The Suzuki Method
As a Suzuki kid, my musical experience was a nurturing one that fostered not only a love for the violin, but strong technique, musicality, a sense of independence, and discipline. I hope to pass this knowledge on to my students. A Suzuki teacher's responsibility is not only to create a violinist, but to help shape the child into a well-rounded and well-adjusted adult. Although not all Suzuki kids become professional musicians, most become successful in careers of their choosing. For a wealth of information about Dr. Suzuki, his principles, and the Suzuki Method in the US, visit the Suzuki Association of the Americas.
Let's Get This Ball Rolling!
For a young child (and his or her parents too!), learning the violin is a challenging task that requires a positive learning environment, perseverance, and persistence. For this reason, I ask both my parents and my children to prepare in a number of ways for their first lesson.
Be clear about what you and your child's expectations are before you start lessons. Are these lessons just for fun, or do you/your child have professional aspirations? Are you both on the same page? Having clear expectations will prevent frustration further down the line. My expectation (regardless of the level and ability of your child) is that my students come to lessons prepared. This will maximize the quality of the time we spend together.
Parents, I strongly encourage you to read these two books before our first class. Both give wonderful insights into the Suzuki Method, and give parents lots of tips on how to help develop a good student and violinist:
The Violin and Other Supplies
Please come to your first lesson with a violin properly sized for your child. There are a number of local stores that carry smaller violins for purchase or rental. If you are unable to get to a store, I recommend renting online from Shar Music. The quality of their instruments is much higher than that of the smaller chain stores in our area, and they offer competitive prices both for purchase and for rental. Before renting or purchasing a violin, please speak to me about measuring your child. You will also need rosin (the large rosins in a wooden trough work best), and a cotton cleaning cloth.
At our first lesson, we will also discuss purchasing a shoulder rest for your child. There are many different kinds/brands, and each child has specific needs.
Please young elementary and preschool children, please bring white or light pastel poster board 2x3 feet in size. We will use this to make a foot chart for the child.
Purchase Suzuki Violin Book One AND the accompanying CD. Begin listening to the CD often, even before you start attending lessons.
Lastly, bring a notebook and 3-ring Binder to every lesson. Your notebook is for you to write what and how to practice with your child. The binder will hold practice records so that I may track the progress of your child.
Prepare Your Child
Once you have acquired a violin, your child will be very excited to start using it. However, please do NOT allow your child to play the instrument. Children who come to their first lesson thinking they already know how to play are not easily receptive to instruction. The children will not play or learn to hold the instruments at the first lesson, and often, not for the first few weeks. Please come with them having the expectation that we are going to be learning how to get ready to play. They will not play for a few weeks. Only the parent plays at first.
Especially with younger children, we will work intensely for a few minutes, and then take a break. This is the normal way of things, so don't be frustrated. Please help your child by bringing along some quiet toys and books to play with during these breaks. While the child plays or listens quietly, I will work with the parent.
Lastly, continue to listen to the Suzuki Book One recording several times daily especially emphasizing the early half of the book. Ease in learning comes from this listening saturation. Continue to hear in your home and in your child’s presence, fine music from your own listening library and attend concerts with your child. THIS IS THE ENVIRONMENTAL SOURCE OF TALENT. It is your opportunity to give your child the gift of talent.
Practice...Only on Days That You Eat!
Practicing the violin can be a very rewarding experience for both you and your child. However, it won't come without frustrations, vexations, and irritations. In the beginning, your child will model his behaviors on what he sees in you. This is why it is so critical to practice with your child every day, and show your commitment. Enforcing good practice habits early on and giving plenty of encouragement will boost your child's confidence and make his progress at lessons more tangible. The sooner you make practicing part of the daily routine, the easier it will become. I encourage parents to find a time for practice that is similar on most days. Again, this will make it easier for you and your child to form a routine.
It is common for children to become frustrated when they realize they won't learn to play a concerto (or even Twinkle) overnight--this is totally normal and even expected! If your child suddenly decides he doesn't want to practice, please don't throw in the towel! If you do experience tantrums and tears at home, please let me know, as I may be able to offer some suggestions and games to make practicing more fun. I always ask parents to try and stick out these frustrations for just a little while--as soon as your child sees that he is making progress, it will become easier for both of you!
When You Arrive At My House
Please park next to any curb in front of my house. There is no need to knock or ring the doorbell when you arrive, but be sure to open the door slowly. I have a friendly dog named Oscar who, if not crated, will try to escape. He will most likely be crated before you arrive, but accidents happen! Once in my front entryway, teach your child to remove his/her shoes (you too). I will likely be in my basement studio, so come on down. If I am still teaching another student, please knock before entering.