How to Set Up a Violin Bridge | Violin Tips

How To Set Up A Violin Properly There’s one important – and slightly intimidating – hurdle that all violin students have in common. Whether you’re a complete beginner looking to make a cheap, factory-made instrument more grateful to play, or a more advanced student wanting to customize your “forever” instrument to suit you and you alone, the basic knowledge of how to set up a violin is worth grasping even if your interest doesn’t extend much beyond curiosity and a love of tinkering with things.

As you’re probably aware, the bridge is a major factor in determining the sound of your instrument, and learning how to set up a violin bridge is a worthwhile nugget of knowledge to acquire, as they have a habit of collapsing at inopportune moments — like just before an exam or recital, when you don’t have a chance of getting to the repair shop.

How does the bridge affect my violin’s sound?

Assuming the sound post is properly in place, your bridge will allow the strings to resonate properly, but only if it’s the correct height. Many factory-supplied bridges are not entirely fit for purpose, and either sit too high, or aren’t curved to fit comfortably to the body of your violin. If the bridge is too high, it will require additional pressure on the strings to make a sound, and if you’re younger or less strong, this can be extremely frustrating. The bridge should be safely held in place by the pressure of the string — never resort to glue, no matter how tempting. The excellent YouTube tutorial below, from, will give you a step-by-step guide for setting up your bridge on a new instrument that has been shipped “bridge down”, i.e. without the bridge in place, to keep the instrument safe during transit.

Can I really do this on my own, or should I get my teacher to do it?

If you’re not confident, or you suspect that adjustments are needed that are beyond your capabilities — such as the height of the bridge needing adjustment, or there being inadequate curvature to make it secure — seek your teacher’s advice, or go to a good violin maker or repairer for assistance. However, if everything is otherwise as it should be, it’s a worthwhile skill to acquire yourself. Bridges have a habit of falling over when you least expect — particularly when you are changing strings or re-tuning. This YouTube tutorial on how to set up a violin bridge after it has collapsed is handy to bookmark for reassurance when you hear that alarming “snap” when tuning — it really isn’t the end of the world!

Is that it? Is there anything else I need to do?

Like all instruments, your violin will serve you well if you look after it. Most important in terms of maintenance is keeping your violin at a constant humidity to prevent cracks and other deterioration. An in-case humidifier is a smart purchase as it will prevent the need for expensive repairs.

It’s easy to become quite the repair geek as you find out more and more about your instrument and how it works, and it’s great fun too — talk to your teacher about violin repair and maintenance, and you’ll find yourself acquiring skills and knowledge beyond scales and double-stopping!

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5 of the Best GRE Prep Books to Help You Ace the Test

gre-book-e1365566961180Applying for grad school? Here are five of the best GRE prep books to check out, as recommended by online tutor Marcus S...


As someone headed to grad school, you’ve likely been focusing on your major for the last couple of years or working in the real world for even longer. In either case, you probably need to freshen up your skills in one or more areas covered on the GRE. Finding a quality tutor is the best way to prepare for the test, but you should also spend time studying on your own. An experienced tutor will be able to help you with questions you have from any GRE prep book, but before you invest your money, your time, and your future in a study guide, make sure you choose from one of the best GRE prep books. Here are my recommendations:

1. The Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test

The Official Guide to the GRE is published by ETS, the makers of the GRE, so it offers perks that no one else can match, including four real GRE practice tests. However, the creators of the GRE aren’t going to give you the best tips or tricks to hack their own test, so this book is ideally used in combination with one of the other test prep guides listed below. If you’re tight for cash, as many soon-to-be grad students are, you might consider using the free practice questions and study materials offered by ETS on their website, along with a top-notch tutor and another book.

2. Gruber’s Complete GRE Guide

Dr. Gary Gruber has spent his career tackling tests (when he wasn’t working on his Ph.D. in astrophysics — seriously!). In his Complete GRE Guide he shows you how to apply his Gruber Method of test-taking, which is a way of looking at each question with critical-thinking skills. The Gruber Guide is meant to help you on the entire GRE, but is known for its wisdom on quantitative questions. If math is your weakness, this is one of the best GRE prep books for you.

3. GRE For Dummies

You’re no dummy, but sometimes the GRE can make you feel like one. Some test prep creators think boring you to death is the way to approach an exam, but this book uses the Dummies series’ signature light-heartedness to keep you relaxed, alert, and dare we say, entertained, as you study. GRE for Dummies breaks down a complex test into bite-sized chunks of knowledge, which go down easy but add up to a healthy meal of test preparation.

4. Barron’s GRE

As one of the leaders in test prep, Barron’s offers practice questions as close as you can get to the real thing. Barron’s GRE also includes a CD with two full-length GRE practice tests, as well as access to tons of resources online, plus an iPad app for mobile studying.

5. 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems

With 33 chapters, a vocabulary list appendix, and 1800 practice questions, you can see why this book weighs five pounds. You can also be sure there’s quality as well as quantity, because the 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems is authored by Manhattan Prep. Among those 1800 questions, which is the most in any GRE prep book, you’ll find 200 that focus on the most difficult level of GRE questions. If you’re looking for a great score and not just a decent one, your mental exercise program should start with 5 lb. curls of this book.

Preparing for the Graduate Record Examinations isn’t like studying for a college exam. Similar to the SAT, the GRE is designed to test a wide range of abilities, not the knowledge of a specific subject, and you have to approach it in a certain way. But the GRE isn’t the SAT. You’re on your way to grad school, and the GRE is going to make sure you are serious about it. These books and an expert tutor will keep you on the right path. Good luck!

MarcusSMarcus S. tutors online in a variety of subjects. He has been trained and certified to teach classes and give individual tutoring to students in the SAT, GMAT, GRE, and LSAT for the Princeton Review. Learn more about Marcus here!



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How to Safely Store or Move a Piano | Caring For Your Piano

piano moving

When you own a piano, moving takes a bit more planning. Should you hire a professional, or do it yourself? Here, Helendale, CA teacher Sylvia S. shares what to keep in mind to make sure your instrument stays safe and sound…


Many years ago, when my family relocated, the expertise for moving our household grand piano was delegated to professional furniture movers. Three piano legs and the pedals console were removed and wrapped in blankets. The moving parts for the body, including the music stand, the keyboard cover, and the hinged top of the grand piano were secured. All this was wrapped in thick blankets and put into a piano case.

We thought all was well, until the piano arrived in our new home… with a huge bolt driven through the piano case. When the case was opened, we discovered the bolt was driven through both the piano and the soundboard. If you have ever considered hiring professionals for your piano moving, this is probably your worst nightmare.

How to Safely Move Your Piano

For cross-town relocations, a professional piano mover is usually your best bet for a grand piano. In long-distance relocations, it’s best to have a professional who deals exclusively with pianos to disassemble your piano and pack it carefully before involving furniture movers. Some piano companies will also move the piano for you. This may mean that two separate companies are involved in packing, and it’s a good idea to check the paperwork to be sure who will be responsible for delivering the piano in the same condition it left.

Although upright pianos have fewer moving parts than grands, and don’t require disassembly, it’s still a good idea to find a piano mover. Many pianos are much heavier than they appear and, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you may appreciate having help loading it into a rental truck.

Considerations for Storing Your Piano

If you need to store your piano during your move, there are extra things to consider. Since many important parts of the piano are made of wood, which is subject to expansion, the temperature extremes can ruin the instrument. Store your piano in a conditioned space, away from damp places. Don’t even think about putting your piano into a metal storage shed! It may be better to sell a piano in excellent condition, and just put that money away to buy another piano in the future.

Before your piano comes out of storage, think about where you will want to practice and play music. Look at the windows, walls, doors, and floor. Despite having insulation, an exterior wall is not the best choice for a piano. Look for an interior wall, with conditioned rooms on both sides. And, although it’s nice to have light from a window, take care that the piano will be protected from excessive heat, drafts, and rain.

Pianos in basements and garages may seem like a good idea to parents who are tired of hearing their kids practice. However, consider whether this is a good choice for an investment that can range in value from a few hundred dollars for a used spinet to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new top-of-the-line grand piano. Consider placing a rug under the piano, particularly if the piano will be on a cold surface like tile, and definitely avoid putting your piano on a bare concrete floor.

Getting Back to Playing

Now that you know where your piano will be placed, it’s time to call in the piano moving professionals! Grand pianos will need to be reassembled, and your piano will need to be tuned; pianos can’t be expected to hold their pitch during relocation. It’s a nice idea to pencil in an annual appointment with a good piano tuner to keep things sounding good.

So, now that you know about storing and moving pianos, what happened to that piano I mentioned in the beginning of the article? Well, fortunately my great-grandfather was a piano tuner, and my dad was pretty handy with tools. My dad took a good look at the crack left in the soundboard by the bolt, bought several bottles of wood glue, and borrowed an amazingly huge wood clamp and a book from the library about piano rebuilding.

Watching as my dad glued the piano together and tightened the clamp, our family prayed for the resurrection of our beloved grand piano. The piano stayed clamped together for about a week while we refinished the exposed, cosmetic woodwork to a painted, antiqued look. My dad took apart and reassembled that piano piece by piece, learning how a grand piano is put together and tuned. Finally, in a suspenseful moment which seemed like an eternity, with our family as his audience, he carefully unscrewed the clamp. It held!

Although this is very unlikely to happen to you, it’s an example a worst-case scenario during piano moving. Don’t worry too much — make sure you hire a professional piano mover, and good luck with your piano adventures!

SylviaSSylvia S. teaches singing, piano, theater acting, and more in Helendale, CA. She comes from a musical family of several generations, and her experience includes playing an electric keyboard and singing vocals in a professional, working band. Learn more about Sylvia here! 

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6 Fun and Unique Ways to Learn Music Theory

Orchestra-Performance-23Staring at the Circle of Fifths and memorizing key signatures isn’t the only way to learn music theory! Here, Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T. shares some creative ideas to revive your learning…


Music theory is a very important part of your musicianship, whether it be mastering ear training, harmony, or sight reading. No matter what instrument you play or what styles you enjoy, those who learn music theory grow further as musicians. A solid knowledge can help you improve your performance, technique, composition, and analysis of music!

For some, learning music theory can be very dry, or perhaps even overwhelming at first. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be all about sitting down with a theory book and memorizing scales, chords, and key signatures. There are many other interesting ways you can improve your musicianship. Here are some ideas to try that incorporate both learning and having fun!

1. Learn to play other instruments
If you’re a singer, then learning the piano is vital to becoming a well-rounded vocalist. And if you’re a pianist, then being able to sing comfortably will improve your piano skills, believe it or not! The more instruments you know how to play and read the music for, the easier it will be for you! You can also try learning an instrument that plays in bass clef if you play an instrument in treble clef, to work on those transposing skills!

2. Listen to new material
I recommend attending many concerts of vocalists, choirs, orchestras, and big bands, to train your ear on what all the different voices and instruments sound like. The only way to really develop your musical ear, and to start working toward perfect pitch, is by listening to the different instruments.

3. Analyze your favorite songs
If you’re up for the challenge, find the sheet music for one of your favorite songs, and analyze it. For example, what are the tempo markings? What key signature is it in? Are the chords major or minor? Then, I dare you to sing the song only in solfege, not the lyrics, on the correct pitches. This is going to improve your theory and musicianship immensely! Even if you think it’s time consuming, it is very good practice. As a performer, knowing the music you’re singing or playing inside and out is key!

4) Find visuals
If you’re a visual learner like I am, consider placing music theory posters around your music room, or somewhere you can always see them. There are also clocks that represents the Circle of Fifths (like this one); every time you look at it, you will start to memorize the key signatures!

5) Incorporate movement
I encourage dancing and movement when learning music theory, especially with my younger students. This can really help you gain a sense of musicality and feel the rhythm in your body. Freeze dancing, ballet, tap, zumba, and yoga are all great ways to be lyrical with your body. And by dancing regularly, your body will begin to internalize the rhythm automatically, so that when it’s time for sight reading and performing rhythms it’s going to second nature for you!

6) Try composing a song
I also encourage you to try composing music on your instrument! Write your own chord progressions, melody, and rhythms without thinking too much about it, and remember that it’s okay to start simple and to make mistakes. Just write whatever comes to mind. Then start to analyze what you have just written, and you may be surprised with the masterpiece you have created!

I highly recommend trying out these ideas as you learn music theory — they are fun, creative, and much more hands-on than staring at a book!

LizTLiz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!



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Scholarship Entrant: Beyonce from Portland, OR
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Where is the Best Place in the House to Put a Piano?


Buying a piano is a big investment — so it’s important to care for it so it will last for years. Learn what to keep in mind for piano placement in this guest post by teacher Timothy S...


So you went and splurged on your first piano. Even though you can’t exactly play the piano right now. Or maybe you can and your purchase is less a splurge than an investment because some initial lessons have convinced you that some real musical talent resides in your home. Even few of those with the resources to buy a piano are overburdened with too many perfect spots to locate the instrument. So the question eventually comes down to choosing the one spot in your home that is as close to perfect as possible.

Keep Away From the Windows

Sure, the portrait of someone sitting at a piano framed by big open windows may make for a breathtaking view from outside the home, but you didn’t spend all that money to learn to play the piano just so you could admire it from afar, did you? Ever get an up-close and personal look at a piano that has spent years in the path of direct sunlight? Wood, varnish, and paint are not friends of the sun.

Be Wary of Climate Change

Equally damaging is the placement of a piano anywhere in the vicinity of your home’s most extreme fluctuations in climate. The effect of placing a piano in close proximity to the heat emanating from furnaces, radiators, and air vents is a no-brainer; keep your piano away from them. In addition, keep your piano as far away from the kitchen as possible. The fluctuations in temperature taking place in that room can wreak not just havoc, but pure mayhem. The same rule applies to bathrooms, laundry rooms, and any other especially humid rooms in the home.

Think About Acoustics

In most cases, chances are you bought a piano with the intention of actually learning to play. Where the piano sounds best to you is what’s important. If you prefer the muted tones of carpeted room, so be it. If you prefer the more operatic tones produced inside a heavily tiled room, go for it. You are the one who is going to spend the most time listening to the sound your piano makes. For that reason, you should leave the piano wherever it sounds best to you.

Avoiding Clutter

Many people like to place a grand or baby grand pianos in a corner. This decision looks good and may even appear to be the most efficient use of available space. Unless, of course, it means taking everything that was in that corner of the room and stuffing it anywhere else in the house where it will fit. The potentially jarring result is the clean lines of a minimalist corner at jagged odds with an otherwise cluttered room.

Traffic Flow

Others prefer to place the piano more toward the middle of the room. This is a perfectly fine choice that likely avoids the issues of sunlight, temperature fluctuations, and humidity while also affording a much more fluid movement of the sound vibrations produced within. Unfortunately, placing a piano away from corners and walls often results in obstructing the natural flow of traffic through the room. Consider placing the flatter side of a baby grand piano lengthwise against a wall. Horizontal angling of a spinet piano rather than vertical angling can often reduce the need to divert traffic around it.

Different teachers, tuners, and virtuosos all have their own idiosyncratic perspectives on proper piano placement to get the best sound, but that location is just simply not always practical. You do have other household needs to consider, after all. The single most ideal place in the house to situate a piano is where your indoor atmosphere is most well-regulated. Atmospheric conditions related to temperature, humidity, sunlight, and even the expansion and contraction of the floor below are more likely to cause long-term problems with your piano than the minor physical damage that results from putting it the most convenient part of the house.

TimothyTimothy S. teaches writing online. He has his B.A. in English from the University of West Florida, and was twice named to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. Learn more about Timothy here!

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High Notes & High Fashions: What to Wear to Your Next Audition


Stumped on what to wear for your next audition? Dress for success with these tips from New York, NY voice teacher Chelsea F...


You’ve practiced, studied, taken countless lessons, and you are now ready to go on some auditions… but the night before your audition you peer into your closet and realize, to your horror, you don’t know what to wear!

This is a topic that many students don’t ask their voice teachers about because, let’s face it, in a 45- to 60-minute lesson there is a lot to cover!

On the day of an audition there is a lot to think about, such as your song choice, dealing with nerves, remembering to bring specific materials (headshot and resume), hoping the pianist plays your piece to your liking, memory issues, and, of course, how you look and feel. Having one or two “go to” audition outfits lets you have one less thing to think about on the day you have that really important audition. Looking and feeling great is just an added bonus to having a successful audition! Here are some helpful tips on choosing what to wear to an audition…

Tips for Women

Cinderella is proof that a pair of shoes can change your life… Well, a pair of shoes can make or break your audition! Make sure your feet feel comfortable and that you can sing comfortably. Keep in mind that adding four-inch heels can change vocal posture. Be sure to practice in your shoes before your audition!

Say Yes to the Dress! When choosing a dress, make sure you feel comfortable enough to sing in it and you have plenty of room to breathe! It is a good idea when buying a dress to breathe deeply in the dressing room before you buy it, and also make sure it complements your body type. Black is always in style and is slimming to every body type. Things to avoid include large prints and extremely bright colors (which can distract a judge), and a dress that is either too tight or too short.

I wear the pants… For those who sing operatic mezzo roles, consider a classic blazer, solid-colored dressy blouse, and black slacks. When wearing this type of audition outfit make sure your pants are ironed and/or dry cleaned to avoid wrinkles or looking messy.

• Good hair day: Please keep your hair off your face! There is nothing worse than watching someone brush their hair away from their face constantly during a song. Great options include wearing your hair half up, a bun, or a fancy ponytail.

Maybe it’s Maybelline… Makeup is just another part of putting a look together. When applying makeup for an audition, make sure it is natural and that you still look like your headshot picture!

Put a ring on it: Jewelry is a personal choice and statement. If you choose to wear jewelry with your outfit, make sure, again, you feel comfortable in it. Also remember that less is more. Things to avoid include jewelry that feels heavy on the neck or ears, long dangling earrings, very sparkly necklaces, and earrings that could distract the judge. If you’re wearing bracelets, avoid ones that have charms that make noise. You want the judge to be focusing on the beauty of your voice, not your bling!

Tips for Men

Check your fly: When choosing a suit, make sure it is tailored to your body type! Choose a dress shirt and/or tie that complements the color of the suit. If you’re wearing a three-piece suit, make sure the vest and pants have plenty of room so you feel comfortable enough to sing and breathe! If you have gained or lost weight make sure to take your suit in for the appropriate alterations.

Dressy/casual: Not wearing a suit? A great pair of jeans, dress shirt, and tie are sometimes all you need! Just make sure the jeans are in great condition — jeans with holes look sloppy and unprofessional, and could potentially give an air of not caring about the audition.

Shoes are a girl thing: Though this may be true, a pair of great dress shoes can really complement a suit. Be sure the shoes are not too tight and are comfortable to stand and sing in! There is nothing worse then putting on shoes that are too tight. When wearing dress shoes make sure to wear a nice dress sock that is pulled up.

Happy shopping & happy singing!

ChelseaFChelsea F. teaches singing, piano, and music theory in New York, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Cleveland Institute of Music and a Master of Music from Manhattan School of Music. Learn more about Chelsea here!



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Scholarship Entrant: Jon from Encinitas, CA
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5 Tips for Ensuring Your Class Presentation is Unforgettable

class presentation

Do you have a big class presentation or speech coming up? Learn how to make it memorable with these presentation tips from online tutor Carrie M


Have you ever sold a product to an individual or large group? If you are thinking to yourself, “I don’t think so,” think again, because if you’ve ever been charged with the task of giving a presentation to a class of your peers and your teacher you have definitely sold a product! The real question is: how did you do, did you sell your classmates and your teacher on the topic you were presenting or the invention you spent hours creating? The only feedback you may have received was from your teacher with the grade you earned, and that only tells you how well you completed the to-do list of items typically required for a presentation. That being said, here are a handful of presentation tips to win over your audience and make your presentation unforgettable.

1. Tell a Story

People of all ages relate to personal stories. When you incorporate a story from your life that connects to your topic, your audience’s ability to engage and connect will increase immensely. This is one of the best presentations tips, because your audience will leave remembering the story you shared and, therefore, will remember what it was you taught or “sold” them.

2. Integrate Different Media

A medium is simply the way in which we communicate — for example, music, artwork, movies/videos, and PowerPoint. Often presenters get stuck in the rut of standing behind a podium or desk reading off a screen or notes as they present material to an audience, and this is often the reason their presentation is completely forgettable.

When you watch a movie it is rare to have the setting and tone remain the same, so why should your presentation be any different? Just as with your stories, the media you choose to incorporate should be appropriately used and should have a connection to the topic on which you are trying to present. If you are doing a PowerPoint presentation about the Southern Colonies, for example, have links within your PowerPoint to videos or photographs about the Southern Colonies (this could be how it looks now compared to then or a map showing what the landscape looked like during that time, etc.).

3. Tickle Their Funny Bone

They say laughter is the best medicine, so why not include some humor in your presentation? Your audience is sure to rank your presentation as unforgettable when you lighten the mood with a bit of laughter. Of course, you want to make sure that your jokes are appropriate to your audience and the topic. This can also be achieved through the stories you share. For example, if you’re presenting information on the effects social media has on today’s high school and/or college students, you could add “hashtag” to everything you say, and then show a YouTube clip of the skit “#Hashtag” with Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake.

Word of caution: Be sure to view clips prior to showing to ensure they are appropriate for your class.

4. Provide Tasty Treats

Food plays a significant role in our lives — we need it for nourishment and sustainability, but it is also used to mark events in our lives such as birthdays, graduations, baby showers, the loss of a loved one, etc., and we use it to connect to others. So, if food is so significant why not make your presentation unforgettable with some treats or candy? For the college crowd, baked goods are an excellent item to have sitting out for your audience to partake in as they congregate before your presentation and, also, as they are listening to you present. For the high school crowd, baked goods may be unrealistic, so candy would be a better option. You can use it to get audience participation by asking a question and the person with the correct answer earns a piece of candy. If you are able to bring in cooked/baked items, it will leave a huge impression on your audience if the food chosen relates to the topic being presented. For example, if your topic is on the 13 Colonies, make some food that would have been served during that time period.

Word of caution: You may need to check in with your teacher before bringing items. Also, be mindful of allergies. Avoid anything with nuts if you are unsure of your audience. Your teacher should be able to provide you with the types of allergies within your class.

5. Know and Be Passionate About Your Topic

If you are knowledgeable and passionate about what you are presenting, your audience will leave feeling the same. No matter what medium you use, you need to make sure you know everything there is to know about the topic you’ve chosen or have been given to present. If you know your topic forward and back then your passion will increase as well, and it will in turn make your presentation unforgettable. You need to be able to present the material like a story in itself and be able to answer any questions that might be thrown your way. Nothing makes a presentation more forgettable than a presenter who has to read directly from his/her notes or PowerPoint, and who is obvious about how much they dislike the topic. Be the breath of fresh air to an audience, and wow them with your depth of knowledge.

May these tips be your jumping off point to the most unforgettable presentation of your academic career. Good luck!

CarrieMCarrie M. tutors in a variety of subjects online. She earned her BA in Elementary Education as well as Exceptional Student Education (special ed.) from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL. Learn more about Carrie here!



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TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 10/27/14

Each week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here is the shout out we received this week:

Glenice B. in San Diego wrote in to share her experience with Spanish tutor Sarah B. Glenice wrote, “I’d love to brag about our new Spanish teacher, Sarah B. My 10 year old daughter had her first lesson with her on Monday. She really knows her Spanish and more importantly, she knows how to work with children. She was kind, patient, encouraging and helpful. We will continue to purchase lessons as long as she’s a teacher. My daughter and I are thrilled to find such a qualified instructor. Thank you Sarah for making a difference in Rena’s life!” Muchas gracias, Sarah, and thank you Glenice for sharing!!

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Google+ to keep the conversation going!

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