Suzuki Davenport

It’s easy to raise musical kids!

Raising Musical Kids: A Guide for Parents, Robert Cutietta

Cutietta believes that NOW is a time when it’s easier to raise musical kids than ever before.

He talks about “the challenges, joys and importance of getting the best possible music education for children.” From the many ideas in his book, two stand out: listening to good music and keeping children motivated.

 Listening to good music

Suzuki parents know all about the listening requirement in order to learn pieces about to be played.  He also encouraged playing good music from the day of birth.  Cutietta calls this “bathing your homes in music.”  He explains that music is made up of “rhythm patterns, pitch patterns, and timbre,” unique to each style of music from country to classical to Chinese. Your child’s brain will recognize the patterns by repeated listening. Playing the music in the background is an unconscious music lesson, according to Cutietta.  Since the book was written in 2001, we have even easier ways to bathe our homes in music; bluetooth permits us to have wireless speakers all over the house run by a cell phone.

In addition to the Suzuki pieces that your child will be playing, other good listening can come from his suggested listening library in Appendix D.  Some are listed here–

  • Adagio for Strings, Barber
  • Annie, Broadway Show
  • Appalachian Spring, Copland
  • Mother Goose, Prokofiev
  • Bolero, Ravel
  • Brandenburg Concertos (1-6), Bach
  • Canon in D, Pachelbel
  • Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Mozart
  • Fantasia, Disney
  • Nutcracker Suite, Tchaikovsky
  • Symphony No. 5 and 6, Beethoven
  • Symphony No. 40, Mozart
  • Water Music, Handel

Keeping children motivated

Among the topics in his book is keeping the child motivated.  Children have not yet developed the sense that perseverance is a major characteristic to their well-being in life.  It is completely up to the parents to keep their child motivated through the hard work that practice takes.  We don’t want our children to be “afraid of a little hard work” because that is what develops perseverance.

Starting early with expectations will create an atmosphere at home that “this is what we do in our house.”  I knew a 17 year-old who said, “She [his mother] never would have considered the idea of his quitting violin lessons. It just wasn’t going to happen.”  His was a mother who knew what she was doing and why. As he grew up, he played baseball and played the violin.  “The boys on the team just knew me as the tall, lanky kid who also played the violin.”  Young Suzuki Violinist

In that same light, the Suzuki Association of the Americas has many suggestions on its Suzuki Forum for parents who are a key part of the Suzuki Triangle.   In the Discussion section—General Suzuki Forum, a parent submitted a common question:

~ “How do I keep my child interested in polishing teacher-assigned spots when she wants to move on to other pieces regardless of her tone, fingering, and posture.” ~

Motivation using two types of rewards: Intrinsic and Extrinsic

To develop intrinsic motivation, you can use such ideas as: 1) offer your child a choice as to what  he will do first, next, etc. 2) show how to break larger tasks into manageable parts. 3) help develop an internal locus of control. An example of the latter is teaching children that their grades in school, for example, are a result of what they did.  The teacher didn’t randomly assign grades. It’s the same with violin playing; the better you practice, the better you will play.

Another type of reward is extrinsic because children acquire the concept of intrinsic rewards at a later time. Adults can relate to extrinsic rewards.  Who among us wants to work without receiving a paycheck (our extrinsic reward)?  We may love our job, but we also want to be compensated for our time.

Here is the way to organize a plan for extrinsic rewards.

  • Think of practice as a “to do” list.
  • So, instead of practicing for so many minutes, practice a certain skill or in a specific passage of a piece.
  • For example: play Scherzo with correct 2nd position fingerings 3 times this week or  play measure X with perfect intonation 10 times this week)

Ideas that work for both Intrinsic Motivation & Extrinsic Rewards

  • I often use the iOS apps “Spinny Wheel” or “Decide Now” for making customized “game wheels” in classes or private lessons.
  • Child uses a game spinner to choose what he will play and what reward he will get at the end of the lesson.
  • Or you could write to do’s and rewards on slips of paper and put them in a bag or box.
  • You could draw items out of a jar.

Set rewards

favorite dinner

screen time

choice of a snack

later bedtime


invite a friend

song on iTunes

Unexpected rewards

What child doesn’t like spontaneity? In addition to “earning” rewards, you can plan to give “unexpected” or “unreliable” rewards (unexpected to your child—not to you).

These migyoung Suzuki violinistht even work better than earned rewards (Earn—think getting a monthly paycheck for a job which doesn’t always give you joy. Unexpected—think buying a raffle ticket which may or may not yield a reward).

For example, if you catch your child doing something well (you should decide ahead of time what this thing is, and sometimes it could be on the task list for the week, other times it may be from last week’s task list, or it could be something completely different). If it happens, you might say (apparently spontaneously as far as your child is concerned), “you did X! I think that’s worth a reward right now.”

Then you’d either have the child “spin” for a new reward, or you’d have one pre-picked and ready to give, or perhaps you might have something ready that’s not on the rewards list at all but that you know your child will enjoy, such as a favorite chocolate bar, a high-quality new cake of rosin, or a new cleaning cloth (if needed), etc.

Spontaneous rewards should not cancel out the expected ones…

Of course this is more work for YOU, but it could be a temporary way to help motivate your child until the internal, intrinsic rewards of playing music well start to kick in.

For the older more advanced student, rewards could also be pieces of music that your child is interested in that are easy and which won’t be “worked at” in the lesson, such as pop music, sheet music and backing tracks for fiddle tunes, melodies from a favorite movie, etc.

Cutietta has a unique perspective in his book: as professional musician, a music teacher, a researcher, and a parent. It’s an interesting read. Good printed interview on PBS with Cutietta.

“Creating desire in your child’s heart is the parent’s duty.”  Shinichi Suzuki

You might want to check out some of my other posts on related topics.

Five year-old excited to reach a goal!

Can music help treat children with ADHD?

Suzuki Violin: 10 Keys



Brain Awareness Week!

If anybody knows, Suzuki parents know the impact on the brain that their children gain by learning to play the violin.  I have written blogs about the brain development that occurs during the pre-school years and how learning to play an instrument at that early age impacts brain development.  The Dana foundation sets aside a week in March every year to draw attention to the brain.

Brain Awareness week, an international event sponsored by the Dana Foundation, is scheduled for March 16-22.  The purpose of this week is to increase public awareness of the value of brain research.  The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives established Brain Awareness Week in 1996.  The Dana foundation was founded by Charles A. Dana and his wife Eleanor Naylor Dana to foster interest in health and higher education. Cancer research received their support initially. Since then, the foundation has branched out into many areas.

Local Events

The Ashburn Library will hold a “Brain Awareness Day” on Saturday, March 28, at 1:00 pm.  It is their second annual Brain Awareness Day. Bob Slevc, Ph.D. of University of Maryland’s Language & Music Cognition Lab and Michael Guidi, Ph.D. of Noldus Information Technology Inc. will talk about their role in understanding how the brain works. There will also be “brain-tastic” crafts and activities!



The Dana Alliance has updated their informational booklet about research on the brain. It is available  as PDF:  Answering Your Questions about Brain Research

  • How do brains work?
  • How do genes shape the brain?
  • How does the brain develop?
  • How does the brain connect us to the world?
  • How do we learn and remember?
  • What does technology do to the brain?
  • …And more questions…
  • Ten ways you can become a brain advocate.

Below are two Dana Alliance publications for young children. However, there are many more available here.

The Mind Boggling Workbook–A fun-filled activity book in PDF format here about the brain for children in grades K-3 (ages 5-9). Provides an introduction to how the brain works, what the brain does, its importance, and how to take care of it. – Can also be ordered as a booklet.  See more at:






It’s Mindboggling –Two word search puzzles based on “The Mindboggling Workbook,” for grades K-3. DOWNLOAD ONLY.  – See more at:




Other resources for children are available below.

Facebook page for Brain Awareness Week

Kids Pages-Fun & Games from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

On-line games at Neuroscience for Kids from Washington University

I hope you find the resources in this post valuable for both you and your child.  Happy Brain Awareness Week!

Source for brain image in post: click here.

Tomorrow is Epic!…March 14, 2015

Even Scientific American calls tomorrow, March 14, 2015,

Irrational Exuberance! Pi Day of the century!

Momentous!  3.1415

And at 9:26, it will be 3.1415926 (pi!)

And if you have a digital clock with seconds, you can take it one step further at 9:26:53–3.141592653.

Why is it celebrated tomorrow only in some countries?

  • Only the United State and Belize write the dates in this order: month-day-year.
  • Other countries which may write it several ways including month-day-year are: Canada, Micronesia, Kenya, & the Philippines. (Can you and your child find these countries on the globe or map?)  Source

What is pi?

  • You remember from high school- something about circles. Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.
  • Circumference is, of course, the distance around the circle, just as perimeter is the distance around a polygon such as a triangle, square, rectangle, pentagon, etc.
  • Pi is always the same no matter the size of the circle.
  • And the area of the circle is also involved:  Area of circle = pi times radius(squared).

Who discovered pi?

The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians had an idea about pi.  The Babylonians approximated it to be a little more than 3 (3.125).  The Egyptians were a little further off on their guess: 3.160484.


This is the Greek letter for “pi” which stands for perimeter in Greek.

Numbers are cool,  pi included

  • Pi goes on for ever and ever.  You can’t calculate the end.  It’s got infinite numbers to it.
  • Pi never repeats a pattern of numbers.
  • Because it never ends and doesn’t repeat—-wait!  wait! –it’s called irrational! (Not like an irrational argument — but irrational in that it can’t be written as a fraction.)
  • A fraction is a ratio of two numbers.  Pi can’t be written as a fraction.  Therefore, it is irRATIOnal

How will you celebrate Pi Day of the Century!

Added interest:  Tomorrow is also Einstein’s birthday! (3-14-1879)


I frequently get asked about the the work I do as a Suzuki violin teacher.  Upon hearing my occupation, one man said he was not musically inclined and neither were his children.

I explained that under the right circumstances and with the right teacher, any child can learn an instrument and even become advanced.  He ended the conversation by saying that he thinks some kids have musical talent and some kids don’t. Since he was not a musician, I wondered how he knew?

Mozart was perhaps music’s greatest prodigy ever. But was this because his genes were superior?  Or was it because his father was the greatest violinist of his day who insisted on educating his children from infancy?  Can you imagine the parade of musicians coming in and out of this household?  It would have been hard for Mozart not to be a great musician.  To be fair, Mozart adapted to this environment very quickly, but what if the boy were raised by a cook or a inn keeper?  Would he be one of the greatest composers?  Doubtful.

Please understand that no one is insisting that every parent be a Leopold Mozart. But a parent who claims that their child has no talent could be dooming the child to believe that they have no control over their life, that they are at the mercy of fate, and can only hope to be good at something and proud of it. Not all parents will get it, but you can.