Laena McDonald – Violin Teacher

Violin, Viola, Classical Guitar
Violin Performance, Metropolitan State University of Denver
Suzuki Certified
Also specializes in Baroque string instruments
violin, viola, lessons, philly, fishtown, south phillyI started playing the violin at the age of five, taking lessons from Hei Ling Yeung (Colorado Springs Symphony, Central City Opera). In elementary school, I joined the Front Range Youth Symphony and won awards in solo and ensemble competitions in Jefferson County.
I have performed in a masterclass for cellist John Saint’Ambrogio and have held positions as concertmaster, associate concertmaster and principal second violin in the MSU Denver Symphony Orchestra. I have also participated in the Early Music Ensemble, String Sinfonietta, and various chamber music groups. While attending MSU Denver, I was awarded talent scholarships as well as the William H. Morse Orchestra Scholarship.  My secondary instruments include the viola and classical guitar.
I have earned teaching certification and completed hours of observation at the Suzuki Association of the Americas at the Suzuki Institute of Colorado. I also teach using the traditional method, depending on students’ individual goals and strengths.
What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I also play viola, classical guitar, and various baroque stringed-instruments (rebec, viola da gamba, etc). Viola and classical guitar were my secondary instruments while getting my performance degree. For one semester, I joined a chamber ensemble as a violist, and it was a very different experience to be away from the violin section!
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
Rhythm is king!
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
Dealing with crippling performance anxiety was my challenge, and getting a performance degree meant that I had to face it head-on. I remember the first time I had to come out and bow to the audience as concertmaster – I was convinced I would faint and fall off the stage! But, I didn’t, and I was able to gradually get to the point where performing felt comfortable and even fun. I am very passionate about helping other musicians to overcome performance anxiety. There are tons of great techniques and tips, and if I can do it, anyone can.
Favorite thing about teaching?
Being able to see the progress! It’s awesome when a student is able to grasp something they thought they never would be able to do. And from there, keep going!
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Besides the tried-and-true advice to practice slowly and to break down tough passages into chunks: tape yourself often! While practicing, during lessons, while performing.  You don’t need to share them with others, just keep them around and revisit them every once and awhile. You’ll be amazed to hear your own progress.