Phil Houseal, a local writer, arts advocate, and active musician featured Theresa Britt in an article he writes each week for the Fredericksburg Standard.

Pulling strings

by Phil Houseal
Nov 3, 2010

Theresa Britt was teaching a violin lesson to a student who also happened to be a dancer. She took the bow and showed how the ballet terms plié and jeté would apply to the fingers on the bowstick.

She giggled. “It’s finger dancing!”

Theresa Britt pulls lots of tricks out of her musical bag to help pull the music out of her protégés.

The Amarillo native arrived in August with a Bachelors of Music and a start on her Masters in Violin Pedagogy from Texas Tech.

Even though she and her husband, John, “had our minds set on this area,” coming to Fredericksburg required some “weird circumstances.” She had been orchestra director of a good program at a public school, and had been offered jobs in San Antonio and Fort Worth. But she turned them down. “If there was any time to starve, it will be now,” she remembers thinking. “But we had faith and came here.”

“Sometimes you wilt like a flower. So go up on your toes when you play. That makes your scroll go up, then your bowstick is straighter.”

Even after only a few months, Britt is convinced they made the right decision. She is the String Teacher at both Ambleside and Heritage schools, and guides 25 private students with a style she has developed from her training.

“I don’t just do Suzuki – it’s more the Suzuki/Britt method,” she said. “Actually I just beg, borrow, and steal from all the teachers I trained with and who I watched teach.”

As in the example of using dance terms to teach violin, Britt is less concerned with notes, and more focused on posture and bow grip.

“Change happens slowly – you can’t make it all happen at once. So each lesson you pick one point, you have one goal to get students to achieve. Whatever you do, you work on those things.”

“Scroll up! Can you ‘shoot’ your music with your scroll? You’ve got to aim at the page with your scroll. One more time… and shoot the page!”

Apparently Britt ignores her own advice when it comes to limiting goals. She has already outlined an ambitious agenda that reaches beyond her studio walls.

Her list includes starting a string camp and developing a Suzuki Institute, bringing in instructors and students from around the world. Next summer she would like to assemble a group of students to travel to the Czech Republic for study. She has also taken steps to start a community orchestra for Fredericksburg.

“It is slow in coming, because I have a bazillion things going,” she said. As a violinist, Britt fights the stigma of “being flaky.”

“It’s hard to play violin and not be flaky,” she explained, “because you are so focused on the instrument. But I try to stay organized.”

Britt also believes in bringing music out of the practice room and into the community culture. She has begun holding public group classes at the courthouse gazebo downtown. “I like the public class idea,” she said. “It is a hodgepodge of kids from different levels. Attendance has been small, but I believe that’s how you build things – you start small and have it grow.”

“Ready… go!”

“I kind of feel like I’m going to wake up and the dream is over,” she said. “There have been a few setbacks getting here, but it’s the best job ever. I have such a good time. I landed in heaven: I’m in Fredericksburg, Texas!”

To read more articles by Phil Houseal, please please visit Full House Productions.