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November Teacher Spotlight

Charlene Adzima - Violin & Viola Teacher, Heid Music Madison


Suzuki-traicharlene_aned as a student and now as a teacher, Charlene Adzima has played violin for more than 20 years. Through Irish dancing at a young age, she embraced Irish music and went on to study with All-Ireland fiddle champions Liz Carroll, Seamus Connolly and Oisin Mac Diarmada. Collecting the title of Senior Fiddle Champion at the 2005 Midwest Fleadh Cheoil (Irish music competition), Charlene was warmly accepted into the Irish music community and is known for her pulsing rhythm and newly-composed tunes. Charlene has a teacher's heart and loves to creatively find ways to teach anything from basic violin/viola fundamentals to soulful musicality.

What makes you a great teacher?
Since I was quite young, I was always helping others in my class. Whether it was proofreading, checking math homework, or confirming a date in history, I was often the go-to classmate. When I started learning violin at 9, I was old enough to recognize the purposes of some of the teaching techniques used by my Suzuki teachers. Lovingly wired into my brain was the concept of positive reinforcement; criticism is great, but highlighting the things a student got right is more helpful than only pointing out the things they got wrong. I also come from a few families of teachers; my maternal grandmother taught French and Spanish while my paternal grandmother taught piano, but also played violin. I also know what it's like to be frustrated, even to the point of tears. With my unique experiences, I think my teaching skills have a firm foundation and I look forward to learning even more from my students.

What is your favorite genre of music, and why?
Not only am I enamored with Irish music, I have been accepted as a part of the Irish music community worldwide and am greatly humbled by such acceptance. It has such an appealing sound to my ears and draws me into the driving dance rhythms and mournful slow airs. Being a torchbearer in the tradition fulfills me musically.

What is one instrument you've always wanted to learn, and why?
Believe it or not, saxophone was one of my most desired instruments, after violin, of course. I loved watching the saxophone factory assembly demonstration on Sesame Street. Perhaps it was the soulful sound or the shiny finish that drew me to it.

What is your favorite musical moment in your professional career?  Teaching career?
The moment that springs to mind was when I met Irish fiddler Liz Carroll at a folk arts camp in 2001 and I fell in love with her playing and personality. I had never had a hero before and was awestruck by her kindness and musical complexity. Only a few years later, I would never have guessed that she would be playing a duet with me on my debut fiddle album. We're good friends now and I see her whenever I get the chance.

As for teaching, I really get a kick out of whenever my beginning students finally get to put the bow on the strings and use their left hand to change the notes. It's just a magical moment for them and the first eye-opening step into their musical journey.

What is your favorite thing to do outside of music?
I took up knitting a little over a year ago and I enjoy it immensely! A small yarn and coffee shop enables my yarn obsession and, like many knitters, I have an ever-growing stash of unfinished projects. Luckily my husband has also taken up knitting as a creative outlet and is just as guilty as I am with the unfinished projects pile!

Tell us something unique about yourself.
I'm originally from Ohio but lived for nearly 3 years in Reno, Nevada, just before I moved to Madison over a year ago. Yes, even the grocery stores have slot machines. Also, yes, I have played at many casinos--whee!