Lauren Rioux is very highly regarded for her work as a music educator and is enthusiastically sought out for her teaching expertise. In 1999, while still an undergraduate at the University of Southern Maine—which she attended on a full scholarship, graduating magna cum laude with majors in Violin Performance and Music Education—Lauren created Gypsy Girl String Studio. She began teaching violin, fiddle, and viola, and quickly amassed a following of devoted students. Recognized early on for her excellence as an educator, Lauren was elected president of the Maine chapter of the American String Teachers’ Association and served from 2005 to 2008. She is the youngest person to have held this position.
Lauren leads classes and workshops across the country. She also maintains an active private studio in her home state, Maine, through which she teaches a delightfully rowdy group of over thirty violinists, violists, and fiddlers who range between five and sixty-five years of age.
Lauren provides her students with a strong grounding in music foundation, while also introducing them to many different styles of music. “Every single cuture has a version of the violin,” she says, “so there are so many styles of music to draw from.” She shows her students the language of specific styles of music, teaching them to recognize which musical styles are characteristic to particular settings, but also strongly encouraging them to experiment and have fun.
Lauren works to shape her instruction around each student’s interests. To that end, she doesn’t “draw a line between different styles of music” in a doctrinaire way:
As far as curriculum, I balance between foundational tools, scales, reading music, and providing an orchestrel and chamber education, but I’m also very aware that while [wester classical] music is extremely beautiful and alive, it’s not necessarily what the kids might feel an emotional connection to immediately, so we work on a variety of non-classical music… simultaneously. It’s not on or the other, the two go hand in hand. All of my kids fiddle. I have some kids working on pop music as well.
Freedom doesn’t come at the expense of quality; in fact, Lauren’s students push themselves to play very well:
I try and I think I succeed in making a warm nurturing environment… where students feel safe and loved and therefore are willing to push themselves and reach farther than their original comfort zones.
She is able to hold them to a high standard because they “recognize that working hard and improving is incredibly motivating and fun. So, we have a good time making sure that a quality music education is achieved.”
Lauren Rioux’s studio offers her students an immense range of opportunities. To name a few examples, she teaches chamber ensembles, holds jam nights at her studio as well as “audition parties,” fun peer review sessions to help students prepare for upcoming auditions. She also takes her students to orchestra performances, fiddle festivals, and shows; together her studio has seen Yo Yo Ma, Natalie MacMaster, and many other fine prformers. And Gypsy Girl String Studio hosts a huge celebratory recital every year, with guest musicians to play with the students; past guests include Darol Anger, Mike Block, Natalie Haas, Alex Hargreaves, Joe Walsh, and Amanda Kowalski.
Beyond empowering and inspiring her students, Lauren is fervently dedicated to empowering other teachers. Lauren frequently presents clinics on music education at fiddle/violin gatherings, including the Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp and the American Association of String Teachers conventions, and college classes around the country. Lauren’s popular clinics have instructed fellow educators on a broad range of topics, including running a modern private studio, building and maintaining a private studio while still a student, and jamming. Lauren also provides an exciting opportunity for young teachers; each year she invites one young tacher to observe her teaching for a week and then teach her students for a week. Past participants include Corinna Smith and Kellen Zakula.