This intrinsic case study examines the individual and collective programmatic characteristics of five selected string academies that implement a curriculum developed by Mimi Zweig of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. The curriculum, available at stringpedagogy.com, is heavily influenced by the work of Paul Rolland and Shinichi Suzuki. The research focused on six characteristics of the academies: instructional program, geographic and physical setting, organizational structure and administration, finances, student recruitment, and personnel. The analysis process generated an additional key characteristic: faculty and student activities in the community. Data were gathered from online sources, archival documents, and extensive interviews and email correspondence with the five site directors, as well as other string academy faculty and staff.
The study interprets string academies in the broader context of stringed instrument instruction in the United States and elucidates the evolution of string academy organization and instructional practices. As models of community-based stringed instrument instruction, string academies exhibit characteristics of independent music schools, divisional music schools of collegiate music units, and string programs built on Rolland and Suzuki’s pedagogies. They operate with varying degrees of autonomy from larger institutions and have demonstrated their ability to adapt to different settings and institutional expectations. They frequently participate in apprenticeship-model studio teacher preparation in classroom and laboratory settings, in conjunction with local universities. The string academy model evolved from instructional offerings dedicated to the violin, and all published curricular materials focus primarily on this instrument. Diversification of the pedagogical approach of string academies has resulted in its adaptation for use in American public school settings and for teaching the viola, cello, and, to a lesser degree the double bass.
Teachers at the five string academies employ a common pedagogical approach, and all site directors commented on the importance of teachers being philosophically and pedagogically aligned, a characteristic that string academies share with Suzuki programs in the United States. String academies’ legacy connection to Mimi Zweig and her work has not inhibited adjustments of the curriculum or programmatic structure in response to local circumstances and settings. As a result, string academies display a combination of flexibility and faithfulness to Zweig’s core pedagogical principles.