3 Suzuki Podcasts Everyone Should Subscribe to

Listening to Podcasts is one of my favorite ways to learn new things and get inspired. Especially while exercising, cleaning or driving.

I listen to a variety of podcasts including shows about writing, creativity, business, books, and of course Suzuki teaching and parenting.

Today I wanted to share a few of my favorite Suzuki podcasts. They are great resources for parents and for teachers looking to fresh ideas and new perspectives about teaching and the Suzuki philosophy.

Suzuki Podcasts

I am not getting any perks for sharing these resources, although I do know a few of the podcasters who make them. My goal is to share great resources with readers of the blog. I also hope to hear from you (in the comments below) what podcasts you would recommend!

Here is a list of my favorites:

 

Building Noble Hearts  is a podcast produced by the Suzuki Association of the Americas. The production quality of this podcast is amazing. Each episode includes great stories about Suzuki himself and amazing Suzuki teachers in our community. My favorite episode is the one about Suzuki ECE. The episode includes the history of this program and how it benefits families –you can find that episode Here.

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The Teach Suzuki Podcast is another great resource and is produced by Suzuki teacher and blogger Paula Bird. I love the information the podcast shares for parents to use in order to work with their children effectively in practice and to better understand the Suzuki method. In each episode Paula shares her wisdom and many useful resources for parents and teachers alike. Here is a great episode about how to beat burnout – click here to listen.  

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 Chili Dog Strings podcast is another great resource. This podcast is actually hosted on the Suzuki teacher duo’s Youtube Channel where you can find all sorts of teaching and Suzuki parenting inspiration. I really enjoy Neil and Rachel’s style and their love of teaching shines through everything they do. I had the pleasure of being interviewed on one of their podcast episodes – you can listen to that episode here. 

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Another podcast worth checking out is Rachel Barton Pine’s Podcast Violin Adventures. The most recent episodes are from 2013 but you can still find all 80+ episodes online. They are really good! You don’t have to be a violinist, or be the parent of a violinist, to enjoy this podcast. It’s worth checking out.

What podcasts (Suzuki or related) do you listen to regularly? I hope you’ll share your recommendations in the comments below!

Solving Interesting Problems and Learning to Lead 

I am currently in Stevens Point at the American Suzuki Institute and while driving around Wisconsin this week I heard a great podcast episode with Seth Godin. 

In it he talked about the fact that what kids need to learn, in order to be successful in our new economy, is not compliance but rather to learn how to lead and how to solve interesting problems. 

As I was listening to the episode,  it made me think of what I am learning this week in my practicum course. 


On the first day, everyone in the class started off by sharing with one another “why” we teach.

 I think for everyone in the class the “why” was some version of: teaching so that we impact the lives of our students and are part of the process of watching them grow and develop as people in addition to develop their instrumental skills. 

I couldn’t help but think that part of what makes our jobs as Suzuki teachers (and Suzuki parents) so interesting and exciting is that we are engaged in this very type of innovate thinking about children that Seth Godin talks about. 

We are asking our children and students to solve interesting problems musically and on their instruments in ways that give them unique problem solving skills. 

We are teaching them to lead – in group classes, in the studio, at home with siblings, and in ensembles. 

Music study has a unique way of helping develop successful students who are also leaders. 

What the world needs are people who can think and people who can lead.

 How lucky we all are to be able to work on developing this in our students and children every single day through music. 

It is exciting work!

(Listen to the podcast I heard here)

Habits of Successful Suzuki Families

The following is an excerpt from the book Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families which officially comes out on Amazon Thursday June 22nd.  It is meant to be a resource for families looking to answer the question: “How do we make the Suzuki method work in our every day life?”

 

I was a Suzuki student, starting lessons at the age of two and a half. There are parts of being successful at the Suzuki method that I take for granted, because I’ve never known anything else.

As a teacher, though, I am often reminded that there are many parts of what make this method work that are new ideas to the families I work with.

Some of them require changing how a family plans their day, or how they interact when working with each other one-on-one.

It’s my job to explain how families can help their child be successful at studying their instrument through small, day-to-day changes and through shifting their mindset about their role in the process.

As a Suzuki parent, I struggled with all of this myself. So I want to do everything I can to make it easier for the families I work with.

That has caused me to spend the last eighteen years learning all that I can about what it is that makes families successful. The more I have learned about the topic, the more I am able to help the families in my studio. Learning an instrument is difficult. Without the right information and expectations, many people struggle or even give up, which is not the outcome I want as a teacher.

 

Book : Beyond the Music Lesson

Why This Message Needs to Be Heard

I end up having a lot of conversations, both online and in person with other teachers. We often talk about what books we ask parents to read to learn more about the method. Of course, many teachers ask families to read Nurtured by Love by Dr. Suzuki,

but what next?

What resource gives a good picture of how the Suzuki method looks today, here and now, and in our own lives?

To that question, there are many varying opinions but no consensus that I’ve ever heard.

Certain books are good for technique, and others give some good insights into part of the process.

But what resource addresses the question, “How does the Suzuki method look in modern times, in our lives today?”

That’s what I’ve been looking for.

Since I haven’t found a resource that does this well for me, over the past few years, I have written my own set of parent education materials for the families in my studio. I try to answer questions before they come up about practice, the environment we create for our children to practice in, why playing in a group or with other people is important, why repetition and review is going to be a big part of our work together, and other such subjects.

Giving out more detailed materials like these, I have seen a dramatic change in how new families approach lessons and how successful they are at navigating the process from beginner and beyond.

This book [Beyond the Music Lesson] combines those materials with interviews and success stories to help answer the question, “How do we make the Suzuki method work for our family today?”

I hope teachers will find this book a useful resource for sharing with the families in their studios and most of all, I hope parents will find it encouraging and helpful to set up successful Suzuki habits in their homes.


 

To read more you can find your copy of Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families  (ebook or print) over on Amazon by clicking HERE
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Not sure the book is for you? Read a great book review HERE

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Bonus Material: Order you book by August 1st and email the receipt to Christine@SuzukiTriangle.com to receive:
  • a pdf of parent discussion (or book club questions)
  • a printable infographic of the habits of successful families
  • an invitation to join a private facebook community where we will discuss the ideas in the book and have a book club this fall. Get your Copy Today! 

 

 

Why Summer Lessons are So Important

Much research has been done on the effect of summer breaks and academic performance.

Research shows that when students are not filling their summers with educational and enriching activities (Here is an interesting study) they may lose months of progress compared to their peers who keep learning in an enriching environment (like education camps, reading books from the library, and other activities like this).

Some articles I’ve read suggest it taking at least four to six weeks to catch up again each fall, other suggested up to 2.8 months.

The same thing can happen if students “take a break” from lessons over the summer. We had a great discussion about this in the Suzuki Triangle Community. Teachers agreed that it takes 1-3 months, on average, to get a student back to where they were at the end of the school year if they don’t take summer lessons.

The first ten years or so that I taught I didn’t require summer lessons and I started to notice some trends beyond the amount of time it takes to playing skills back to their former level:

Frustration:

When something used to be easy is now a struggle (especially a struggle that students already had to go through once before) students feel frustrated.

I started to hear things like “I can’t” and “It’s too hard.” from students who certainly could just a few months before.

This really affects a students motivation to keep playing. I started to see a pattern of students not returning in the fall (because the idea of restarting after a long break was daunting). Sometimes those who did return had such a frustrating time that they didn’t stick with their instrument for long.

Motivation:

Playing an instrument is hard work. It’s motivating when we see progress and see our ability begin to grow and develop.

It is NOT Motivating if we lose those skills and have to relearn them.

While I don’t require students to take lessons each week in the summer I do require a level of attendance that I feel will help students maintain their playing skills over the summer months. I want them to be ready to spring ahead into new things when we get back into a fall routine.

Summer can Actually be a great time to make progress: 

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Why Parents Must Practice with the Big Picture in Mind

 

I’m excited to announce my new eBook What You Practice Today is Not Important: but who you become along the way is! 
A lot of work went into it’s creation and I am happy to finally share it with you! You can read a short excerpt from this new resource below and get your own free copy by joining the Suzuki Triangle Community (you unsubscribe at any time).
Click HERE to sign up and get your copy through email!

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An excerpt from What You Practice Today is Not Important: but who you become along the way is!

Practicing can feel like it’s all about the little details.

It can feel like it’s about perfection and doing everything right.

Sometimes practice feels like a list you can never accomplish.

It feels like there’s not enough time to do all of our assignments from our teacher each week. It can be a challenge to get everything done.

But it’s not really about all that–it’s not about what your child does today that is most important. It’s not about doing all the tasks perfectly, all of the time.

Practice INVOLVES a lot of little details and trying to get things right for your next lesson.

But practice is not ABOUT all of that.

Read more

Why Conferences with Teens Are So Important

Last Week’s Blog post discussed why every studio should hold Parent-Teacher Conferences – you can read the article HERE.

This week I want to address the importance of holding conferences with teens. In my studio I use part of a lesson each spring (this is happening in the next couple of weeks in my studio) to have a conference with each teen student on their own to honestly talk about how things are going, what they are enjoying and struggling with, and how I can be more helpful.

I have a questionnaire I send teens home with the week before our conference and ask them to fill it out very honestly (the more honest they are – the more useful the conference will be).

The day of the conference teens come alone to lessons (if they don’t already) and we talk through the questions on the sheet. I also like to share how I’ve seen the student improve over the year and what my next goals for them would be. Sometimes I also give them something to read or have some sort of information to hand out to them that I think addresses something I think they (or all the teens in the studio) need to think about.

Depending on the student this usually takes about 20 minutes of a lesson. It helps so much to have each student feel like they are on the same team with me, as their teacher. They are being listened to, their opinion is being heard, and hopefully they see that I want them to succeed.

Last year was the first year I tried this (in addition to meeting with parents of younger students) and I found it really helped the teens with ownership over what are trying to accomplish and it helped our working relationship each week because they knew I found their opinions to be important.

I also found out a lot about what motivates the teens I work with . . . certain community performances we do each year (like playing in the lobby before Oregon Symphony concerts) and certain types of music we play in group class, for a couple of examples.

Do you hold conferences with the teens in your studio? Does your teacher hold them?

Why Every Studio Needs Parent Teacher Conferences

For the past three years I have been doing parent teacher conferences in my studio. I had thought about doing this for years but kept putting it off.

Partly I was a little nervous about the process. I also didn’t know where to start. I wondered if the parents in my studio and find it valuable.

Then a few years ago I heard Alice Joy Lewis give a talk to teachers up in Ellensburg, Washington. During the talk she emphasized how valuable these conferences are to her and even shared a few resources with us to get us started. I believe a few of my colleagues and I left that day excited to start conferences in our studios.

A few months later I held my first round of conferences and I so wish I had started doing them earlier. I can’t say enough about how valuable they have been.

Here are a few ways they have helped in my studio:

Conferences get parents and teachers on the same page – by the end of each conference, if they are done well, we come away with a plan to help the student be more successful and it’s clear to both the parent and I that we are both working towards the best interest of the student. This lays the foundation for future conversations and emails throughout the year because we both trust each other to be working with the students success in mind. I have noticed far better (and more open) communication with parents all year long. 

Honest conversations can be had without the student present – without the student at the conference both parent and teacher can address any difficult issues that might hurt a child’s feelings or embarrass them and shouldn’t be brought up in the lesson. Sometimes I hear about a medical issue that the family is facing or a behavior issue that is going on at home or at school and affecting things. This information really helps me teach better with the whole child in mind – but often there isn’t any other time it would come up. [ side note: I do have conferences in person with my high school students – more on that next week]

We are able to talk through frustrations and big picture topics that there isn’t time for in a lesson – One example of this is that I want my families with students in late grade school to know that I recommend they find some sort of orchestra or chamber group for their student sometime in the middle school years. I have found students who have this type of peer group are far more likely to keep playing their instrument through the teen years. Bringing this up as something to keep in mind for the future has been a big topic at conferences so far this year.

Sometimes I find out I could be doing something better suited to a child’s style of learning or we can talk through ways to practice that fit with a student’s personality style. It’s a great time to have honest conversations and problem solve together. 

Goal setting for the coming months and year: I always like to hear what the parents goals are for their students over the next year and what goals the students have (if any). We also discuss any goals I have for the student over the next year. The first year I did conferences I got a lot of responses like “Oh, I’ve never thought of that before!” Having goals is a great way to stay focused throughout the year and I think this is an important piece for everyone involved. Now, three years later I notice everyone has a goal for their child – which is great!

How have you incorporated conferences into your studio? Or, How does your teacher do them?

If you don’t have them, I would suggest starting my making goals for the next year – you might be able to ask your teacher if they would be open to having a conference with you in place of a lesson.

I am happy to share the form I use for parent conferences if you are just getting started with this idea- just send me an email at Christine@SuzukiTriangle.com and I will send it off to you! I would love to hear from you if you get started with conferences in your studio . . . I think it’s an amazing way to positively impact the whole studio.

 

 

My 2016 Favorites

I love looking back at the end of the year to reflect on what my year was like and how I want to approach the new year. I thought as part of that process this year I would share my favorite things of 2016 related to teaching. I hope you will share your your favorites in the comments.

Suzuki Experience – Written by Suzuki parent Alan Duncan, this is a great blog about Suzuki from the parent perspective. I find myself sharing posts from this blog with the parents in my studio all the time.

The Plucky Violin Teacher This blog is a fantastic resource for parents and teachers alike. Written by Suzuki violin teacher Brecklyn Ferrin this blog has great ideas and resources about teaching and practicing. I highly recommend it. Breckyn’s blog was one of the first Suzuki blogs I started following regularly and is a big inspiration to me.

Teach Suzuki is written by Suzuki teacher Paula Bird, who also created the Teach Suzuki Podcast which can be found HERE on itunes. I started reading Paula’s blog a number of years ago and have found great information on it about teaching, running my studio, and even making goals for the new year. I had the pleasure of meeting Paula in person this year as she visited Oregon which was very fun!

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50 Character Qualities Developed in Music Students

Character Qualities

 

I have been asking a lot of my friends and colleagues lately to weigh in on what they consider to be “success” within the Suzuki method.

Certainly a lot of answers include elements of learning to play the instrument well, but most everyone also agrees that who students develop into, as human beings, is just as important.

What exactly are we developing when we practice with our children everyday? or work with our students each week in lessons? Below are 50 character qualities that I have seen students develop, or have developed myself, through studying music.  What would you add to the list?

 

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

~ Shinichi Suzuki

 

 

  1. Time Management
  2. The Ability to Focus
  3. Problem Solving Skills
  4. The Ability to Take Instruction
  5. Realizing One’s Potential
  6. Tolerance
  7. Tenacity
  8. Determination
  9. Perseverance
  10. Self Esteem
  11. Responsibility
  12. Leadership
  13. Cooperation
  14. Creativity
  15. Responsibility
  16. Mental Flexibility
  17. The Ability to Concentrate Deeply
  18. Confidence
  19. Social Skills
  20. The Ability to Work in Groups to Accomplish a Goal
  21. Self – Control
  22. Delayed Gratification
  23. Pursuit of Excellence
  24. Consistency
  25. Poise
  26. Discipline
  27. Self-Expression
  28. Ability to Listen with Sensitivity
  29. Ability to Learn from One’s Mistakes
  30. Respect
  31. Pleasure in Sharing the Gift of Music
  32. Courage
  33. Sensitivity
  34. Precision
  35. Dedication
  36. Work Ethic
  37. Maturity
  38. Organization
  39. Patience
  40. Sense of Purpose
  41. Adaptability
  42. Reliability
  43. Self -Discipline
  44. Attention to Detail
  45. Enthusiasm
  46. Accountability
  47. Ability to Feel Confident Speaking to a Group
  48. The Ability to Break Big Problems into Small Chunks
  49. Independence
  50. The Ability to Think & Respond Quickly

I’d love to have you join us in the Suzuki Triangle Facebook Community to add your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Suzuki Parent . . .

Confessions of a Suzuki parent

 

I’d like to sit behind my computer screen and present a perfect image of myself as a Suzuki teacher and parent. But I have to be honest – the reason I’m so passionate about writing on the topic of Suzuki parenting and trying to be help parents be successful is that I was far from perfect as a Suzuki parent.

I have read and learned everything I can on the subject to help the families I work with, because I could have really used that help myself.

I had my kids while I was in college so I was a younger mom. In fact, I was just starting out as a Suzuki teacher myself, when my oldest was four years old and we started the violin together . .  . the same instrument I happened to teach . Some people do this beautifully and if this is you, you have much respect from me – I know it works really well for some people. But, it did not work well for us.

I’m not sure there is a way to accurately describe the struggle between a very opinionated and headstrong four your old and a very inexperienced and idealistic mom/teacher.

We struggled!

There were some epic showdowns where you could practically see the standoff happening like in an old Western movie, with the tumbleweed rolling by, as we sat in suspense about who would win the battle of wills this time. I so wanted to do it “just right” and she so wanted to avoid how hard it felt and most likely the pressure she felt from me.

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