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What is a Viola?

The viola is a bowed string instrument. It is the middle voice of the violin family, between the violin and the cello.  The viola is larger in size than a violin with thicker strings and sounds a perfect fifth below the violin but with a nearly identical playing position. The viola’s tone sets it apart: its rich, dark-toned sonority is more full-bodied than the violin’s. The viola’s mellow voice being frequently used for playing inner harmonies, it does not enjoy the wide solo repertoire or fame of the violin.

Music written for the viola differs from that of other instruments in that it primarily uses alto clef, which is otherwise rarely used. Viola sheet music also employs the treble clef when there are substantial sections of music written in higher registers.  In the early orchestral music of the 1700’s, the viola part was frequently limited to filling in harmonies with little melodic material assigned to it. When the viola was given melodic parts in music of that era, it was often duplication in unison or octaves of whatever other strings played.  The viola also plays an important role in chamber music. Mozart succeeded in liberating the viola somewhat when he wrote his six string quintets, which are widely considered to include some of his greatest works. The quintets use two violas, which frees the instrument (especially the first viola) for solo passages and increases the variety and richness of the ensemble.  Today the viola is still an integral part of the symphony orchestra as well as chamber groups such as string quartets.

Source: “Viola” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.


Teaching Philosophy

Our Viola teacher Ellen Allen uses a variety of methods for teaching viola based on the age of the student and their musical background.  Ellen has used the very successful, technique-based Suzuki method for younger students, a method that focuses on aural learning in the primary stages and gradually incorporates note-reading as the student progresses.  Some of the methods/books used include String Builder by Samuel Applebaum, the Wohlfahrt etudes, and the Hrimaly and Carl Flesch scale systems.  Ellen’s students also gain a basic understanding of music theory, history, and sight-reading skills.  She offers viola lessons for students age five and older.  She welcomes any experience level, from beginner to advanced.

Ellen’s main goal as a viola teacher is to instill in her students a lifelong passion for music, and to always encourage creativity in music-making.  As a result, her lessons also focus on musicianship and expression.

Viola Teachers

Below is a list of teachers that teach the Viola at the Fabulous School of Music. Click on a profile to learn more.

Ellen Allen

Instruments: Voice, Violin, Viola

Mary Barba

Instruments: Violin, Viola, Cello, Piano, Voice, Ukulele

Daniel Nichols

Instruments: Brass, Woodwinds, Strings, Piano and Rock Ensemble