Plan a (Almost) Stress Free Studio Recital

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.

Stress Free Studio Recital

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A New Discovery from Dr. Suzuki’s Book

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.

Suzuki 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!

I Love Parents As Partners Online

OI Heart Parents As Partners

 

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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Red Light/Green Light: A Simple Game to Improve Music Practice

Red LightGreen Light(1)

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 »

The Shifting Formula

The Shifting Formula

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 »

Suzuki, Ben Folds and the Power of Listening

Ben Folds

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 »

Private Studio Parent Emails: One Trick that Saves Me Hours of Time

Private Studio Parent Emails_ One Trick that Saves Me Hours of Time

I, like most studio teachers I know, am in this job because enjoy teaching children beautiful music. When I’m not in the music studio teaching, I love planning lessons, reading teaching books and blogs, and hunting for resources for my students.  But several years ago, as my teaching studio grew, I found myself spending less time on improving my teaching and increasingly more time on emailing parents. Particularly when recital or re-enrollment time came around, I grew frustrated with how much time I spent keeping my studio families in the loop with important information. That’s when I heard about MailChimp.

 

Mailchimp: the best email wrangler.Read More »

Prevent and Treat “Shifting Panic”

 

Shifting Panic! Fun exercises for violin and viola students.Shifting is the great divide for my viola studio. On the one hand, I have always had a handful of students who are excited to start shifting, perhaps after they have seen an older student deftly moving all over the fingerboard. Other students approach shifting with reticence and sometimes outright dread, particularly my transfer students who may have gotten a rushed introduction to shifting in a piece from school. To get my shifting-averse students on board with the process, I’ve come up with a lot of games and special review pieces to make shifting less scary.Read More »

Play it again! Fun ways to practice repetitions.

We used to have a downstairs neighbor who was a very nice, polite guy who worked in sales and, as far as we knew, had no music background. My husband told me one evening that he had run into our neighbor in the garage. “It’s nice really nice hearing Eliana practice, but it seems like she just plays the same thing over and over again!”, the neighbor had remarked. Because many non-musicians only ever see the finished product of a piece performed in concert, they don’t realize that practice often involves playing short sections of a piece many times until they are in the muscle memory. Particularly with my older students who are practicing independently, I  have to sell them on the idea of playing a tricky part again and again.

Play It Again, Sam!

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