Ear training is a skill that encourages self-directed study, creativity, and better musical perception in general. Also, there's nothing like having a few solid learned-by-ear tunes to raise one's musical self esteem.
Memorization helps kids focus on improving their sound and technique. This occurs naturally because they're undistracted by the task of reading. And naturally, as their playing improves their confidence rises.
Once a fiddler has the skills and confidence to learn by ear, and has mastered a small collection of tunes (and is sensitive to stylistic nuances) he or she can join in impromptu music sessions. It is relatively easy to form a small, dedicated rehearsal group, where members share tunes. The effort involved is modest, and the rewards of holding a place for music in one's life and of playing socially are immense.
Ear learning is good for everybody. And it's the fiddlin' way!
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