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! 

 

 

Attitude is Everything

I’ve finished most of the parent teacher conferences in my studio for the year (If you want to read more about my process you can read more HERE & HERE). The most common issue I heard (besides learning to practice well as students start to become more independent in practice – a theme that kept coming up for the middle school students) was that in a number of families the parents felt like it was a daily battle to get practice started.

Let’s be honest – it is not very motivating to keep taking your child to music lessons if you know it means daily squabbles with your kids over the practice. Many working parents have just a few quality time hours a day with their kids and spending part of that time fighting about something is not a fun idea.

This is why parent teacher conferences are so important – I don’t know what practice is like for families at home without these honest conversations and sometimes these situations can be turned around quite easily, as long as parents are willing to put in a little effort to change the tone for practice.

In each of the cases where this issue was brought up we decided that the number one priority for this student and family was not moving forward on the instrument – it was developing a positive attitude about practice.

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Ask More Questions

If practice is always a student playing something, an adult telling them what needs to be fixed and then student playing again and looking to the adult to tell them if it is good enough something is lacking.

Progress might be made but the student is not learning how to practice, how to self-analyze, or how to think critically.

Especially as students get older it is much more effective to ask questions than give the answers.

 

“How did that sound to you?”

“What do you think we should try to do better/improve?”

“Did you remember _______ (insert the teacher’s assignment/focus point here) for the whole song/section?”

“Did you think about what you were playing the whole time?”

“How do you think we should practice that?”

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What Every Parent Should Know About The Power of Words

It’s easy to point out mistakes and what is wrong. It’s easy to see when things aren’t good. It’s easy to talk about what is hard or get frustrated because we know our kids are capable of more.

But how do we turn things like this around and build on what is going well in order to make progress towards our goals  – especially when it seems there is a long way to go?

 

It’s important as parents (and teachers) to realize the powerful impact our words have.

We can point out the negative or we can look for the positive (no matter how small) and point that out instead.

It takes effort, it takes paying careful attention and it can be the thing that spurs our children on to try hard, see that they have the ability within them to work hard on something, and to keep from giving up. It’s human nature to do more of the thing we get compliments or praise for.
I have found that it is very powerful to say “I see this thing about you that is great – do that more!”
Instead of “That’s out of tune” you might say say
“You have a great ear – let’s use it to work on getting right in tune.”
Instead of “That doesn’t sound right” you might say
“You can make a beautiful sound, let’s work on doing that this time through.”
I have said such things to students and seen them stand a up little straighter and really work at something afterwards. Sometimes a single comment like this totally changes a student’s attitude.
Parenting can be hard, staying patient can be hard, waiting to see the payoff years from now from little things we are doing today can be hard. We so want what is best for our children and for them to work hard and to do well. The words we say when we’re coaching them through the hard spots or just the not-so-exciting day to day spots have a huge impact.
In my experience, what students and children need is less criticism and more adults pointing to the things they can do well, and encouraging them to strive for that.
I’m not talking about false and empty praise but someone saying “I see you – I see great things that you are capable of – let’s do this task with that in mind.”
When my oldest daughter was young I would get frustrated with her bossiness and her need to get her sister to do things her way. But, then she kept getting leadership awards in dance class and I started to look at it in a new light. She didn’t need me to point out when she was being bossy and tell her it was wrong, she needed me to teach her to consider the feelings of others and be a kind leader 🙂
We can look at many character qualities from two sides. We can point out the negative about certain qualities or we can see the potential in them when they are channeled productively.

I certainly don’t do this perfectly but I hope I choose the later most often and I hope my kids and students stand a little taller and feel a little more sense of purpose because of it. I hope you’ll join me in trying to do the same.

 

 

5 Ways to Help Your Child Enjoy The Process of Learning Music

This post is the last in a series about inspiring and motivating students through lessons and practice. You can read the other posts here: Overview, Seeing Progress & Feeling Capable.

Learning to enjoy the process is a critical part of helping our children and students stay motivated and inspired. Of any of the aspects of motivation we have discussed in this series, it has the most long-lasting effects on them as people and musicians. It is easy to get too focused on outcomes and results and kill the joy of learning in the process. Let’s find ways to help both students and ourselves (as teachers and parents) enjoy this process together!

 

If learning something new is a daunting and dreaded task then why would anyone want to keep doing it?

I often tell parents that games and rewards can be very useful for very young students until they start to see learning music (and enjoying that process) as the reward. How do we develop this in our children and students?

Below are 5 great ways to help students develop the ability to enjoy the process of learning music. I was inspired for this post by a great article on the website Parents.com (click here to read) . The points in the article really echo what I see in my teaching and I expanded on some of them to fit our experiences as Suzuki parents and teachers.

  1. Understand how your child learns  – Young students learn very differently from teens (or how we learn as adults). Within each age group there are variations in the style of learning that works best for each individual student as well.

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Motivation: The Importance of Feeling Capable

This Post is third in a series on keeping students inspired and motivated. You can read the first two posts here: Overview, Why Students Need Help Seeing Progress. 

 

“I can’t do this!” “It’s too hard!” “I’ll never get it!”

Comments like these (or trying to avoid practicing a specific practice task) are strong indications that a student does not feel they are capable of something we are asking them to do.

Some students may not even be able to verbalize these thoughts and simply act out or seem to lose interest in studying their instrument.

To keep our students motivated it’s important to to address these feelings. Feeling capable and seeing that it is possible to accomplish something plays a huge role in staying motivated.

I’d like to suggest 4 ways to help students feel capable & would love to hear what you think works the best for your children or students.

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Motivation: Why Students Need Help Seeing Progress

Last week I started a new blog series about keeping students inspired and motivated. You can read the first post in the series HERE.

In that article I outlined three things students need to stay motivated and inspired including seeing progress, feeling capable, and finding joy in the process.

Today I want expand on the idea that one of the ways students stay engaged & motivated in the process of learning their instrument is by being able to see that they are, in fact, making progress.

Practicing is hard. It takes a huge amount of concentration, discipline, and persistence to get it done everyday. It’s just human nature to feel like it is not worth it if we can’t see some kind of tangible progress along the way.

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3 Ways Students Can Learn To Give Through Music

3 Ways Students Can Learn to Give Through Music

 

It’s the time of year when many people are focused on the holidays and on giving. When this season is at it’s best, there is a big focus on acts of service and spreading joy. It is also a great time to teach our children and students about giving. Music can be a great way to do this!

Sharing music with family, friends and the community can be a great way to learn the power of giving. It’s an important value I want my own children and my students to adopt, this time of year, and all year long.

Here are some ways you can think about helping your students or children give the gift of music this season:

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3 Ways to Focus on the Big Picture in Practice

 

3 ways to focus on the Big Picture

 

One thing I’ve noticed about students and families that are successful in the Suzuki Method, is their ability to stay focused on the big picture.

There are endless details to keep in mind when learning a musical instrument, and it’s easy to get over focused on some of them and forget what is really important.

As a teacher I like to think of three basic ways for students and families to focus on the big picture: Tone, Technique, and Character.

 

Big Picture Focus: Tone

If you are working on a piece in practice and you are unsure of what to work on next, Tone is always a good answer.

Tone is defined (by the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary) as “the quality of sound produced by a musical instrument or singing voice.” It goes beyond playing in tune. How warm is the sound? Does it having a ringing quality or harsh quality to it?

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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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