This is going to be a rather comprehensive review of Northside Music School. I was surprised there weren’t more reviews given the hundreds if not thousands of students that have matriculated from Northside.
I had lessons here under Mr. Robin Abraham for a few years as a young violinist in middle and high school. I was either concertmaster or 1st violin. I was one of two entering freshman in high school to be placed in chamber orchestra (highest-ranking).
However, in contextualizing these accolades; I dreaded coming here. Northside Music was where I first began to learn violin and piano.
The sessions would be hour-long and grueling; any mistake would be reprimanded with “drills”, repeating a small part of the music over and over again until you got it right. This could be for 5 minutes of the lesson; it could also be the entirety of the lesson. Looking back, I realize the point of the drills wasn’t necessarily reprimand for not practicing, but rather because Mr. Abraham showed a genuine interest in his students’ improvement. The worst part was when I knew I hadn’t practiced the week before; he wouldn’t get mad, or angry. I’d start playing (terribly), he’d cut me off, ask why I hadn’t practiced, and we would spend almost entire one hour sessions in complete silence, with me just standing there staring at the music. But these experiences did motivate me to practice more. Just know, if you haven’t practiced at all the week before, it will show, and you will waste both your and his time.
But as an awkwardly introverted teenager, I believed I lacked talent and skill and Mr. Abraham did nothing to sway my opinion. His philosophy has and will always be tough love. This makes sense if you look at his background; he went to Juilliard, which has consistently been the top-ranked university for music for probably the last 50+ years (the acceptance rate is on par with Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton). He was a professional cellist in the symphony; if you know anything about the music industry, you’ll know it’s incredibly cutthroat with no room for error. A concertmaster one day might not even be in the orchestra the next, depending on performance.
The first thing you will realize when you meet him is that he’s very old. It’s not an insult or backhanded comment; it’s simply a fact. He was 80+ when I was there and he’s probably older now; I think that’s how aging works. As such, his fingers aren’t as nimble as they were when he was at Juilliard, and he will make mistakes in his own playing. Sometimes it’s subtle, but sometimes he’ll have to skip a section if it’s too demanding from a purely physical standpoint (yes, music is physically demanding). Don’t pay any regard to this; if you were in your nineties, you would be lucky to play half as well. What matters is how he teaches the material, not how he himself plays.
So, how does he teach the material? Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. It’s not exactly a polarizing method of teaching in music. It’s the most old-fashioned way of “drilling” material into a student’s head. You’ll get bored and try to cheat by moving on to the next section hoping he won’t realize; don’t. He will realize. Whether this method is effective or not is not for me to comment on. Just know this is the method that will be employed, whether you like it or not.
Finally, if you’ve gotten this far, I commend you. It shows you’re passionate about finding the right music teacher for you, or maybe you’re an ex-student like me, bored and wanting some reading material. Either way, congrats. You’ve made it to the end. I’ll summarize Northside in this way; if you’re truly committed to learning music and willing to spend hours practicing to get better, Northside is for you. If you have thin skin, you’ll have thick skin by the time you’re done here. If you want a fun learning experience complete with compliments and chocolates every time you learn a piece, don’t go here. You’ll be searching for other music teachers after the first lesson. His wife’s cool and nice though, take her if you can.