Strings Instruction

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Strings: Violin, Viola, Cello, Upright Bass, Harp, Ukulele, Mandolin, and Electric, Acoustic, and Bass Guitar
Urska Haule Fegus, Department Head

Private Lessons

String instruction at the Conservatory is tailored by the teacher to the student’s interest and ability. Conservatory teachers have training in a wide variety of methods and approaches and work with the student to choose the one that is most appropriate. The beginning student will usually be well-grounded first in the basics—holding the instrument with good posture, developing good listening skills, and producing a good sound with the bow—before advancing to note reading. Students are not taught note reading before they are ready, usually when they are reading words. Students first learn through listening and imitation “games.” Although group classes are not required in traditional instruction, some teachers may organize their own group classes among students studying similar repertoire.

The Suzuki method stresses the development of ability through the “mother tongue” approach, which emphasizes learning through listening, imitation, repetition, games, and practice—with the teacher, parent, and student working as a team. Progress is made from skill to skill in carefully structured lessons that include parent participation and help for the parent who will be guiding home practice. Listening daily to recordings of the music the children will play is an essential part of the method. Each week, a Suzuki student attends a private lesson and a group class.

Please note that classical guitar students need a classical nylon-stringed guitar. (Acoustic steel-stringed or electric guitars are traditionally used for folk and rock music.) Students may choose to study classical, jazz, rock, folk, or a combination of styles. Students registering for guitar must specify on the registration form which style they would like to study.

All string students, with the exception of harp, are expected to have an instrument with them at the first lesson. The Conservatory main office can provide a listing of local string instrument suppliers where students may be fitted for an instrument, or students may bring an instrument on loan from their school music program to the lesson. In terms of harp instruction, students will be contacted by the instructor for information about procuring an instrument.

Families with prospective students under the minimum age* may request an interview (30-minute maximum) if they would like to be considered for private instruction. Families will be asked to complete a registration form and pay an interview fee of $30 before the interview. Upon acceptance of a student under the suggested minimum age, the registration fee and tuition deposit will be due before the student can be placed with a teacher.

* The minimum age for traditional study is 6; for private guitar study, 8; for Suzuki cello, 4; for Suzuki violin, 3 (an interview is required for all new Pre-Twinklers; the interview fee of $30 must accompany the registration form). The recommended minimum lesson length is 45 minutes.

Group Instruction

Westminster Conservatory offers a wide range of classes and ensembles to meet the needs of every student, from the beginner to the most advanced student, regardless of age. Some classes are intended as an introduction to music, and require no previous experience. Others are designed to complement private instruction.

String Classes

See below for class descriptions

Class Name Number of Classes
(per semester)
Class Length Tuition
(per semester)
Suzuki Violin Group
Age 3 and above
16 45 or 60 minutes, depending on book level $288 or $336
Learn to Play the Ukulele!
Age 8 and up
16 45 minutes $288
Cello Orchestra
Grades 2—12
16 45 minutes $288
PRESTO String Orchestra
Grades 2—5
16 55 minutes $336 or $336
The Guitars of Westminster Conservatory
Grade 8—12
16 55 minutes $336
Jazz Explorations
Grade 8—Adult
16 55 minutes $336

Registration for classes is for the full academic year (most classes run 32 weeks per year). Class length is based upon minimum enrollment (3-person minimum for 45-minute class; 4-person minimum for 55-minute class). Some classes may be offered with a smaller enrollment by reducing the class length. In this case, the tuition remains the same.

  • Suzuki Violin Group
    Age 3 and above
    Group classes are an integral part of the Suzuki method of instruction and work in conjunction with the weekly private lesson. There is an accompanist dedicated to each class. Princeton location only.
  • Learn to Play the Ukulele!
    Age 8 and Up
    This class is designed for beginners who want to play the ukulele in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Why the ukulele? It’s portable, affordable, perfect for sing-alongs, you can accompany yourself, it’s a natural first-step to other fretted instruments…and it’s fun for all ages! Students will learn to strum folk and pop tunes and accompany themselves and others. Fundamentals of rhythm, essential theory, and proper technique will be taught which can lead to further musical study if desired. The class will offer an optional performance opportunity at the end of the year.
  • Cello Orchestra
    Laurie Cascante, Instructor
    Grades 2-12
    In its fourteenth year, the Cello Orchestra focuses on cello ensemble arrangements of classical and contemporary works as well as selections from the early Broadway musical genre. Past repertoire has included arrangements of the first movement of J.S. Bach's Double Violin Concerto, Pavane by Gabriel Fauré, "America" from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, and music of Astor Piazzolla. The goal of the ensemble is for students to be exposed to a wide range of musical repertoire, and to master cello-ensemble versions of the repertoire in a thoroughly enjoyable setting. This group is strongly recommended for private cello students of Laurie Cascante. Students from all cello instructors’ studios are most welcome, at the discretion of his/her teacher. An interview with the instructor is required. Princeton location only.
  • PRESTO Strings Orchestra
    Grade 2-5
    The Westminster string department introduces the Presto String Orchestra for entry level string players in Grade 2-5. The Presto String Orchestra will introduce the students to ensemble performance skills through the study of a variety of fun and exciting orchestra selections. Students will learn orchestral skills such as balance, blend, musicality, bowing styles, and music theory fundamentals. The young musicians will learn to make music as an ensemble with a culminating performance at the end of each semester to showcase the string orchestra selections that have been learned. Princeton location only.
  • The Guitars of Westminster Conservatory
    Mark Johnstone, Instructor
    Grades 8-12
    This guitar ensemble offers classical guitarists the opportunity to play and perform a variety of music from the Renaissance to the 21st century in solos, trios, duos, and quartets. In the fall, the ensemble gives yearly holiday concerts at the New Jersey Governor's mansion at Drumthwacket and Princeton’s Morven Museum. Each spring, The Guitars of Westminster is featured in competitions, performances, and in master classes at the Philadelphia Classical Guitar Society's Festival in April. During the annual spring benefit concert, a scholarship is presented to students to help them participate in the Guitar Foundation of America International Competition. An interview/audition is required for placement. Princeton location only.
  • Jazz Explorations
    Paul Hofreiter, Instructor
    Grade 8 through Adult
    In this class, students who already have some background in jazz will take their knowledge to the next level by playing in a small group and combining jazz with other musical styles (jazz/rock, jazz/hip hop, jazz/Latin, etc.) in addition to honing their traditional jazz performance skills. Students will explore playing through longer forms over time-tested jazz standards, and will also be encouraged to explore different ways of playing these compositions, as well as working on their own arrangements or compositions. Music written and performed by the students will be presented at a year-end recital either on Westminster’s campus or off-campus at a live venue. An interview/audition is required for placement.

Chamber Music

Experience the joy of making music in a small ensemble! Westminster Conservatory offers reading ensembles as well as coached chamber groups, depending on the playing goals of the student.

Chamber Music Classes

See below for class descriptions

Class Name Number of Classes
(per semester)
Class Length Tuition
(per semester)
Adult Chamber Reading Ensemble 8 3 hours $138
Coached Chamber Ensemble
All ages
16 45 minutes $368

Registration is for the full academic year. Class length is based upon minimum enrollment (3-person minimum for 45-minute class). Some classes may be offered with a smaller enrollment by reducing the class length. In this case, the tuition remains the same.

  • Adult Chamber Reading Ensemble
    Marjorie Selden, Coordinator
    Dedicated to the joys of sight reading, this program provides an opportunity for adult musicians to meet every other week to play together in small wind, string, piano, or mixed ensembles. New ensembles are created each week. The groups, working on their own, read through music provided by the coordinator at the beginning of each session. Westminster provides music scores, studio space, stands, and pianos. Wind and string players bring their own instruments. Participants are expected to have some sight reading and ensemble experience. Each morning session will include a coffee break with light refreshments and time to socialize. Princeton location only.
  • Coached Chamber Ensemble
    Elena Panova, Coordinator
    All Ages
    Students of any age or level are matched with other musicians in a small ensemble which meets weekly for individual coaching by a Conservatory faculty member. This program will introduce students to a broader range of repertoire and provide the opportunity for interaction with other musicians at the same level. Participants are encouraged to perform in community settings. This class is open to all instruments. An interview/audition is required for placement.

Violin/Viola Faculty
Heather Braun-Bakken (violin/viola)
Bardha Dennisi (violin)
Urska Haule Fegus (Suzuki violin/violin)
Alexander Izotov (violin/viola)
Hyun Soo Lim (violin)
Chika Mimura (Suzuki violin/violin)
Judith Morse (violin/viola)
Emily Muller (violin/viola)
Dezheng Ping (violin)
José Gregorio Sánchez (Suzuki violin/violin)
Marjorie Selden (violin/viola)
Cello Faculty
Chase Morrison Laurie Cascante
Upright Bass Faculty
Paul C. Hofreiter
Bass Guitar Faculty
Paul C. Hofreiter
Guitar Faculty
Paul C. Hofreiter Mark Johnstone Peter Plomchok
Ukulele Faculty
Paul C. Hofreiter Mark Johnstone
Mandolin Faculty
Paul C. Hofreiter