Tips for Daily Practice

Things everyone should do every successful practice day:

  1. Go through the boring technique warm-ups, but only as far as you can focus on them. Have enough choices of technique drills that you can add plenty of variety.
  2. Play an easy scale slowly.
  3. Play a difficult scale quickly, or with variations.
  4. Do something just for focusing on your posture and relaxation.
  5. Do something just for enjoying your beautiful tone.
  6. Soar with a piece that you know extremely well—don’t practice it or critique yourself on it, just play it to enjoy your sound.
  7. Try something that’s just a little too hard for you.
  8. Pick a tiny but difficult nugget—maybe two notes—but keep doing it until you “get it.” Enjoy the feeling.
  9. Play through the piece you’re working on. Make music.

 

 

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Japan Seattle Suzuki Institute Report

In the beginning of August, I had the chance to visit Seattle for a week to attend the Japan Seattle Suzuki Institute. I took the Practicum teacher training class. We were both students and teachers at the same time! There were only five students in our class, and we each had to bring a couple of videotapes of us teaching lessons to share with the class and discuss. We also got a chance to have a mini-lesson in front of the class with a student from the institute whom we had never met. Pressure!

Our Practicum class with our teacher, Kathleen Spring, at our favorite hangout, Byen Bakery

Our Practicum class with our teacher, Kathleen Spring, at our favorite hangout, Byen Bakery

It was a great little group of teachers that I got to work with, all of whom have been teaching in different situations for many years, so we got to share experiences. One of my classmates is the strings and orchestra teacher at the Seattle Waldorf School, another is the only violin teacher in a fairly remote city in Canada. Our teacher, Kathleen Spring, was a lovely person and shared a lot of good practical information with us. She’s also the author of Bunny Ballads, a book with a collection of original pre-Twinkle songs, which is delightful.

The institute was at Seattle Pacific University. Seattle is a beautiful place! It was so refreshing to be in cooler weather for a change, with lots of lush greenery. I hadn’t been to Seattle for years so I had forgotten how hilly and charming it was. We were lucky to be there during the season of fabulous weather. One evening my new teacher friends and I got a chance to explore the town, and visit, among other things, a fabulous chocolate shop in the Queen Anne neighborhood called Chocolopolis! Trust me, that was definitely a highlight. We were also lucky enough to have a lovely little Scandinavian bakery pretty much next door to our classroom, which we visited quite frequently. We even had part of our class time there.

Drinking chocolate at Chocolopolis

Drinking chocolate at Chocolopolis

Other explorations included walking to the Fremont Troll, a huge urban sculpture under a freeway bridge. It was quite popular for kids to climb on. We also enjoyed watching the Fremont Drawbridge go up, and one of my classmates took a video of it to show to her 3-year-old son. And, of course, we dropped by the Space Needle.

Fremont Troll

Fremont Troll

Fremont Drawbridge going up

Fremont Drawbridge going up

Of course, you have to say you saw the Space Needle!

Of course, you have to say you saw the Space Needle!

But back to work…Along with class time, we also were required to observe the students’ classes, which was a lot of fun. There were private lessons, group classes, orchestras, and chamber groups. The kids were kept quite busy!

One of the group concerts

One of the group concerts

A book 1 group class rehearsal

A book 1 group class rehearsal

It was one of the most fun institutes I’ve been to. Every student and parent that I saw seemed to be having a fabulous time, too.  I’d highly recommend any Suzuki summer institute for students of all ages!

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Parent Information and Supplies

The Basics of Suzuki Violin Lessons

  1. Dr. Suzuki’s foundational principle is that “man is a son of his environment.” In practical terms, this means that the time and energy that you, as a parent, puts into a child’s education will be reflected in your child’s love for music. Parents have the task of providing this environment by:
    1. being present at every lesson and taking notes,
    2. be willing to make a priority of sitting down with your child every day and helping him/her practice by following the teacher’s instructions for home practice time,
    3. encouraging your child with praise, practice games, and incentives
    4. turning on the reference recording for your child every day,
    5. prioritizing recitals, group classes and performances, and other musical events.
  1. Just as children learn to speak their native language by listening to others around them speak, they learn about music by listening to music. Consistent listening to the reference recording develops sensitivity to musical tone. Making a habit of listening to classical music in the home is also strongly encouraged at every level.
  1. Violin is a social instrument. Group lessons reinforce what is learned in the private lesson in a social environment, where students can make friends with other children that they play music with, and learn to work together as an ensemble.
  1. Just as children build upon skills they learn in school and progress through them, we will be building upon repertoire and techniques by reviewing them as we add more pieces. Reviewing previous pieces is just as important as learning new ones.

Supplies:

Beginner students will need the following:

  • Suzuki Violin School, vol. 1 (book & CD in one package)
  • notebook for parent’s notes (bring to lessons)
  • pen or pencil
  • CD or MP3 player near where parent & student practices
  • Rosin (usually supplied with violin)

Other recommended supplies:

  • extra set of strings (Thomastik Vision for small violins, Thomastik Dominant for larger)
  • stickers for younger children
  • Copies of Suzuki CD for the cars, etc.
  • For practice games: dice, numbered cards, stack of coins/buttons/other small objects etc.
  • music stand
  • metronome/tuner
  • 3-ring binder for handouts and charts
  • Dusting cloth for instrument
  • special bag for music, supplies
  • Recordings of future Suzuki volumes, for inspiration

Parent books and articles:

  • www.suzukiassociation.org (articles, information, events, summer workshops)
  • Teaching from the Balance Point by Edward Kreitman
  • Helping Parents Practice by Edmund Sprunger
  • Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki

Resources:

Instrument and supplies:

  • Cruz Violins, Riverside 4124 Sunnyside Dr, Riverside, CA 92506 (951) 781-1195
  • Jim Brown, Claremont (909) 624-0849 www.jbviolin.com
  • Robertson & Sons, Albuquerque (mail order) 1-800-A-VIOLIN www.robertsonviolins.com
  • Robert Cauer, Los Angeles (323) 460-6815 www.cauer.com

Strings and rosin:

  • Nick Rail Music, Redlands 1770 Orange Tree Ln, Redlands, CA 92374 (909) 798-9998
  • Cruz Violins, Riverside 4124 Sunnyside Dr, Riverside, CA 92506 (951) 781-1195
  • Shar Music (mail order) www.sharmusic.com

Music:

  • Nick Rail Music, Redlands 1770 Orange Tree Ln, Redlands, CA 92374 (909) 798-9998
  • Shar Music (mail order) www.sharmusic.com
  • www.amazon.com (I can email you my student wish list)

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Notes from a Suzuki Mom: The “Twinkle” Year

A nicely written piece for parents of students with learning challenges:

Today our blog post comes from Aparna Asthana, a Suzuki mom and dedicated parent. Her son Rohan, who was born prematurely, struggled early on with speech and with fine motor skills. Aparna writes about her drive to teach Rohan the violin, their long struggle with the Suzuki method, and Rohan’s eventual delight in making music. What I love about Aparna’s entry is its emotional articulateness: it’s not just about the violin or Suzuki lessons or overcoming obstacles — it’s about how we can be surprised by joy.  If you’d like to contribute to our blog — as a Suzuki parent, music teacher, or string musician — email me at joec@sharmusic.com.

RohanThe year my son turned three we finally heard his voice, short staccato phrases that demanded juice or a toy. We sighed with relief. In preschool, he struggled with grasping a crayon, manipulating objects and cutting with scissors. In kindergarten, he finally learned to write his name; a claw-like grip on the pencil, letters written in reverse and scrawled unevenly all over the page. In music class, he shook egg maracas while other children poked small keyboards and learned to play some rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” He never really sang the preschool songs other kids sang; he watched them in solemn wonder and mute silence. And though we tried many times during kindergarten, he never learned to tie his shoelaces.

To read more: Notes from a Suzuki Mom: The “Twinkle” Year

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The Preschool Beginner

Thinking of starting a preschooler on the violin? I’ll be sharing a few thoughts here and there on this topic. The first is the reply to a post on the Suzuki Association website.

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 4, 2006

Suzuki Association Member

Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
955 posts

Keep in mind that a three year old taking music lessons is not “just” learning how to play the instrument. You aren’t “teaching music to a 3 year old”—instead, you are teaching a child with relatively little experience in this world how to

  • take directions
  • listen to the teacher
  • ask relevant questions
  • behave appropriately in a structured classroom situation (this varies from culture to culture)
  • have a longer attention span
    -pay attention to what the teacher asks when it’s lesson time, and not necessarily to what they’re “naturally” interested in at any given moment
  • train for physical endurance (Twinkle theme and variations all together is five minutes long!)
  • train for small muscle coordination (this child probably is still figuring out how to color within the lines—or figuring out how to even see the lines on a coloring sheet as needing to be colored “within”. And we want to teach how to precisely place and draw a bow or pluck guitar strings or place fingers on strings or on piano keys?)
  • train for balance and grace in motion (three year olds do not walk, move, sit, or stand as gracefully or as deftly as most adults—they are still learning how to do this)
  • they are still learning HOW TO LEARN.
  • they are still learning cultural norms: how to adress a teacher or other adult who is not a parent; how to show respect in their particular culture; how to use new vocabulary; how to act in a classroom or another person’s home;

Etc., etc….

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Why Students Quit Their Instrument

I thought this was an interesting and insightful article…

Why Students Really Quit Their Musical Instrument (and How Parents Can Prevent It)

by Anthony Mazzocchi

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Every year almost 100% of public school students begin an instrument through their school’s music program (if a program exists).  One or two years later, more than 50% of students quit; unable to enjoy all that music education has to offer for the rest of their K-12 schooling, if not beyond.

During my time as an educator and administrator, parents and students have shared with me several reasons why the child quit their musical instrument, including:

  • The student is not musically talented (or at least thought they weren’t).
  • The student is too busy with other activities.
  • The student hates practicing (or the parents grow weary of begging the child to practice).
  • The student doesn’t like their teacher.

…and there’s more…

To read more: Why Students Really Quit Their Musical Instrument (And How Parents Can Prevent It)

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“Smooth Criminal”–Joyous Quartet

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