My Suzuki Journey
Prior to taking teacher training courses, my impressions of the Suzuki Method were mostly based on vague statements from other people who may or may not have had any knowledge of Suzuki teaching. Like a game of telephone, misinformation tends to spread unless corrected by a reliable source. I would like to address some common misconceptions about the method that I have heard over the years, both from teachers and parents, and share my own experience with the method.
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Even for a very well-prepared student, Minuet No. 2 in Book 1 can present some new hurdles. In this post, I will give some of my tricks for teaching this piece.
When first previewing Minuet 2, I start with two spots which are tricky for most students: measures 15-16 and 33-34. I call these “Pineapple #1” and “Pineapple #2”, which I will explain in a moment. There are several new skills presented in these measure. From a rhythm standpoint, this is the first time the student has played a triplet rhythm. It’s also the first time they have slurred three notes under one bow. The hooked up bows are not technically new, though there is a new string crossing aspect in this excerpt. So, what’s with the pineapples?Read More »
As you know, it’s recital season, and I’m in the home stretch of helping to prepare my students for their solo performances. A few years ago, I also started adding a viola ensemble performance at the end of the recital. At the time, it was just a fun opportunity to showcase a few more advanced viola students, but I’ve since made a viola ensemble piece a kind of Grand Finale at the end of each recital. Coordinating a group rehearsal requires more work and organization, but I’ve found that it is well worth it for several reasons. I’ve started making some of my arrangements available, and will be adding to the list as I get them cleaned up and uploaded (after this weekend’s recital!)
Here are just a few of the reasons I find viola ensembles to be so valuable in the private studio.Read More »
Is it recital season for you too? April and May are prime time for studio and other end-of-year recitals and I’m gearing up for my own studio recital in a few weeks. It seems like some great cosmic joke that studio recitals occur when my students are most bogged down with schoolwork and counting down the days until summer vacation. But while this time of the year is always busy, I have figured out a few ways to make the recital go smoother.
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Like many Suzuki teachers, I have read Dr. Suzuki’s classic “Nurtured By Love” many times, coming back to Dr. Suzuki’s reflections time and again for inspiration. This week I stumbled upon a detail which had been previously overlooked. In the Suzuki community, we talk about the “Suzuki Triangle”, in which the teacher, parent, and child work together for maximum success. However, the word “triangle” has proven difficult to translate from Japanese to English. Recently a more accurate translation reveals that this relationship is better translated as “Suzuki Quadrangle”. It may seem like a small detail, but I believe that a proper understanding of the Suzuki Quadrangle will lead to a better relationship among parent, teacher, and student, and to more productive, happy practices and lessons. Let’s explore the quadrangle.
As you can see, many parents and teachers have not been taking advantage of the missing piece which creates the Suzuki Quadrangle: that of coffee. If the teacher receives a regular supply of coffee, they are able to provide excellent instruction to the child. Similarly, if the parent has enough coffee, they can provide a positive learning environment for their child. Parent and teacher are able to freely and amicably communicate once both have had their coffee. One important note is that the child should never be on the receiving end of coffee. Should the child get coffee, all aspects of the Quadrangle will break down (although new tempi may be discovered!).
I am excited to put the Suzuki Quadrangle into practice in my studio.
p.s. Happy April Fool’s Day!
The practice partner/home teacher plays a crucial role in a Suzuki student’s success. As a teacher, I’m lucky that our program has a robust and comprehensive parent education for new Suzuki parents, but parents who have been practicing with their child for a while can often use some extra help and inspiration in home practice beyond what I can fit into the weekly lesson. Enter Parents As Partners Online!
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Maintaining a large private teaching studio is not a normal 9-5 job. Some non-musician friends balk at my work schedule, but I love teaching children and I love music. So how does a studio teacher find balance? Here are some tips that have helped me stay happy and healthy as a studio teacher. And a fun infographic. Because who doesn’t like an infographic?
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Do you ever come across an idea so simple yet effective that you wonder: “Why didn’t I think of that?” The Red Light/Green Light game is that idea for me. During the summer when many of the young viola students whom I had started were reaching middle school and were starting to take more ownership of their own practicing, I was looking for ways to help them to practice more effectively to solve problems, rather than just repeat passages mindlessly. Enter my Violin Book 3 training course with the wonderful Joanne Melvin. She had devised a genius little trick to encourage self-reflection in her students. Up to that point, I would try to ask my students questions about how they had played, but I have found this game to be a much more succinct and specific version of those conversations. My students have since become much better practicers because of this game and I hope you will enjoy it as well.Read More »
There are a lot of method books that help students with beginning shifting. When I was just starting out as a teacher, it was overwhelming the amount of shifting materials I could find. But although many books contained helpful exercises in practicing shifting, there was nothing that actually explained how to shift. When I was in graduate school, I had already been shifting for about a decade and had gotten some great teaching in how to shift. “Lighten up”, “keep it smooth”, “no jerky motions”, “use a link note”. I thought I was a pretty good shifter, but as usual, my brilliant teacher, George Taylor was able to boil a technical issue down to its essence and reveal how I could be doing better. He’s the one who taught me the Shifting Formula.Read More »
I am very lucky to have a studio full of students who are diligent and consistent with daily practice. This has not always been the case in my teaching career, so I recognize what a blessing it is to work with children and parents who understand and commit to the value of daily practice. They make my job easy! I’m often surprised, therefore, that the same attention is not always paid to listening to the Suzuki recordings. My older students keep a daily practice log, which includes a space at the bottom for listening assignments. I’m shocked when a student who has accomplished all the scales, etudes, and repetitive practice of difficult passages I assigned has not also listened to the CD. Listening is supposed to be the easy part! I am always looking for ways to emphasize the crucial importance of listening to my studio families.Read More »