Did you surprise yourself?

Suzuki violin

“Did you surprise yourself?”

My colleague Brecklyn Smith Ferrin, a Suzuki violin teacher and SECE teacher in Utah as well as a Suzuki mom, recently posted about her almost 5 year-old son who was at the beginning of his Suzuki violin journey with his teacher. He was frustrated and exclaimed words we all have heard, “I can’t do it.  I don’t know how.”

His teacher gently encouraged him, giving him her full confidence that he could.  When he successfully completed the task, holding the violin under his chin with his head—no hands—he was elated! “It was magic,” his mom says watching the delight on her young son’s face.  What did he learn that day?  He learned he could!  He learned that if he puts his mind to it and tries, he can accomplish things that are hard, things he doesn’t think he knows how to do.  In the safety of his Suzuki violin lessons, he is building resilience.  With the safety and skill of his violin teacher, he will build his character and even a beautiful heart.

Such are Suzuki violin lessons!  Develop a fine musician and, if given a chance, fine character.

Building fine Suzuki violinists

Dr. Shinichi Suzuki is the creator of the method that allows even very young children to play the violin very well.

The Suzuki Method relies on exposing children to good music from an early age. Children develop advanced listening skills as well as a memory for pieces they will play. He believed they would then be able to “translate that listening ‘environment’  to a beautiful sound on an instrument.”

His revolutionary method took violin teachers in the US by surprise and delight. Violin pedagogue John Kendall arranged for Suzuki to come to the US in 1964 with 10 Japanese children, ages five to 13, for a concert tour.  The tour included New York and 18 other cities, dazzling parents, educators and members of the news media.  Seeing and hearing the young children play helped the method gain a permanent foothold in the US.

Nothing is hit or miss.

Violin teacher, Louise Wear switched from traditional teaching methods to Suzuki in 1966, shortly after Dr. Suzuki’s tour. She taught her daughter, Linda Fiore who later studied in Japan with Dr. Suzuki for 18 months and became an accomplished violinist and Suzuki teacher.  Louise Wear who began training teachers in the Suzuki Method, says ”The main points of the Suzuki method are start early, parent involvement, lots of listening, lots of repetition, and take one step at a timeNothing is hit or miss.

By 1983, Mrs. Evelyn Rubenstein, piano teacher and on the faculty of the U. of St. Louis said  “I am impressed with the [Suzuki] method because I have seen the results.”  Very young children (and older ones too) performed very well.  If playing well means having good tone, then listening is the method.  When a child listens  frequently to the piece s/he will eventually play, by the time the child is ready to play the piece, s/he can sing it in her head and hear and even correct her own mistakes.

While listening to the same pieces repeatedly might seem tedious, Wear says that she doesn’t mind listening over and over to ”Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” (the first Suzuki piece). ”I’m not listening to the piece of music – I am listening to the child’s development,” she says.

Rubenstein said Suzuki students “learn to play the violin correctlyTheir ear is attuned. They can accomplish more because they don’t have to spend time at the beginning learning to sight-read.  They can play beautiful things.”  The Suzuki Method is excellent for young children.  Suzuki-trained musicians who start at a young age seem better equipped and more successful at performing.  Their ear-to-hand coordination is developed very well. “They have a sense of pitch and tone that some students using other methods never attain.”

Every child has 2 types of Suzuki lessons

A private Suzuki violin lesson is structured with the teacher, child and parent (sometimes with a baby in tow). The parent watches carefully and take notes for what and how to practice at home.  Without notes, parents may not remember the finer details for the week.  And the real learning takes place during the practice.

Group class is another reason for success with the Suzuki Method.  It’s a lot more fun to play together in groups than to practice alone.  We hold weekly group classes in our studio, which our students look forward to.

They know they can!

The past president of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Doris Preucil says the proof is in the pudding. ”Of the next generation of young musicians, many have come from Suzuki programs. You see the quality of the playing, and this cannot be denied. And you see the happiness of the children in what they are doing.” They know they can!  Brecklyn’s son’s delight in himself is proof of this.



“They use me only for switching trains in the yard. I have never been over the mountain…I think I can.” The Little Blue Engine

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Who was John Kendall?

What has greater impact, music lessons, dancing, or sports?

Suzuki Violin Idea from Ray Chen?

Ray Chen Humor on Stage!

Enjoy!  The video is under 5 minutes and worth the laugh.

We could have a lot of fun in our Suzuki studio with the “Bach Double Concerto” if we take a cue from violinist Ray Chen. Or we could use our imaginations and do our own thing at our next recital!

Suzuki Books 4 & 5

Book 4 introduces Violin 2 and Book 5, Violin 1 for the “Bach Double Concerto.”  While Suzuki Book 4 is a big leap for students, some find the challenge exciting.  Book 5 continues with even more intricate skills. When you watch the video, you can appreciate at least some of what you or your child is learning in Books 4 & 5. It is not for the faint of heart, but nothing worth doing is easy. (Rumor has it that Books 6 & 7 are not as challenging–never give up!) Playing at a high level can be done by children–Suzuki planned the progression of skills with great care. He developed brilliant repertoire structure.

Ray Chen

Ray Chen published this on Oct 11, 2015, on YouTube.

“After a wonderful week in Venezuela working with the awesome kids in the El Sistema program I decided to finish the end of the concert with a special encore with my two very good conductor friends Diego Matheuz and Christian Vasquez!”

“Happiness is playing my violin with others.” Could have been said by Charlie Brown.

How long should I practice a piece?

practice a piece

Practice one piece for how long?

There are some misconceptions about learning to play the violin. Practice is not about putting in a certain number of  hours each day.  Nor is it what some do–many people give themselves a time limit to learn a piece.

However, if they reach the time limit, or stages along the way, and can’t play the piece the way they want to, they feel that “the piece is not for them.”

You ARE in charge!

While practicing the violin, you don’t have a buzzer to tell you that ‘time’s up.” And you don’t have someone telling you that your turn is over like in baseball game where you aren’t totally in charge. There, a pitcher throws the ball at you and, after three strikes, you are out. In this case, you are called out by the umpire.  However, in any field of learning you are the pitcher, the batter, and the umpire all at the same time. When learning something, you can pitch yourself as many balls as you like, and you can try to hit them as many times as you like. The only one to call you out is you. 

Setting a deadline and giving up is like calling yourself out.

But, they make it look so easy.

Professional violinists haven’t called themselves out in practice.  Vadim Brodsky tells about the time he won a special commendation for playing the Paganini Caprice #1.  Although he was praised for how well he played, he says, “I was the only one who knew I had been working on the movements in the piece for 13 years. Nobody cares how long you work on a piece. They just care about what they hear.”

If you quit too soon, you don’t give yourself a chance to accomplish what might have been possible.  Don’t be fooled by the professionals.  They have put in the time to master a piece.  And they don’t perform it until they feel it is ready for the public.  I doubt they give themselves a time limit….unless it’s something like 13 years.

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing all the hard work you already did.” Newt Gingrich

Violins & Video Games

A little levity for April 1st!

Yes, there are violins in an orchestra and, well, they can be found playing video game music! Certainly, video games have sound tracks.  And there really was a Video Game Music Concert!

The Tapiola Sinfonietta Orchestra played at the Slush technology conference in Helsinki, Finland, in 2015.  The concert included nine famous themes from popular video games such as Angry Birds, Clash of Clans, Super Stardust, and Boom Beach.

To be enticing, video games must have good music.  Often the music makes the game more exciting, helping the players to get emotionally invested. Some of the tunes even become part of the popular culture.

Yle, the Finnish public broadcaster, posted a series of videos from the conference.

Click here to go to their webpage where you can choose from 21 selections. I liked– Slush: Angry Birds Medley.  You might prefer Apocalyptica Cello’s version of Angry Birds.

Move over Star Wars soundtrack!

Angry Birds!


Tapiola Sinfonietta

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein


Click here for Featured Image source

If you stick with the violin, where will it take you?

Violin! To the Super Bowl?

Dr. Seuss tells you where your violin will take you:  “Fame you’ll be famous, as famous as can be, with everyone watching you win on TV….”  You just never know where your violin will take you.  Stick with it for the long haul.  There are so many advantages to the discipline of studying the violin, not the least of which are the opportunities that lie ahead.

Click here to read The Washington Post article on the Super Bowl 50 halftime appearance of members of the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles.  We are always advocating for support for classical music, and the 2016 Super Bowl was the opportunity to showcase talented young people playing violins–on stage–with Chris Martin of the rock band, Coldplay.

“For anyone eager to see classical music take its place on the same playing field as other art forms in our society, it was a signal, and delightful, satisfaction,” says Anne Midgette of The Washington Post.

The video gives a glimpse behind the scenes with the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles as they rehearse for the Super Bowl.  Can you feel the excitement in these young people?  They will never forget Super Bowl 50!


“Things may happen and often do to people as brainy and footsy as you.”  Dr. Seuss


It’s not about what happens to you…

It’s what you do about it.

The show must go on!  Showing students this video would give them a sense that it’s not what happens to them that matters, it’s how they handle it.

Slipped Disc reports that the pages flew right off music stands during a performance. It’s an “Oh, No!” moment.   It happened to both performers, and twice, within a minute!

Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt kept playing. Watch violinist Anna Reszniak, who was pageturning for Lars Vogt when the situation began.  She calmly gets up and fixes the music.  Violinist Christian Tetzlaff keeps his cool as well.  While we are at it, so does pianist Lars Vogt.

The frequent performances our studio holds give our students a lot of opportunity to learn what to do when they perform.  Lots of confidence builders here! We performed in public in October at both Sunrise at Reston Town Center and at Bow Tie Cinema at Reston Town Center where we held our Halloween Play-in.  The show must go on!

“Music…it is the favorite passion of my soul.”  Thomas Jefferson

Orchestras-They’re not just for adults!

Playing in an orchestra is like nothing else in the world

Richmond Family Magazine‘s (8/15/15) article describes the Richmond Symphony and its youth orchestra.

Doug Brown recalls his experience as a youth playing in an orchestra.  Brown states that “Playing in an orchestra is like nothing else in the world.” He has made that opportunity available to three of his six children.

Reacting to Brown’s comment about playing in an orchestra, the Symphony’s music director, Steven Smith, states that “Our world is filled with technologies and debates that divide us.  The arts bring us together.” It’s hard to disagree with that.

It takes commitment to be able to reach the level to play in a youth orchestra, but young, Yixuan Zhao, says it is worth it because playing in the group “feels like everything else is not real.  It’s an incredible feeling.”  This tenth grader says that when she plays, her mind is “completely concentrated on the music…I don’t get that from other things.”

Zhao also believes that studying music has helped her excel in academics.  She thinks that “knowing how to practice helps [her] study better and be more focused as a person in general.”

We have many opportunities for students in Northern Virginia to play in school orchestras and in youth symphony orchestras.  Help your child see what it would be like to do that.

Listening is valuable too!

Listening to good music is a keystone of the Suzuki Method. Aimee Halbruner, the director of education and community engagement for the Richmond Symphony, says she has been taking her son to the symphony starting at an early age.  She says that in the beginning he always brought a book with him and might have read during most of the concert, but still heard the music in the background.

This is So Suzuki!  Dr. Suzuki says to play good music for hours during the day, playing it softly in the background so the child will be immersed in beautiful sound and develop his ear.

Halbruner says that as her son grew older, he put down the book more and more frequently during the concert, pausing to listen fully, until he eventually left his book at home.

Here at Reston, parents can check the Lake Anne calendar and  Wolftrap for concerts.  Click here for my Resources page for links to other local performing groups.  The month of December is a great time to get out to concerts!

It’s not difficult to give our children the opportunities that are available–not just for an academic leg-up, but for the sheer love of music. We are hard-wired for it, you know! Click here to read my blog post, “Was Our Brain Wired First for Music or for Language?”

Photo credit: Derek Gleeson / Foter / CC BY-SA

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.” Shinichi Suzuki

Could be a Suzuki teacher!

violinist in park

Park on Shamian Island, Guangzhou, China

A few years ago, I co-hosted a recital with another Suzuki teacher, a veteran teacher who had recently moved to Virginia.  My most memorable moment from that afternoon was that she insisted that all the children from both studios should line up behind her as she led them out onto the stage, playing as she strolled.  The youngest children looked just like these in this statue…walking closely behind, not yet playing the violin. And you know how those preschoolers follow in line, sometimes never even looking where they are going.  The older children at our recital followed along also, each playing along with the teacher and assuring that the little ones kept up. A ceremonial way to begin a recital, for sure.

Each Suzuki teacher brings his or her personality to the studio. However, there are certain features of a Suzuki violin teacher that parents should look for.

One home schooling mother said that it is important for the Suzuki teacher to understand the significance of Suzuki’s heart and to embrace Suzuki’s philosophy that every child CAN play the violin given the right environment and instruction.

It is also important for parents to read Suzuki’s books such as Nurtured by Love and Ability from Age Zero.  Know Suzuki well even before you sign up for lessons for your little one.

The Suzuki Method is so special for children and their families. Parents may be tempted by the myriad of activities available for children. But they should focus on one important activity for their very young child.

Violin lessons are uniquely suited for them in many ways.

Click here for photo credit

“Any child can develop.  It depends on how you do it.”  Shinichi Suzuki

Wait, what?–Monti’s “Czardas”

The Kanneh-Masons Play Monti’s “Czardas”

This is what can happen when a family values music for their children!  They are just plain fun to watch and listen to. Playing this for your children will get them up and on their way to school!

The folk piece, “Czardas” by Vittorio Monti, includes different sections with differing tempos.  The piece is based on a Hungarian czardas or folk dance.



Photo credit: nattomi / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

“Any child can be developed. It depends on how you do it.” Shinichi Suzuki


Midori: String breaks!

Our children learn so much by playing for each other and for the public.  Our studio does frequent service performances to share the children’s skills and to learn to play under all kinds of circumstances.  Our students learn how to react when things don’t go as planned.

In this short video, professional violinist Midori talks about what she did when the string broke on her violin not once, but twice, during a performance.  This is a good video for students to watch because Midori explains what to do when something unexpected happens.



“There is no born genius. Education is the way to develop ability.” Shinichi Suzuki



Do you see dots?

September 15 is International Dot Day.

Here is a wonderful video of the children’s book, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, which reminds children that they should keep trying even when they think they cannot do something. This is worth sharing with the young ones.

On September 15, 2009, school teacher, Terry Shay, read the book, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds to his class.  It was the start of International Dot Day.  A day celebrated around the world!

When something looks hard to a child, he needs to be encouraged.  We need to show him that he shouldn’t give up just because it doesn’t come easy.  And we have to teach him that he shouldn’t compare himself to others.

Learning to play the violin is not easy; it is a very difficult instrument to play.  That’s why it is so ingenious that Shinichi Suzuki created a Method to teach violin to the very young child.  He made it accessible to all children.  As he said, Every Child Can.

Let’s encourage our children to “see the many dots”on their way to becoming excellent violin players.

Click here for Featured Image credit.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein


“I love to watch you play”

6 Words You Should Say Today

Rachel Macy Stafford, who writes a blog called Hands Free Mama wrote a post, “Six Words You Should Say Today,” which suggested a wonderful way for a parent to react after any performance. Stafford says: simply tell your child, I love to watch you play.

A Suzuki education is of the whole child.

The Suzuki parent develops a very close relationship with her child through the Suzuki Method.  So the child is very attentive to her parent.

We intuitively know that children are influenced by the quality of the adults in their lives. Parents are indispensable partners in the early years of learning, but also into adolescence. Dr. Suzuki knew that parents (and teachers) are also responsible for nurturing a beautiful heart. A beautiful way for a parent to react to the child’s performance is in those words–I love to watch you play.

This child is filled with sheer joy at this simple accomplishment.

What’s the best thing for mom or dad to say after the lesson?

Suzuki parents simply say, “I love to watch you play.”

“The fate of a child is in the hands of his parents.”  Shinichi Suzuki


The Emerson String Quartet

The Emerson String Quartet was formed in 1976.  And in 2012, the cellist, David Finckel retired.  This is a very nice video of a “passing of the baton.”  The group of four men played together for over three decades.  In the day of fast food, and fast breakups, this type of longevity is not typical.

Paul Watkins succeeds Finckel, and, as you can see in this video, is a very talented and genial musician.  The Emerson Quartet performs around the world and opens a concert series at the Smithsonian on October 10, 2015. So close to us!

Formed in 1976 and based in New York City, the Emerson was one of the first quartets formed with two violinists alternating in the first chair position.  In 2002, the Quartet began to stand for most of its concerts, with the cellist seated on a riser.

The Emerson Quartet took its name from the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson and is Quartet-in-Residence at Stony Brook University.  

In January of 2015, the Quartet receives the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, Chamber Music America’s highest honor, in recognition of its significant and lasting contribution to the chamber music field.

Photo: Flickr: Jason Hollinger

“Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto.” Ralph Waldo Emerson