I am a firm believer that private violin lessons are crucial for young violinists to succeed. Learning to hold the bow, and the instrument correctly takes years of focused practice and attention to detail. Developing a warm, ringing sound free of extraneous noise like scratches and squeaks is incredibly difficult! It is essentially impossible to do this with out a top notch teacher guiding you through the process.
With that said, I must admit that private violin lessons alone are often not enough. Practicing by yourself day in and day out can become tedious and lack luster. I recommend to ALL of my students that they participate in a group activity. Learning to play your instrument with other people teaches a whole new skill set that improves one's overall level of musicianship.
Ensemble playing teaches students how to work together with one another, and really listen to what's going on around them. It develops a sense of pride and responsibility for your peers. No one wants to be the stick in the mud in orchestra who plays the wrong note at the wrong time! Students are far more engaged in their practicing, when they know that the ensemble's success depends upon them.
It's one thing to be able to listen carefully to your own playing when you are practicing by yourself. It's a whole other ball game when there are 50 other kids in the room, some playing your part and others playing totally different notes! Students learn to listen very carefully to how their part fits in with the rest of the group. Their ear develops to hear minute changes in pitch, leading to intonation improvements. They also learn to focus on several things at once, because you have to listen to yourself, your stand partner, your section, and all the different parts of the orchestra!
Lets face it, practicing by yourself everyday for years and years gets boring! When you join an ensemble, you develop friends that can last a lifetime. Undertaking a huge musical challenge is much more appealing when you are doing it with your friends!
If you are already enrolled in violin lessons, why note give ensemble playing a try? Here are just a few groups that my students belong to that I highly recommend: