Teaching is one of the great joys of my musical life. I have taught violin, viola, fiddle, theory, and jazz theory for non-jazzers for over three decades. I always endeavour to bring integrity to the time I spend with students, focussing on strengthening the skills they already possess and diagnosing issues that create stumbling blocks to their progress.
I have taught across a wide range of age groups and learning abilities (including bipolar disorder and autism), both privately and through institutions such as York University and the University of Toronto. I have also worked with school age students, from 6-18. Most recently, I taught at the Regent Park School of Music, a Toronto inner-city music school recently in the news for Taylor Swift's having used sound samples created by a group of the school's students (including a couple of my own) on her 2019 album, Love.
I studied violin pedagogy formally with Mimi Zweig, who uses the Suzuki Method as a foundation upon which she has added technical and modern harmonic tweaks. When working with younger students, I continue to use many of Mimi's ideas, in combination with those of British pedagogue, Sheila Nelson. For older students, I do not subscribe to a single approach to learning violin or viola. I offer students the technical, musical and mental tools to learn better and more efficiently so that they can play the music they want to play and love the sound they make while doing so--whether it's solo Bach, orchestral excerpts, a tango, a concerto, a jazz standard (in all keys), a fiddle tune, or free improvisation. I draw upon the breadth of my own musical experience to engage students in whatever way, and through whatever kind of music, best suits their way of learning.
By fluke, I have lived in close proximity to a number of former and current Olympic athletes, and I have noticed many similarities between athletes and musicians. What differs is the presumptions we hold about 'talent' as a precursor to musical training. I see it the other way around. The difference between a wishful athlete and an elite athlete is a good coach, dedicated to what you need. Think of me as your Olympic coach of the violin. If there is something you want to play on the instrument, I can give you the tools to get there.
Please send me a message if you are interested in lessons: parmela(at)parmela(dot)com.
The first lesson is always free.
~ Reflections from students and parents ~
"Parmela is a passionate mentor. She is the first violin teacher I've had who helped me 'get' the instrument. I like how she is able to describe the violin as a living actor in its various stories and theoretical investigations. She helped me understand how we play music with our entire being, and appreciate how every muscle gives support to the voice of this stringed instrument.
The aspects on which focused in the classes helped me re-invent my professional personality. Later, I referred back to her lessons when I started dragon-boat racing.
I would highly recommend her if you seek to uncover the life within music and the music inside life."
~ Anwesha Sen (adult student)
"Parmela is a wonderful teacher! She is demanding, but at the same time you can tell that she really cares about her students. She notices things about us that we might not even see ourselves. For example, not only did she teach me violin and viola, but she discovered that I also had a talent for percussion and encouraged me to pursue that as well, and I ended up loving it! I feel very lucky to have known her as both a teacher and a friend."
~ Miro Ivicevic (student from age 12-17)
"A brilliant musician and devoted educator, Parmela takes the time to get to know each and every one of her students and customizes her teaching to suit their individual needs. Her meticulous approach to technique and style, as well as her mastery of different genres of music makes her a wonderful fit for students of any level. She spares no effort to give them a solid musical foundation, connecting with them in a way that helps them to realize their full potential as musicians. We feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to work with her!"
~ I. Ivicevic (parent)
Parmela is a thoughtful teacher, inspiring mentor and wonderful friend. She's helped me grow as a musician: developing my technique, building my musicality and encouraging me to take on challenging pieces, all the while guiding me though the difficult process with constructive feedback and helpful suggestions. She's introduced me to a wide repertoire of music and exposed me to chamber music, and for this I am very grateful. She's also helped me develop as a person, giving me advice on how to approach different problems in life. Her professionalism, her teaching versatility, and her ability to listen to the student and do what's best for them, has made it a pleasure to study with her!
~ Catherine Chen (teenage student from age 13-17, gr. 10 RCM)
I came to Parmela Attariwala as a mature student. I had once had a career as a musician in Sri Lanka, which I abandoned when I came to Canada. ... In Toronto, I discovered Argentine Tango, a music of migration and nostalgia, that demands high technical skill from a violinist, complemented by an ability to improvise and push the boundaries of sound. To play this music, I needed a teacher who could help me regain and develop my chops as a classical violinist, while understanding the formal structures of music in such a way that improvisation and play became easier to accomplish. ... The work that I did with Parmela was invaluable; in just one year, I successfully auditioned and was accepted with a scholarship to the Stowe Tango Festival in Vermont.
Parmela is an exceptional technician and a keen pedagogue who works with each individual student to meet their own specific needs. ... She also renewed my understanding of my physiology, and my kinetic approach to the instrument so that I no longer felt like I was battling my violin in each performance.
But Parmela is not only a gifted violin teacher, she is also a thinking person’s teacher. Her incredible depth of knowledge and her scholarship on issues of identity and representation in the Canadian music world enrich her teaching.
~ Aparna Halpé (adult student; tango specialist)