Em Downing – Violin & Piano Teacher

Violin & Keyboard

Em Downing

She/ They

Susuki Method

I teach beginner-intermediate violin and beginner keyboard.

I have been playing violin for twenty-six years. I am grateful to have studied the Suzuki Method, which encourages deep listening, group play, deep-listening, repetition, and provides an encouraging environment.  I loved it.

I’ve participated in the music and arts industry as a recording and teaching artist; a programming and venue manager; and in artist management. My background as a musical teaching artist includes violin instruction to children, teenage, and adult students; keyboard instruction; as well as creating accessible experiences with gear and sound.  

I prioritize creating an approachable and encouraging environment for all types of learning styles.  

When did you begin playing violin, and why?:

I began violin when I was 4 years old. The story is that I saw someone playing a violin and insistently asked to play.  :,,)

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?:

Violin is the first instrument I began to play and the instrument I studied most — but in adolescence, I also studied piano for many years, took voice lessons and was a member of choirs; and played viola and violin in the school orchestra. As a teen, I had a longing to play rock ‘n roll. I played drums, keys, and was the singer in my first bands. As an adult, I’ve picked up cello and bass, and tried to lean into drumming more and more. I love to drum. I also played lead guitar in a band which felt a lot like mimicking violin melodies; however, guitar and I are still working out our relationship. It has never quite clicked for me, but feels like an essential songwriting instrument.  I’ll keep trying…

I always want to learn more instruments! So many sounds to explore! 

What are your personal goals as a musician?:

Pursue what interests me. Never lose my curiosity and general excitement about sound and audio!

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?: 

I learned most musical concepts and techniques when I was so incredibly young that I hardly remember.  What sticks out to me most has been learning about audio equipment and gear in my adult life.  Those things always seemed so unapproachable, so I shied away for the longest time.  I was so lucky to have a few key folks patiently explain the basics of things such as: how to set up an effects pedal chain; what a tube amp versus a solid state amp is; what tape loops are; how to set up a record player; how to operate DAW; how to run a board at a venue. All of these basic lessons compounded to me learning and becoming more and more comfortable over the years.  Now, I am able to explain these things to others, which gives me great joy.  

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:

It’s been so long since I’ve taken lessons and I have a hard time remembering a specific moment, but Shinichi Suzuki, the founder of the Suzuki method has some great quotes.

“To make a resolution and act accordingly is to live with hope. There may be difficulties and hardships, but not disappointment or despair if you follow the path steadily. Do not hurry. This is a fundamental rule. If you hurry and collapse or tumble down, nothing is achieved. DO not rest in your efforts; this is another fundamental rule. Without stopping, without haste, carefully taking a step at a time forward will surely get you there.”

― Shinichi Suzuki

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:

Guitar has been the most challenging instrument for me to wrap my head around.  It has frets, which don’t feel intuitive to me at all. It’s also tuned to perfect fourths and that G-B third, and violins are tuned to perfect fifths. When I think of guitar in piano terms, it helps a bit, but building chords on a piano feels organized. Building chords on a guitar still feels a little chaotic to me.  I’m going to keep trying. 

What is your biggest musical achievement?:

Each year, I am both surprised and surprise myself with where my musical journey takes me.  The journey itself has been the achievement!

Favorite thing about teaching?: 

I love to demystify and break down barriers that have convinced folks they can’t learn to play and perform music or understand gear; be a participant of the music industry; or should have begun their musical journey earlier in life.  There is no better time than the present to jump in; and there is no better person to take that plunge than you.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:

You can do it! Just keep picking up the instrument and spend time with it, and it will become more and more familiar and intuitive.  

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):

I have played in about twenty different bands and recorded on many records.  I started writing my own personal compositions a lot later in life.  I currently focus on writing new classical music and building soundscapes for art installations.  I am hoping to play drums for a band when it becomes safe to collaborate in person again.  I’m also a radio DJ!  I have a show on KPISS.fm each Monday night at Midnight EST.  I love to DJ.

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