The Second New England School: Composers of Victorian Boston

In addition to Johnson String Instrument, Boston is home to a vibrant array of ensembles and musicians as well as numerous institutions of higher education in music. Classical music in Boston—and the U.S.— owes much to a small group of 19th-century Boston composers known as “The Second New England School”. These composers were John Knowles Paine (1839-1906), Arthur Foote (1853-1937), George Chadwick (1854-1931), Edward MacDowell (1860-1908), Horatio Parker (1863-1919), and Amy Beach (1867-1944).

The First and Second New England Schools

The “First New England School” developed during the American Revolution. It consisted largely of self-taught hymn composers like William Billings. Their rustic styles ignored the stringent rules of European music theory. The Second New England School, by comparison, grew directly out of academia. By the end of the 19th-century, universities in the United States were emulating their European counterparts. Every male composer of the New England group traveled overseas to study with German composers and theorists. Chadwick and Parker both passed on these methods to their students, including Florence Price and Charles Ives. As the sole woman of the group, Beach did not travel to Europe to study; she instead taught herself composition by studying German compositions.

The Boston Symphony and The Second New England School

Edward MacDowell

The formation of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1881 led not only to exposure to the latest European masterworks but to performances of their own compositions. Paine and Foote initially led the group in performances, but by the turn of the century, MacDowell was the most prominent member. He became especially well known for his Second Piano Concerto and “To a Wild Rose” from his Woodland Sketches for piano. In 1907, facing declining health, he established the MacDowell Colony, a retreat for artists of all disciplines. One regular was Amy Beach.

The Career of Amy Beach

Amy Beach

Beach composed many chamber works, such as a Violin Sonata in A minor. She was also prolific composer of art songs, the most socially acceptable genre for women composers in the Victorian Era. Large, highly formalized works like symphonies and concertos were considered to be beyond their abilities and temperament. Despite these societal limitations, Beach successfully premiered her Gaelic Symphony (1896) and Piano Concerto (1900) with the Boston Symphony. Though some critics opined that as a woman, she was unsuited for such works, others praised her compositions. Chadwick and Parker had attended the premiere of the symphony, and the former later wrote to Beach, saying “…I always feel a thrill of pride myself whenever I hear a fine work by any of us, and as such you will have to be counted in, whether you will or not—one of the boys.” Beach also notably premiered some works, including her violin Romance, at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair as part of the Women’s Musical Congress. As the first major American woman composer, she has become the most frequently performed composer of the group since feminist movements in music came to prominence in the 1970s.

Visit us in-store or online to find works in our collection by Edward MacDowell and Amy Beach.

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Copyright © 2018 · All Rights Reserved · Nate Faro




Finding A Private Teacher For Your Child

Finding a private teacher for your child can seem daunting, especially if you are not a musician yourself. Maybe you want to get your child an early start on an instrument, or their school director recommended they get a private teacher. Whatever the reason, many parents ask the same question: How do I find the right teacher? Here are a few things to keep in mind when searching for a private teacher for your child.

The Commitment Level

The commitment level is different for each teacher, and the best fit will depend on what your and/or your child’s goals are. Consider how many hours of practicing they require, the type of repertoire they expect their students to learn, and their expectations about students participating in competitions. The good news? There are many different types of private teachers out there! Make sure the commitment they expect matches what you or your child are looking for.

You should also consider what your commitment level as a parent will be, especially if your child is a beginner. In the Suzuki method, one of the recommendations is that the parent also learns the instrument if they don’t know it already and serves as the “home teacher.” You will obviously be involved no matter what, but remember to take into account what the teacher expects of you too when your child is practicing at home. If you do suddenly find yourself learning a string instrument, don’t worry; we have instruments available for children and adults in our comprehensive rental program.

The Location

Some teachers rent out space in a music store, a school or a church, while others teach in their own home. Most people look for a teacher that is close to their home, their child’s school, or their work. Depending on where you live and what your goals are, you may need to be flexible on distance to find the private teacher you’re looking for.

Another thing you can look for is whether a teacher travels to students’ homes, or even if they offer online lessons. This can be a great way to accommodate a busy schedule or let your child study with someone they wouldn’t normally be able to.

The Cost

Most private teachers require weekly lessons, and cost is important to consider. Before you sign on with any teacher, talk about rates and how they handle payments so that everyone is on the same page. Some teachers prefer to be paid weekly, others at the beginning of the month or semester. Others work directly for a music school, in which case the payments might be handled by the school itself. Everyone has a different system, so it’s worth figuring out what works for your family.

The Person

In the end, the most important thing to consider is whether your child enjoys working with their teacher. Does their teacher support their goals and challenge them musically? Since this is a one-on-one relationship, the goal is to have it be supportive and positive. Trust your gut and your child’s experience with their teacher.

More Help Finding a Private Teacher

Need more help in your search? Our teacher database can help you find a private teacher! Log in or create an account on our website and immediately search our extensive database of private teachers located across New England.

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Finding the Perfect Violin or Viola Setup

Finding the right violin or viola setup is important for your physical health as a musician. Many of us begin with the same setup: whatever chinrest comes with the instrument and a foam sponge. However, what works for you as a beginner and what works for more advanced players are not always the same thing. The best place to start is by talking to your teacher; finding the perfect violin or viola setup for you can be complicated, and they will know the types of things you should look for. We also have a few suggestions to guide you in the right direction.

Know Your Body

This sounds obvious, but sometimes it’s the most basic things we forget to consider. No two bodies are exactly alike, and the same violin or viola setup is not going to work for everyone. The goal is to allow freedom of movement, reduce and hopefully eliminate tension, and work with your body rather than against it. This means taking into account things like your shoulders, neck, and jawline. Talking to your teacher about posture and position is a great way to figure out the types of corrections you’re looking for. If you want an even deeper understanding of how to eliminate tension and improve your playing posture, books like Playing Less Hurt are a good resource. Body Mapping and the Alexander Technique are also great options to investigate.


There are multiple types of chinrests, but a good place to start is to decide which feels more comfortable:

  1. A chinrest centered over the tailpiece (center-mounted)
  2. A chinrest to the left of the tailpiece (side-mounted)

There is no right or wrong answer: this is about what works best for you with your violin or viola. Once you decide which style you prefer, you can start trying out the different chinrests in that category. Take a look at the chart below to see what types of chinrests falls into each category: 

Check out our full selection of violin chinrests and viola chinrests

Shoulder Rests

When trying out shoulder rests, you want to make sure they fit the shape of your shoulder while also being high or low enough for your neck. Most people will start by trying out a more rigid shoulder rest like a classic Kun or Wolf Primo. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may want something with more give, a different shape, or that is more adjustable. Some of our more popular models are listed below: 

Check out our full selection of violin shoulder rests and viola shoulder rests.

Other Tips:

-ALWAYS try your violin or viola setup out. This isn’t something you can guess at; you won’t know if something works for you until you physically play with that setup. If you visit our storefront, we have examples of each chinrest and shoulder rest that you can try. If you’re shopping online, we accept returns within 30 days.

-Ask for help! This could be in the form of your teacher or one of our friendly front staff or customer service members.

-As your technique changes (especially if you are in school), your setup might as well. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see if your current setup can be improved. 

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Music In Our Schools Month

Celebrated for over 30 years by the National Association of Music Educators (NAfME), Music in Our Schools Month is an annual event that raises awareness about the need for quality music programs for all students. Now more than ever, this event highlights the importance of music education in our schools and communities.

Johnson String Instrument works to provide the high-quality instruments and materials necessary to support string programs in our public and private schools. Since the beginning, we have worked to be a trusted resource for teachers and to support them however we are able.

We are also a company of people who have benefited from music in our schools. We asked our staff to tell us how their school music programs impacted their lives:

I’ve been playing music for most of my life. I started playing piano when I was four, but thought it was difficult so I decided I wanted to play cello when I was eight. I liked playing cello, and it quickly became a hobby of mine. My mom and I decided that I should go to a magnet arts school for middle school rather than go to my local middle school. Middle school was a huge shift for me because I got to explore classical music and really push my boundaries with art. It was there where I not only received academic education, but I participated in my first orchestral and chamber music experience. That inspired me to audition for Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts for high school, another magnet arts school in South Florida. In those four years, I got to travel all over the state of Florida, and to Colorado and North Carolina to study music. I decided that I wanted to continue my cello studies for college, and to hopefully make a career out of it.

Looking back, those seven years of my life were my most crucial years of development. Because I attended art schools, it was such a welcoming and creative environment, and there was absolutely no judgement for being yourself. Frankly, the more creative and expressive you were, the more praise you got! It was such a healthy, supportive environment to be in, and I really felt like I could grow as an individual. Since I grew up in that environment, that pushed me to really dive into my passion for music. It allowed me to meet all of the closest friends I have and to move to the city of my dreams. I am exactly where I want to be because I had the opportunity to study music at school. It’s so important to keep music education going in schools, because I know I’m not the only person to have felt this.

Lisa Yasui, Administrative Assistant

I was very fortunate to have many excellent music teachers within the Arizona public school system. My general music teacher in elementary school was a former violinist in the Chicago Symphony, and she displayed a passion for music that was hard to miss. Many, many of us were inspired to explore music, especially classical music, because of her prompting. She hosted an annual “Name That Tune” contest in our school, and as a result my peers and I could identify a good number of classical, jazz and pop themes at an early age.

Matthew Fritz, Director of Sales and Acquisitions

From the beginning of fourth grade all the way through high school, I attended classes at the Greenville Fine Arts Center, part of the Greenville County Schools. Twice a week after school in elementary and middle school, my mom drove me there for a group strings class that provided me with a strong foundation for both my playing and knowledge of music theory. After that, I auditioned for the chamber music program for talented high school students. In my four years in the program, my classmates and I participated in competitions, both in chamber groups and individually, and played several concerts each year at the Fine Arts Center as well as throughout the state. One of the requirements of the program was to audition for All-State Orchestra each year, including their concerto competition that I was lucky enough to win as a senior. I played some of my best auditions when I was in high school because I was preparing for them all the time!

My studies at the Fine Arts Center provided me with an outlet for my passion for the violin. I had more performance opportunities than I could count, I was encouraged by my teachers to attend summer festivals all over the U.S. and to take every audition I could. Nearly all of my classmates went on to study music because we loved every bit of it so much that we could not imagine our life without it every day. The Fine Arts Center taught all of its students, in music or the visual arts or any of the other areas of study offered there, what it truly means to be an artist.

Sarah Rogers, Assistant Manager of Operations

How did your school music program impact your life? Tell us in the comments below!