The diploma violinist and founder of Caprice, Maarit Rajamäki, met Géza Szilvay for the very first time back in 1995 when recording Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa with The Helsinki Strings, where she played as a soloist. In 2010 she participated in a Colourstrings course in the East Helsinki Music Institute. Maarit was fascinated by the child-centered way of teaching and the method’s ability to solve the most aching points of violin playing, making her think that all violin pedagogues around the world should know about Colourstrings. Already at that time she had a long experience of arranging online master classes in classical music, and she imminently pondered if modern technology could offer a helping hand.
Maarit proposed an idea of arranging remote classes for violin pedagogues and their little students. Maarit believed they were going to organise just a few classes until Géza showed her his complete pedagogical plan which covered the basic violin technique from the very first lesson until playing the Bartók concerto. In the Kodály philosophy only the best is good enough for the children.
Minifiddlers videos paved the way
Géza’s plan was to create a digital library, which documents every pedagogical subject of teaching young children to play violin. So in the autumn 2012 started the Minifiddlers pilot phase, which included the weekly recording sessions together with Géza and his student group. During four and half years from September to early June in total 124 sessions were arranged at the Minifiddlers studio in Laajasalo, Helsinki. Afterwards Géza has admitted that it became a stress for him to be able to maintain the strict schedule, though not even once a lesson had to be cancelled due to an illness or other unexpected event.
Apart from the recording, Géza was also teaching weekly distance groups from ten different countries around the world. Despite the physical distance he created such a warm atmosphere, that when the groups had a chance to meet each other in 2016 in a music camp in Faroe Islands, everybody felt like they already knew each other. Even when giving very informative and captivating online lessons and workshops, Géza has never wanted to appear as an all-knowing instructor, always emphasising the equal conversation among colleagues.
Covid-19 pandemy brought to the PRESTO project
After the hectic pilot phase a couple of more peaceful years passed when the focus was on arranging online workshops and training, but as the Covid-19 pandemic prevented travelling and face-to-face courses - as well as violin lessons - the usefulness of remote teaching and digital training materials brought us back to the recording table.
In the autumn 2020 Géza and Caprice were invited to take part in an EU project, and the 2-year Erasmus+ funded PRESTO started in April 2021. Led by the Liszt Academy from Budapest and accompanied by Dublin City University, Sing Ireland and Youth Choir of Scotland, our part was to create instrumental teaching materials for schools. Yet again Géza poured his knowledge into a collection of methodological videos to help the string pedagogues’ online class and classroom teaching work. The results can be found and used by everyone for free at the Kodalyhub. The project is a “Good Practice” label awardee for the remarkable 96% evaluation score.
Working still continues
Géza’s pace hasn’t slowed down not even since: during the last months we’ve been recording a video series about the Colourstrings and the Colourstrings publications, which will be released later in the autumn 2023. In these videos Géza explains step by step how different aspects of teaching are introduced to the child to ensure a logical learning process yet a wonderfully musical and motivating hobby.
These past years have been filled with long recording sessions, pressing deadlines and even some irritation caused by unexpected technical troubles. Still, every single time the red record button is played or the online meeting room is opened, and the silence descends at the studio room, the admiration towards Géza’s astonishing experience and passion for violin pedagogy hits the rest of us.
Happy birthday, Géza, and thank you for your tireless work on providing children memorable music moments!
Articles about Géza:
Samuli Tiikkaja for Helsingin Sanomat in 11.9.2023 (in Finnish): Géza Szilvay luuli tulevansa Suomeen korkeakoulun professoriksi, mutta päätyikin opettamaan pikkulapsia: ”Minua pitivät täällä lasten silmät”