Advice to Young Teachers: “Be Kind”


Advice to Young Teachers: “Be Kind”

After thirty-one years in the first violin section of the National Symphony, Edwin Johonnott opened a private studio to teach violin and viola in Annandale, Virginia. A NAfME member, he’s also a full-time professor and strings area coordinator at George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax. A number of his students at GMU go on to be music teachers, and Johonnott likes to tell them: “Be as nurturing as possible. Inspire students to want to play good music. Above all, be kind. Many novices think that to be an excellent teacher and get results, you need to be heavy-handed or rough with young people, but in fact the opposite is true.”

“Be as nurturing as possible. Inspire students to want to play good music. Above all, be kind.”

Johonnott’s students say they like him in part because he’s patient, but that he expects them to work hard to master pieces. He starts every lesson with scales, and he plays them, too.


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One high-schooler said, “Mr. Johonnott has taught me the importance of the basics. Knowing that F#-minor scale has helped me do well in many auditions. And he has a great sense of humor.”

Resource for your students: When looking for a music program, check out its website; then visit the campus, meet a few professors, and check out the practice and performance spaces. Although official tours are helpful, get permission from the music department to pop into a few classes during the semester to get a better feel for what the school or conservatory is really like. (Tip: Polite visitors neither enter nor exit the room once a class begins.)

Ella Wilcox, May 21, 2008. © National Association for Music Education (