Violin teacher welcomes squeaks and squeals
by Suzy Husner
Imagine bright eighth notes dancing through the air on the heels of warm tones resonating from the belly of a violin. A room full of focused eyes gazes intently at the music on the stand, and the muscle memory of weeks worth of practice slowly begins to take over.
Suddenly, a harsh screeching interrupts the melody and for an instant, a sheepish wave of embarrassment flushes across the students’ faces.
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It’s at this moment Carol Dietz urges the students to continue on.
It’s those squeaks and squeals that excite the Manhattan Beach violin teacher.
Where others wince at the sharp melody interruptions, she hears a wealth of potential. “I hear that and it just gives me this wonderful feeling like, there’s a new violin player,” she said with a smile. “There’s somebody who might catch the bug. So I hear those squeaks, and it makes me feel happy and excited.”
Some of that excitement comes from reminiscing on how she first learned the violin in her school’s fifth grade music program. “I just took to it, I worshipped it,” she said. “My violin teacher, Mrs. Brian, I just thought the sun rose and set on her.”
So she followed in her teacher’s footsteps and began teaching violin lessons in high school.
Originally from Oregon, Dietz found her way to Manhattan Beach by way of a handsome young music major she met at the University of Oregon. “I noticed him right away,” she said, of Pat Dietz, who had grown up in Manhattan Beach. “It was the typical thing, a girl falling for a guitar player, but you know, it worked.”
They married, moved to Manhattan Beach, and for the last 36 years have raised four children while teaching others the beauty of music.
Two days a week, she teaches adults and children how to play the violin. Roughly two thirds of her students are children, which prompts an occasional work hazard. “I have to look out for impromptu sword fights in my class,” she said with a laugh, due to the violin bow’s similar shape.
Her adult students’ musical abilities range widely. She thoroughly enjoys teaching them. “They’re doing it just ‘cause they want to, just for the fun of it, just for the love of it,” she said.
And that’s something she knows well herself, having learned the Celtic Harp just over the last few years.
“Seeing the excitement in people’s eyes” is why she continually tries new methods to teach her students. “Some people need encouragement, some people need a more casual approach, some people want something very formal,” she said.
And some need what she calls the “fruit salad exercise,” during which students sound out the syllables in peach, apple, strawberry and watermelon, to learn the lengths of time that notes should be played.
In a brightly lit room above Dietz Brothers Music in Manhattan Beach, you can find Dietz offering expert advice and comforting words of encouragement to keep her students enthusiastic about working harder to get to the next stage, often playing duets to keep the learning fresh. Along with the feeling of eagerness come the sound of squeaks, something she welcomes with glee. “It just sounds like possibility to me,” she said.