Teaching with An Open Heart: A Guide to Developing Conscious Musicianship for Suzuki Parents, Teachers, and Students…
This book does not disappoint! I loved Teaching from the Balance Point, and Teaching with an Open Heart was the perfect follow-up.
In the beginning of the book, Mr. Kreitman outlines reasons that parents give for wanting their child to learn music, for example:
-Learn to manage their time effectively
-Improve their focus and concentration
-Develop poise and the ability to present themselves in public, whether preforming or speaking
Gain a lifelong love of music
-Develop problem solving skills and healthy confidence in the face of struggles
-Learn to break complex problems into small, manageable steps
He then makes this very interesting point,
If these are the reasons that we are studying music, the measure four progress should be defined by these qualities — rather than whether our child is playing Witches’ Dance or The Two Grenadiers…Perhaps we should not think of these personal qualities as the “side benefits” of studying music, but instead the reason for study. The musical instrument then becomes the vehicle for personal transformation, and the side benefit is that the student will play a musical instrument very well.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all, parents and teachers, shift our mindset to one where success in violin lessons (or any music lessons) is determined by the qualities we are developing with our children? Truly, that’s where the true heart of the Suzuki philosophy lies.
Later, Mr. Kreitman outlines four modes of energy:
- Push—like water moving through a hose
- Pull—a wave of water pulling out to sea
- Stop—like the hose kinked so water can’t escape
- Allow—the hose, faucet off, and the remaining water flowing where gravity takes it
…String players use the very same words to describe how we physically play our instruments. We pull the bow on the down bow. We push the bow on an up bow, and we allow the bow to stop on the string, We allow the energy to flow through our bodies, and into the bow and instrument to make sound. Many of the musical and technical difficulties that students experience in their playing are the result of using stop instead of allow. When a student holds tension in his bow hand, wrist, or elbow, that tension stops the flow of energy to the instrument. When a student holds tension in her left hand (usually form holding the the instrument, the tension stops the flow of energy needed for left-hand facility and vibrato.
I’ve spoken to my students about blocking the flow of energy into their bow arms in other terms but not so explicitly, I’m excited to discuss these concepts with some of my students later today!
I was very intrigued by this idea Mr. Kreitman shared, as I have observed Debbie Moench do this in her lessons with book 1 students but I’ve never done it myself.
One of the most important practices I have incorporated into my teaching is hearing the student play every piece, starting with a Twinkle variation, at every Book 1 lesson…Under these conditions, we can work on fundamental changes in the playing — those related to the experience at the instrument — rather than details related to the repertoire. Most of the playing is demonstrating the student’s best, which allows the instructor or parent to give the student lots of genuine and specific positive feedback. After 20 minutes or so of hearing the student’s best playing and offering constructive opportunities for improvement, it is possible to approach the “working piece” with gusto. There’s no need to worry that correcting wrong notes or bowings or struggling with a new technique will diminish the child’s self-esteem. The child already knows you think her to be capable, present, responsive, and enjoying the process of learning. Any suggestions for improvement are easily accepted because of the child’s experience of validation during the playing of the review material.
It’s a long quote, sorry, but I’m really excited about this idea, and I wanted you to hear the idea straight from the source. I can’t wait to start using this in my lessons. Starting today!
I was also very excited to read this sentence in the book, “Unfortunately, most of the chatter that goes on in our heads has nothing to do wit the music or our performance of it…Thoughts that are self-critical tend to trigger negative emotional reactions, which take us to the inward emotional realm of awareness.” This is right in line with things I’ve been learning in the field of self-coaching. Thoughts trigger feelings, feelings drive actions, and our actions determine our results in our lives.
My copy of Teaching with An Open Heart is now covered in highlighter and notes, I really enjoyed it.
What did you think of the book? What did you like about it? What will you be implementing in your studio?