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Teacher Spotlight: Germaine Yong

Teacher Spotlight: Germaine Yong

Teachers, schools, universities and conservatoria from all over Australia trust our team with supplying the highest quality instruments, accessories, repairs and servicing for their string programs and students.

At Simply for Strings, we are dedicated to developing the next generation of string players - hand-in-hand with the country’s most amazing teachers.

We want to put the spotlight on some of Australia’s amazing string educators. For this week's feature, we want to put the spotlight on one of our amazing Brisbane based educators, Germaine Yong! Germaine is a long-time customer of Simply for Strings and we love helping her and her students.

Germaine is a violin and piano teacher, primarily teaching violin to students ranging in age from 4 to 21, starting from the beginners right to the advanced levels. Her home studio is located in Balmoral. Germaine studied at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and graduated with a Master of Music Studies majoring in Violin Performance. In 2011, she pursued further studies at the Royal College of Music in London and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Music Performance.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself! Why music? How long have you been playing and teaching?

A: Music has been a big part of life since a young age. My mother taught me the piano when I was 3 and I started learning the violin when I was 6. Coming from a Malaysian heritage, learning to play the violin was quite rare. So the opportunity to play with fellow budding musicians such as joining a junior orchestra or ensemble was out of the question. I was very blessed in that my mother accompanied me on the piano for many of my practices just to keep the sessions interesting. And of course, beautiful string instrument stores such as Simply for Strings did not exist and I had extremely low quality factory made violins and just tried my best to make music out of them! I remember so vividly that every time we upgraded my violin size, it became more evident to my ears how bad the instrument sounded!

After moving to Australia with my family when I was 12, I was exposed to music in so many ways. Cutting a long story short, joining the Young Conservatorium of Music eventually led to studying both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, majoring in Violin Performance. It was during my master’s degree that I learnt about Elizabeth Morgan AM's String Pedagogy courses. Little did I know that signing up for one course would change the course of my life! 

After a few lectures with Elizabeth, it felt like I was learning violin all over again. I started from ground zero and started to learn about violin playing in a much broader spectrum. In a teaching perspective, how our bodies are made so differently from one another, each with his/her own strengths and weaknesses; and how to identify and approach them to assist one’s playing etc. Her course was so in depth and valuable to teaching in general, it would be a challenge to describe it in a sentence!

I was so impressed with the content of the course, I not only continued all of Elizabeth's Pedagogy courses after I graduated, but I began to pursue private violin lessons from Elizabeth herself.

Over the years, Elizabeth’s teaching has not only become an invaluable part of my career, but she has been a great adviser, role model and friend! During the early years of my teaching career, she often checked in to see how I was going. Over countless morning coffees and nice lunches, she gave me words of advice whenever I ran into difficult teaching situations. It has been 18 years since I first started teaching, and I still send her my student’s video performances every now and then and she gives me incredible feedback! There is no end to learning.

Q: How and why did you start your business/brand?

A: Upon returning from further postgraduate music studies in London in 2011, I decided to expand my teaching career at my home studio. I would say 2 important factors contributed to expanding my teaching career - firstly because I loved interacting with children and bringing music to their world through teaching made me happy. Secondly, as I said before, music education was not something that every child could easily access when I was a young child. I remember sitting in Elizabeth Morgan’s pedagogy sessions thinking to myself how I wished I had this valuation information during the early learning stages of my violin journey. And if I could share what I have learnt with my own students, that it would be so meaningful.

"Simply for Strings is the only store I have been recommending my violin students to go to since they first opened their store in Red Hill! Both in-store and online shopping experiences have always been a pleasant and great experience. They not only have the most beautiful displays in-house, but their staff are always welcoming and helpful. The instruments they have to offer are available for every family's budget, and even the cheapest instruments are presented with great quality and care. It is rare for beautiful stores such as Simply for Strings to exist in this day and age, as the majority of people turn to online shopping. I have to say that trying one of their beautiful instruments at their store is definitely a wonderful experience every string player should go for!"

Q: What is your vision?

A: My vision for my teaching is quite simple. Learning a craft of any nature takes patience, perseverance, discipline, and mental strength. As a teacher, taking a beginner student to advanced levels can take anywhere from 6-10 years. It is an incredible journey and a huge responsibility as a teacher.

Along this journey of learning, I would love to see a young child developing fine characteristics in their personalities through the challenges of learning an instrument. Although not every child will pursue music as a career, it would be most pleasing to see that music, in all its challenges and intricacies in learning, will bring much joy to their lives.

When tons of discipline kicks in, they witness fine results and strive to do even better. And when things are not going so well, they will still pick their instrument up to practice even if they do not feel like doing it. One step at a time, one note at a time. In doing this, it subconsciously sets a child up for what they will experience in the real world. And that is - failures do happen, and you do not receive a participation award for your efforts. At that crucial juncture, my hope is that they will not give up on pursuing their dreams and know that with persistence, discipline, and a strong mind, success is not an impossible word.

Q: Do you have any advice to impart to students/aspiring educators?

A: Firstly, I would strongly advise any aspiring educators to pursue a pedagogy course during your early years of teaching. Every child you meet will be different, and it would be a shame to teach all of your students using the same method and techniques you learnt when you were a student. Be proactive in looking online at how other music educators teach. Thanks to modern day technology, many top teachers from around the globe love sharing their teaching sessions and you will often find at least one valuable tip to use for your own teaching.

Secondly, always remember teaching a child involves a 3 way relationship - teacher – student – parent. It is not just about you and your student. I find that being hands on with both the student and parent achieves a far greater result in my teaching. In saying that, I do not mean chatting with each parent after your teaching session. Instead, immediate feedback is extremely important. I always disliked giving an end of term report when I worked at schools as a private teacher because I found that was extremely delayed feedback. Rather than a formal report, a simple text message would be very informative and smaller problems can be dealt with immediately. Short clips filmed during the lesson and sent to parents can help them assist their child’s home practice.

Approach your work with professionalism! The individual tuition that you offer is probably one of the very few instances that a child will have a one-to-one experience throughout his/her week. Approach it with care and professionalism because children will learn from who they look up to. Your behaviours, thoughts and principles are communicated through your speech and actions.

And finally, be creative! Very often, what you have planned to teach will not work out because your student has not done enough of practice or they are just not in the right mood to absorb information after a big day at school. There are a million reasons why your student can be upset even before stepping into your studio. Being creative and adaptive will enable you to turn the lesson around and they might just leave your studio with a smile on their face and something to bring home to practice.

Q: What’s your favourite teaching method/favourite item in your collection?

A: Flashcards for beginners. And making up silly lyrics because it makes them laugh crazily and it helps so much with rhythm.

Q: What's the most fun gig you've ever done?

Performing Simply Three’s God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen with my dear friend Grace Chang on the cello at Hillsong Church’s Christmas Spectacular in 2019. Every classical violinist would know that performing with a track click in your ears at 205bpm knowing that there was the tiniest possibility of you not being able hear the tracks of other instruments in your ear while playing would be such a “fun” gig.

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