In the last two blog posts of this series about what parents need to know before putting their kids in Suzuki violin lessons, I discussed the Suzuki Method Philosophy and the Suzuki Method Curriculum. If you missed those, you can check them out here:
So how does it all work together then? The Mother-Tongue philosophy, the method books, listening, and review, what do you really need to know about how Suzuki Violin Lessons is going to work for your family?
Music lessons are really hard work. For you AND for your kiddo. There will be fun, laughter, joy, and pride in great accomplishments. There will also be tears, arguments, disappointments and frustration. I don’t want to scare you off. Far from it. I want you to be prepared and know what you’re getting yourself into! Just like every other aspect of parenting, it’s not all going to be sunshine and roses.
You will be the Practice Helper at Home.
Let’s get this out in the open. No one always likes to practice.
I’m a professional violinist. I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Violin Performance. I studied with world-renowned teachers and went to an elite music school. I don’t always like to practice (and I never did.)
Your child won’t always love it either. And that is ok! Your job as the Suzuki parent will be to facilitate consistent practice, and attempt to make it fun. Play games. Set up a rewards system, (yes, I do mean bribes!)
Do what you gotta do, my friend.
Some days will be hard, some days easier. The more consistent you can be, the fewer fights you will have about it. Make it like brushing your teeth. It’s just something we do. Every day. Even if it is only a few minutes.
You will be the Secretary at Lesson.
In the lessons, you can take a back seat. This is the place for your child to shine. Let them answer their teacher’s questions and practice some independence.
When they are posed with challenges, let them struggle a little bit to figure things out. I know it is hard, but try not to rescue them when they forget the answers or play something incorrectly.
Take notes so you know what to practice at home. If it is helpful to you, most teachers do not mind if you record some video or audio of the lesson.
Try not to interrupt the lesson unless you need clarification on something. Dr. Suzuki said, “One teacher in the lesson.” It can be overwhelming and distracting for the student if both the parent AND the teacher are instructing them during the lesson time.
It can be hard to resist correcting or reminding your child during the lesson, especially when you’ve both practiced so hard to learn every little detail in their pieces. You want to make sure your teacher knows you’ve been practicing, but you owe it to yourself and your child to be the listener and supportive audience member during the lesson time.
In addition to your child’s weekly group lessons, they will likely also have the opportunity to participate in group lessons. Performing with and for other children is highly motivating, and just plain fun. Attendance at group lessons is essential. Everything will be easier if you attend group lessons.
The group lessons provide an opportunity for refining performing skills. With each performance opportunity, children become more accustomed to playing for others and dealing with their performance anxieties. Becoming at ease performing in public is a valuable skill that will help your child their whole life long.
In addition to practicing their performing skills, group lessons provide much needed community and fun to music learning. Children in my studio make friends with their classmates, and enjoy playing games and music together. Not only do we practice our review pieces in fun and engaging ways, we learn music from other genres, like jazz, fiddling, pop, and more!
It’s also incredibly important (and helpful!) for your student to see other children perform and interact with the teacher. A child who is resistant or hesitant may warm right up after realizing that other children are playing their instrument and having fun too!
Delayed Note Reading
Your child doesn’t learn to read the moment he begins talking. That would be so confusing. It’s the same reason that the Suzuki Method delays note reading.
Playing the violin (or any instrument) is a very complicated physical activity requiring coordination. The motion of the bow, and the movement of the fingers is quite complex. It’s a lot to think about and remember! Waiting to teach music reading allows your student to become comfortable with the basics without having to worry about the notes and the rhythms on the page at the same time.
You may have heard the Suzuki students don’t learn to read, but that is simply not true. Many very accomplished professional musicians began as Suzuki students and they are obviously proficient music readers.
When the Suzuki Method was first introduced in the United States, some new teachers-in-training misunderstood this delayed note-reading concept, and did wait too long before introducing music reading. That is no longer the case in the vast majority of Suzuki studios.
Rest assured, your child will be reading like a pro later, once some of the basics are mastered.
I want you to take this point with a grain of salt. It may or may not be applicable to you and your child. No matter the age of your child, NOW is a wonderful time to begin music lessons. There are many benefits to beginning musical instruction at any age. You’re never too old (and almost never too young) to twinkle! If you are wondering your child is the right age, the answer is almost always yes.
Some teachers begin students very young. Depending on the individual child, four-year-olds may be very ready for lessons or a seven-year-old may not be. You know your child. If you have a baby or young toddler, Suzuki Early Childhood Education may be just the thing for you.
What else do new Suzuki Parents Need to Know About the Suzuki Method? Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments!
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