow with their eyes. Also, bow speed became really easy to see when the bow was GLOWing...and even students who tended not to use much bow immediately began playing "frog to tip" for the fun of how it looked. I was pleased when students who relied heavily on note reading were self-motivated to go home and memorize their tunes. I was overjoyed with fascination everyone had (beginner to advanced) with their "bow arm mechanics." And I loved the carefree experimenting even the timid ones were doing in front of the mirror.  I have to admit, I thought it was super fun, too. #FiddleIsCool

Armed with "lightsabers" (aka glowstick taped to fiddle bows), the MADSTOP FIDDLERS have fun with Star Wars in a darkened room in front of a mirror. 

The Madstop Fiddlers of Potsdam, NY

The Madstop Fiddlers of Potsdam, NY