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?

I love to practice!

Who wouldn’t want to hear those words?  Gone are the days of banishing a child to his or her room to practice!  Today’s parents are more involved with their children.  Ask a parent and he or she will say that they want to be part of the progress, part of the joy of seeing their child develop.

If parents can make practice as enjoyable as possible so that their child sees progress,  that child will learn so many life lessons.  Starting early in their life, they can experience the rewards of perseverance, self-discipline, goal-setting, delayed gratification, patience.

The following ideas from the Suzuki Association of America will help keep parents motivated, helping to give their child the best experience possible.   According to Suzuki,  very young children should “practice three minutes, five times a day, with joy.”  When put that way, who couldn’t plan for that?  Of course, as the years progress, you will have other tricks at the ready to keep your child’s eye on the prize.


Practice ideas from the Suzuki Association

The main point of practice is spending time with your child with joy!

Be consistent.  Some find 10 minutes before school is the perfect time.

Use the expression, in our family.  “In our family we practice every day.”  “This is what we do in our family.”

Don’t worry about perfection.  We want our children to learn that life isn’t about doing things perfectly, but about trying new things and embracing challenge.

Practice time doesn’t have to be measured in minutes.  You can teach your child that reaching a goal accomplishes the task.

Suzuki wisdom of learning is encompassed in his saying: “Move slowly and never stop.”  Make the goal reachable and stop before the child is ready to stop.  He’ll want to start up again the next day. He won’t stop.

Lengthen practice time gradually as the child gains strength and stamina and as more concepts are added.

Click here for the “rest of the [practice] story”!

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

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

How is planting a carrot seed like learning to play the violin?

The Carrot Seed

How do we teach young children that learning to play the violin takes time and effort?  We don’t want them to get discouraged.  And the life lesson found in learning to play a violin is priceless.

Read this book to your child about this topic or  watch the video below, or both. The Carrot Seed, a wonderful story about planting a carrot seed, watering it, weeding it, and waiting…waiting…waiting.., teaches young children the lesson of doing something to make success happen.  Look at all the discouragement the child in the book ignores!

What a great way to show young children that learning to play the violin takes time, patience, and determination. What a great way to show young children that those who tell you “it won’t work” might not be right.  If you water and weed [or practice] you will experience success.  “And then one day, a carrot came up!”

But the lesson is bigger than learning to play a very difficult musical instrument!  It’s a lesson about determination, perseverance,  patience, and delayed gratification.  I haven’t met parents yet who don’t want all those characteristics for their son or daughter.

This is a video of the book, The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Kraus & illustrated by Crockett Johnson.


“Talent is no accident of birth.” Shinichi Suzuki


Featured image credit: Pink House Studio

5 Year-old excited to set & reach a goal!

Freya 100.2

Let’s hear it for a 5 year-old setting her own goal!

In order to record the 100th time she played Twinkle at practice, one of my 5 year-old students decided to challenge herself and experience what it feels like to do something every day until you have done it 100 times!

It is truly a celebration of doing something every single day until she was able to count the 100th time. She asked her mother to record her playing Twinkle to document that day!

What did she learn?

Long term perseverance!


Delayed gratification!

Satisfaction at achieving a goal!

And she is …5!

Celebrate along with her as you watch the video.  Watch her intense concentration.  You can see by her smile at the end, and her deep bow, that she met her own goal. So proud of her!

Congratulations young lady!

“Knowledge is not skill.  Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill.”  Shinichi Suzuki

Practice the violin: rewire your brain!

A gift of violin for your child for the new year!

The gift that violin lessons can offer!  Although we know that music lessons are good for our children, there is proof that lessons are more than good.  Real positive changes take place in the brain of children who take music lessons.

An October 2015 article in Limelight Magazine, reports the results of a study that took place in Finland which says that music can rewire the circuitry of our brain if we practice regularly.

They discovered that practicing actually changes your brain!  Why should you care about the results of this study? It shows that music lessons and practice strengthen your child’s brain, taking advantage of all that the brain can be.

Why they chose this study:

But we should ask also, “Why did the researchers want to do this study?”  The goal of researchers was to find out if the brain can reorganize itself, for example, after an accident with a central nervous system injury.  In that type of injury, the brain is affected so that the individual’s life may be drastically altered.
The researchers were hoping to show that there may be an ability in the brain to reconfigure itself to create alternate pathways.  If this were so, there would be more possibilities for recovery for central nervous system injury patients.  Since musicians’ brains are different, they wanted to use musicians in their study.

Clever Suzuki Violinist

How they did the study:

The question was:  Can training on a musical instrument improve the communication between the two hemispheres of the brain?

~The researchers investigated the effect that listening to music had on 2 parts of the brain.

1. the corpus callosum – a broad band of nerve fibers joining the two hemispheres of the brain.

2.  the two hemispheres – the right and left parts of the brain

~They tested 2 groups by having them listen to music.

1. professional musicians (who would have practiced a lot)

2. people  who had never played music professionally (who would have practiced much less)


People in the study who were musicians had much more robust development in the corpus callosum and in the two hemispheres.

There was more equal activity in the left and right hemispheres of the professional musicians as they listened to the music.

Even when music lessons were limited to fifteen months in childhood, there was an increase in grey matter in the brain for areas involved in motor, auditory, and visuo–spatial processing.

The front of the corpus callosum, which mainly connects motor areas, is larger in individuals who started playing a musical instrument earlier in life.

Music training leads to sensory and motor changes in the brain.  Motor nerves transmit impulses from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles.  The study shows that since the brain is capable of changing, people with central nervous system injuries may recover some abilities.

I find it fascinating that so many studies of the brain focus on musicians.  There is a tremendous impact on the growth and development of the brain when your child takes music lessons.  In an upcoming blog, I will report on studies of the brain of violin players.

“You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

How does the violin teach children about emotions?

Young children sometimes have difficulty understanding others’ emotions as well as their own.

In the video from Sesame Street, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg uses her violin to show Big Bird and his friend, Miles, what emotions sound like.  Watching the video is a good way to discuss emotions with your young child.

Parents can also use this video to show older children how to play their violin with expression.  Since the emotions are clear in the video and Salerno-Sonnenberg’s playing emphasizes them, this would be an opportunity to help students understand expression.

“Everyone can improve. With this belief I have advanced my ability one step forward.” Shinichi Suzuki

Activities for boys ~

They’re not just for boys.. the girls would like these too!

During any vacation, children enjoy their time away from school, but home routines remain important.  Always practice the violin every day.  And vacation gives you more opportunity to practice even more often.  One example for a young child:  10 minutes in the morning, 10 in the afternoon, and 10 in the evening.  Be creative about when and where during the holiday break.

Vacation is also a great time “to waste time with your children.” A great time to enjoy  your children.  But you know eventually, they are going to tell you they are bored!

Renee of Great Peace Academy has a wonderful resource index for activities for boys!

Here are a few hands-on activities I selected from her page:

Who doesn’t have duct tape!  Make a light saber (how appropriate for the new Star Wars movie) or a make more challenging wallet (age 8+ with help).

What child wouldn’t like to watch dissolving rocks only to find a little surprise inside.

Or build a boat from a large cardboard box?  And then practice your violin while standing in your boat!


“The ‘Law of Ability’ will develop each and every child.” Shinichi Suzuki

Calming down Suzuki Pretwinklers this week!

Keep your household schedule during the holidays.

One good way to keep a Suzuki child, or any overstimulated child, calmed down is having a regular schedule in your household during vacation.  Even without school, children can have a good routine to follow every day–something that they can count on and look forward to.

Suzuki Kid!

For example, in planning for play, chores, outside adventures, and travel, set up a simple calendar on the refrigerator that shows what you will do each day.

When they begin to say,”I’m bored,” you can look at the calendar together and see what activity you will do soon that day and help them think about what to do until then.

AND include practice time on that calendar!

Practice can be so much fun, so include it on their daily schedule.  As a matter of fact, there is even more time to practice over the vacation.  Here is a place to be creative.

1. Practice in the kitchen.

2. Practice in the garage.

3.  Practice at grandparents’ house.

4.  Practice as “entertaining” family before lunch or dinner.

5.  Practice in the bathroom.

6.  Practice behind the living room chair.

7.  Practice in pajamas.

8.  Practice in the morning.

9.  Practice for a neighbor.

10.  Practice for a younger or older sibling.

And for another idea to CALM down those excited children….

Katie at Preschoolinspirations.com suggests a Calm Down Jar or as she calls them, Sparkle Bottles.

“She says they provide healthy and effective ways for little ones to help soothe themselves, calm down, take deep breaths, and work through their emotions. I also use them as an addition in our play kitchen or in our quiet area or library area. Overall, they are just beautiful.”

She likes to use a plastic Smart Water bottle (although her affiliate link is for a Voss bottle).  The biggest issues are having a big enough opening to pour in the ingredients and deciding if you want to use glass or plastic.  I would opt for plastic. And maybe tape the lid shut for those especially precocious children–good at twisting off lids.

See the other links on Katie’s page for Lego Jars, Bedtime Glow Bottle, Alphabet Discovery Bottle and more.

“Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.” Yoda


How does that triangle work?

The Suzuki Triangle

Suzuki coined the term Triangle which represents the relationship between child, teacher, and parent that makes it possible for a child to play the violin well.


In January of 2013, just before I began to teach violin lessons in Cusco, Peru, for 6 months, I taught and attended workshops at the XXVIII International Festival in Lima, Peru. I studied Books One and Two with the Suzuki Teacher Trainer from Minnesota, Nancy Lokken. The first thing Ms. Lokken did was to draw a triangle on the board like this:

simple triangle

The Suzuki Triangle


ages 3-6

Ages 3-6

The heavy black line of the initial stages of the Triangle, when the Child is very young, represents more communication, understanding, feedback, and dialogue between the parent and the teacher.

Even at home, when the teacher isn’t present, the parent is working with information and skills taught by the teacher. Yes, there is communication between the child and the parent, but there is not much independent thinking on the part of the child.



photo 1

Ages 7-10

Notice that there is a more even distribution of communication as the child ages between parent, teacher, and child. Even though these ages are approximate, it’s been my experience that children begin to take initiative and make decisions about their playing very early. However, the parent is still completely involved, still maintaining the dialogue with the teacher. The parent writes notes in class, asks questions at the end of a lesson, confides in practicing problems, shares in successes, and, of course, leads the home practice.




age 11 and up

Ages 11 and up

As the Child becomes more and more independent, the relationships begin to shift. The child and teacher eventually become the exclusive participants in lessons.

Some parents have a tough time at this stage, and I can understand. Unfortunately, if this shift doesn’t happen, the “young adult” doesn’t feel he or she is part of the process.  This age is tricky and so important.



Children around this age (each child is unique) must begin to take responsibility for what they like and don’t like about their playing. If they are to continue progressing meaningfully on the instrument, they must take more and more initiative and have more and more of an opinion about what they hear coming out of their instrument.

This means that the parent must not only refrain from interacting with the teacher or child during lessons, but parents should also “let a lot of things go” at the home practice. Things that they used to be charged with attending to, like playing in tune or using the correct bowings, might need to be ignored. Interfering with the child’s blossoming responsibility to listen to himself will slow his development as a musician, and frustration will ensue. In his book Helping Parents Practice, Edmund Sprunger addresses this stage at length and gives parents excellent ways to handle home practice.

 This really does happen!

To share an anecdote from an Atlanta area Suzuki teacher, Martha Yasuda: A 9-yr. old student asked her after a so-so performance at the student recital – “How do I get to sound better on the violin?  I just don’t think I sounded that great like some of the others did.”

Mrs. Yasuda answered, “You probably won’t like my answer, but here it is–you need to follow better directions when I tell you to do things in lessons.”  She reports they proceeded to fix all the posture problems  they had been working on, and the child transformed completely right before her eyes.  The child even commented: “I’m pretty sure my wrist is way too high.”

As Mrs. Yasuda says, “My most euphoric moment of maybe the  past decade or more!”

The triangle has matured!

“If you put it off until some other time, you will never get it done, because ‘some other time’ has its own tasks…” Shinichi Suzuki

What do Circuit Training and Practicing the Violin have in common?

Why should students mix it up when practicing the violin?

Many adults have tried the gym’s circuit training section.  It consists of several different exercises, each done for a short period of time.  It’s a plan to help cut down on boredom and increase physical fitness.

Bass player Paul Robinson reports in Strings (August 1, 2015) that the same concept found in circuit training can be applied to practicing an instrument. He likes to get his students to mix it up when practicing a musical instrument.  He bases his ideas on brain research and maybe a little common sense:

~Bored brains don’t learn much.~


Robinson: “Keep It Random”

Robinson uses “out of the hat” exercises.  Students randomly draw cards requiring a three-to-five-minute focus on a particular skill or piece of music. Of course for a preschooler, drawing from the hat would be fun to do just to change-up the order of things since their practice sessions are so brief.

Older students can practice for longer periods.  But there is a benefit to varying activities and also breaking up the practice into shorter sessions.



Another idea from Robinson: Do not repeat the same exercise until it is perfect.  He suggests practicing a section you are trying to learn and then doing something different, then returning to the part you are trying to learn again.

This may be more difficult to do, but the brain has to stay on task and as a result doesn’t get bored. The idea of “desirable difficulties” is that making practice more difficult can actually increase long-term retention.


Why do musicians resist this way of practicing even though they may find that what they practiced yesterday to perfection seems to disappear overnight?  

People in sports use this approach, called “interleaving practice,” more than those in education or music have.

The question is why do students resist “interleaving practice,” or variable practice strategy?

Students feel, and it is true, that a block of practicing the same thing for a longer period of time has good results.  BUT the results are not as long-lasting as when people use the circuit approach‑‑interleaving practice.  The same concepts apply to academics as to music.

Long-term retention has been shown to be better when we “mix it up.”

You can learn even more about interleaving practice: Dr. Robert Bjork explains how he became interested in long term memory.


“Once [students] understand what leads to long-term retention, they dare to venture into the discomfort zone.” Christine Carter


Featured image credit

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


Brain power–from a challenge?

Children’s brains can get more powerful!

Teach your children they have the power to make their brains more powerful every day!  This video from Kizoom explains to even young children how our brains can change.  Want to be able to explain terms such as neuron and neuroplasticity?  Children should know how their brains work.  Great video!

Learning to play the violin is a worthwhile challenge. After watching this video you can just imagine how your child’s brain will get stronger.


– are not easy.

– often lead to mistakes

– that are harder led to more neuron growth

– become easier over time with practice.


“As your brain gets stronger, you get stronger!”  Kizoom- Brain Jump with Ned the Neuron


“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


What a Suzuki year!

The Davenport Suzuki Violin Studio finished this great year with a fun group class, surprise party and all.  I especially appreciated the apron with the Suzuki practice motto: “Only practice on the days you eat!”  Thanks for working so hard, parents and students. And for only practicing on the days you all eat.

If you keep doing that:  “Oh, the places you’ll go! …You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

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“You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.” Dr. Seuss

Happy Father’s Day Suzuki Dads!

Suzuki Dads know what it takes!

Dads bring another perspective to the Suzuki experience for their children.  Suzuki Dads are right there to add a little humor to the pot.

♯ A dad understands when his son has to set up his favorite cars to watch his practice.

♯ He understands when his son has to fall on the floor a few more times.

♯ Or wave his arms around and yell “whoa, whoa” and ask for a drink.*

No, I’m not saying to use your son or daughter’s bow as a sword.  But, let’s lighten up a little, use our imaginations…have some fun…

like The Piano Guys in this Lightsaber Duel.



Dads know what Paul Tough talks about in his book, How Children Succeed Tough argues that the qualities that matter most for success for our children have more to do with character than with ability.  And, Dads, you know how Suzuki violin lessons teach these skills:

  • perseverance
  • curiosity
  • conscientiousness
  • optimism
  • self-control.

Sure Suzuki Dads know that studying the violin:

  • Gives their child confidence and something to be proud of.
  • Teaches their child that if you practice something, you will get better.
  • Is an opportunity for your child to gain the ability to master something.
  • Teaches that music is hard and most musicians struggle with practicing.
  • Teaches that anything worth having a lifelong relationship with takes time and perseverance and has had spots.
  • Teaches that nothing is all pleasure.
  • Teaches that everything that matters in life takes work.
  • Will give you the opportunity to develop a closer dad-child relationship.

What Suzuki dads don’t say is, “I want my child to be the next Joshua Bell.”

And Suzuki Dads know that they can’t rush their son or daughter.

Using the gardening analogy (a little milder than Star Wars), from Ed Sprunger in his book, Building Violin Skills,  “you can’t tug on a plant to make it grow!”

You have to trust the process.

But there’s nothing wrong with fertilizing, watering, and generally caring for a plant.

That’s what gardeners do.

Dads need to do it as well. In the process of tending beautiful flowers and nutritious vegetables, gardeners also encounter weeds. And pests. They also get some dirt under their fingers.

In their own way, so will dads.

Happy Fathers Day!

You will not avoid practicing. You will like this practice. You will practice every day.  Obi-Wan-Kenobi

* Source


Was Midori a regular kid?

I liked having fun at school!

In this short video, violinist Midori Goto talks about her early schooling including which subjects she found easy and which, not so much.  A typical child, she enjoyed the fun she found at school with the other children.

She talks about the challenge she faced after her move to the United States when she was 10 and had to learn English and study all of her subjects in English.

Midori is very candid about the fact that practicing the violin at that time may have taken a back seat.  She said she was exhausted after trying to communicate in a new language all day and didn’t have a lot of energy to practice when she got home.

When we see professional violinists, we often think that their childhood must have been very different from our children’s.  However, Midori reveals that she was a regular child who loved fun, was good at reading, and flunked gym class!

We also think of musicians like Midori as having a special talent to play the violin.  And she did. But she also worked at it.

In Nurtured  by Love, Shinichi Suzuki talks about talent, but he also talks about “Talent Education.” He firmly believed that talent could be taught; talent is the product of the environment.

But Suzuki was very much aware that character mattered first. His book could be a handbook for parents since he outlines just how to give the child the gift of musical ability along with a noble character.

The goal is not that each child become a virtuoso, but to treat him as if he would. 

Suzuki Violin: 10 Keys

 The Basic Keys to Suzuki Violin Lessons

There is no better way to start violin lessons than with the Suzuki method.  Dr. Shinichi Suzuki developed a method of teaching this difficult instrument to young children at a time when only the talented would have dared to take violin lessons.  It was only as word spread from Japan that something special was going on there that Americans began to study with Suzuki to learn his method.  It seems genius.  And yet, it has so much common sense to it. The University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music lists Suzuki’s 10 Keys which are excellent for a basic understanding of the method.

10 Keys of the Suzuki violin method

  1. Begin early-Suzuki instruction can begin as early as 2 1/2.  During these early years children love repetition and learning new skills.  They love to show their parents what they are learning over and over again.
  2. Learn by aural memory– Based on Suzuki’s idea that children easily learn their “mother tongue,” the Suzuki method relies on the children listening to the recordings daily of the music that they will play.  The child will learn to play the piece by imitating what he or she heard and by copying the teacher.
  3. Creative repetition – Suzuki arranged the pieces to be played so that each piece taught technique.  As a child progresses through the pieces and books, he or she adds onto the skills learned in earlier pieces.  Unlike some musical instruction, in Suzuki a piece is not forgotten, but reviewed often so that skills remain intact.
  4. Active memory of all pieces learned– Group class is an excellent time to play old pieces and to play them with other children.  That is the child’s motivation to keep reviewing–he or she will play that song again with the group.  They don’t want to be the one left out of the puzzle during group class.
  5. Reading after physical control– The violin is a very challenging instrument to play.  There are no keys to press as on a piano.  A child has to know where on the fingerboard to place fingers, but is not guided by “keys.”  Therefore, in the Suzuki method, we hold off on reading notes until tone, intonation, and posture are perfected.
  6. Parent education– The parent who is going to work with the child attends every lesson and group class with his or her child. In the beginning lessons of very young students, most communication is between parent and teacher. The Suzuki teacher continuously works with the parent who must carry through on practice at home.  Taking notes during class is a key role for parents so that they remember what to do and how.  As the child gets older, the teacher will give more responsibility to the student.  The role of the parent is what makes this method unique: in early years the parent is engaged with the child during practice instead of the child going off to practice alone.  This is a parent-child activity.
  7. Encouragement – Just as a parent would not scold his or her infant for mispronouncing a word, but smile and repeat the correct word for the baby, the Suzuki parent never scolds, but only encourages the young child as learning takes place. What fun it is to learn when mom or dad is smiling and encouraging especially when the violin is such a difficult instrument to play.  The sense of accomplishment, when done right, brings the same joy to a child as learning new words that mom and dad rejoice over.
  8. Step by step mastery– In the very early stages, the steps to the bow hold and violin hold are small and repeated until the muscle memory is strengthened. In that same way, other skills and technique are taught through the repertoire, not through exercises. As each piece is played, new skills are introduced and rehearsed until they become automatic.
  9. Listening to recordings – Because Suzuki observed that learning one’s native language, or mother tongue, occurs through hearing and repetition, he concluded that a child could learn to play the violin through the same method.  The more the child heard a good violinist play, the more opportunity the child would have of playing that same piece well.  Suzuki firmly stated that beautiful music must be played in the home for a child to internalize it.
  10. Every child can learn– Perhaps the most exciting part of Suzuki’s idea is that all children can learn to play the violin and play it at a high level.  He didn’t reserve this privilege to those who seemed gifted.  He said, “Every child can!

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



What does Midori say about practice?


A short interview about practice with Midori Goto, violinist.

What I like about Midori’s answers about practicing is that they can be applied to our students, not just to the protégé.

“The more I did, the better I felt.”

“The more work you put into it—you can feel the results, you can see the results.”

“A few technical things that I have been working on…and finally I get it.”

While it would be nice to tell students that for each book they are in they should practice so many minutes, Midori reminds us that “it’s not so much about the number of minutes.”  We talk in our studio about practicing with intention.  Not just putting in the time.

Her comment that, “It’s the buildup of skills that is very exciting, and fun, and motivating” reminded me of what Suzuki wanted for students—skills.  The Suzuki Method is not about moving ahead in books!  It’s like Midori says—it’s  about the buildup of skills which will allow our students to progress comfortably into the next book, playing in tune.

SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY-  Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Happy Memorial Day!

Memorial Day Tribute from Taylor Davis

Taylor plays the Star Spangled Banner and, using backtracks, pays tribute to each of  the service branches.  She says that she created this video at the suggestion of one of her YouTube subscribers.

Before you enjoy this video, know that Taylor says she played the military tribute part all by ear.

Taylor Davis is a classically trained violinist who became interested in video game music while in high school.  According to her website, she is the fastest rising star in the digital world.  In addition to being a violinist, she is a composer and an arranger.  She has released 5 albums, has over 100 million views on her YouTube channel, and has performed live on stage in both the United States and the United Kingdom.  Click here for her second YouTube channel called Behind the Scenes.

Looks like some practice and hard work went into Taylor’s career.

 I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it. Thomas Jefferson