There are some really amazing violinists and violists out there today! You've probably heard me mention some of them in our lessons. For a special listening assignment, go to YouTube and look for some of these names! Report back to me! What did you like? What would you like to try? What was the silliest thing you saw? Do any of them have a concert coming up near us??



Joshua Bell

Itzhak Perlman

Gil Shaham

Hillary Hahn

Maxim Vengerov

Anne-Sophie Mutter

Pinchas Zuckerman

Nobuko Imai

Yuri Bashmet

Kim Kashkashian

Tabea Zimmerman

Geraldine Walther


Less Classical

Andrew Bird

Stuart Duncan

Owen Pallett

Mark O'Connor

Jean-Luc Ponty


...and more! Can you find me some names that are not on this list??



Before we begin summer break and forget about the violin for a while, lets go through this list with a pencil and plan some violin fun for the summer! Put a :) by what you think would be a fun idea for you! As you do them, put the date next to it and report back to me in the fall!

  • Mom & Dad: Read a good book!

  1. Shinichi Suzuki, Nurtured By Love

  2. William Star, To Learn with Love

  3. Kay Slone, They're Rarely Too Young and Never Too Old to Twinkle

  4. Ed Kreitman, Teaching from the Balance Point

  5. Craig Timmerman, Journey Down the Kreisler Highway

  6. Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code

  • Set one day a week of your practicing aside to do only fun things. Use your imagination and be creative!

  • Have a party for your family to celebrate the end of another year of violin lessons. Do it up big with cake, and a concert!

  • Invite an old violin friend over for music, refreshments, and play!

  • Invite a new violin friend over for music, refreshments, and play!

  • Plan your own concert for someone special, complete with a written program.

  • Have one of your practices outside on a nice day

  • Have one of your practices in some other exotic location. Be creative and share pictures!

  • Have your own “Concert in the Park.” Pack a picnic, your violin, and plan to stay to play at the park

  • Invite a violin friend over to play duets. I'll provide some music if you ask!

  • Have a violin scavenger hunt for one of your practices

  • Go camping with another violin family and play songs around the campfire!

  • Go to a Suzuki Institute!

  • Anything else that you would like to try with your violin! Be creative! Let me know what you come up with. :)

8 Weeks Before the Recital

You want to be able to play through your entire piece with relatively few bumps. It’s normal if at this point we are still playing at a thinking tempo!
The next four weeks you should be working on slowly getting it up to full speed, and smoothing out the finer details and finding the spirit of the piece.

4 Weeks Before the Recital

You want to be able to play your song at performance tempo fairly comfortably even if you sometimes make mistakes. If you are making mistakes, that's okay! Remember that they are good if we learn from them! :)
It is useful to have a few points in the song where you can restart should things get tricky. This will save you from having to start all over should anything happen!

2 Weeks Before the Recital

Your recital piece should feel pretty comfortable now, and if we are making mistakes we should be able to recover from them quickly. Remember a polished piece has notes, dynamics, and spirit!
Practice playing for family and friends! The easiest way to simulate the nerves of a performance is to play for real live people. It is okay to be nervous! Being nervous for something means that you care a lot about it a lot, and want it to go well! If you have hit the milestones above you will do just fine. :)

1 Week Before the Recital

Just relax. You’ve got this! You know what you are doing and how to manage the odd “Oops.”
Play your piece for fun and enjoy listening to yourself. If you are enjoying what you are playing so will others!

The Day of the Recital

You have worked SO hard on your recital piece so take this opportunity to show off your hard work and enjoy yourself! Remember that everyone in the audience is so excited to hear you play, and wants you to do well! Plus there will be cookies afterward. ;)Plan to get to the recital location early to give yourself enough time for potential delays, plus any warm up time you may need. Always tune to the piano that will be used on stage, there should be someone nearby to help you should you need it. Remember also to have good manners while other children are playing, they worked hard on their pieces too! And while they play, remember to listen for something you love. :) 

By Charles Swindol

The longer I live, the more I realize that the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftnedness, or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.

  1. Vary the practice location. During the summer, practicing outside can make both of you enjoy the practice a little more.

  2. Pick a different location for each task on your practice list. (Example: Warmups in the laundry room, one review song in each bedroom, new song in the bathroom, etc.)

  3. Play for stuffed animals, super heroes, favorite dolls, a blanket, etc. Serve refreshments after you perform.

  4. PRACTICE EVERY DAY. If possile in several short sessions, especially for the young.

  5. Surprise your child by telling him that you want him to pick 5 things off his practice list and just give you a concert that day instead of practice. Remember NOT to give any criticisms since its a concert.

  6. Use something to count the number of times something is done perfectly such as rocks, colored paper clips, pennies, beans, buttons, popcorn, raisins, anything.

  7. Keep a practice log. At the end of 25 hours do something special. For very young children you may want to make the goal achievable by the end of one week.

  8. Number all the tasks on your practice list from 1-12. Roll the dice to see what number comes up and do whatever corresponds with that number.

  9. Give young students a ticket each time you practice. Tickets may be cashed in later.

  10. Make slips of paper to put in a hat and the child draws them out. The slips offer specific suggestions.

  11. Occasionally have a treat after a good practice or before a practice session. Do it as a surprise. Don't bribe the child by saying “if you practice, we'll have some cookies.”

  12. Prepare a concert for another parent or Grandparents. “Let's show them what you can do!” or “Let's surprise them!”

  13. Take some time to plan your practice session

  14. Be sure to take and keep good notes in your Lessons Notebook.

  15. Praise, praise, praise! Specific, enthusiastic, and sincere!

  16. Ask your teacher to borrow her violin version of the Chutes and Ladders game for a week.

  17. Perform a concert for your video recorder and watch it afterwards.

  18. Break up your practice session with exercises such as somersaults, sit-ups, cart wheels, jumping jacks, etc.

  19. Check out books in your teacher's studio. These are on loan at any time and there is a wealth of information and motivation there.

  20. Have a calendar that the child gets to draw something or glue something on each day after practice.

  21. Do anything that works.

  22. Nothing works forever.

  23. Remember that YOU should control the practice.

  24. Remember that your child is NOT likely to “take ownership” or responsibility of their own practice. Most children are not self motivated to work.

  25. Listen, listen, listen, listen, listen! To your CD. It will solve many problems.

By Sue Evans

  1. Play it your age.

  2. Tape it.

  3. Pick an UNO Card.

  4. Throw the dice or die.

  5. Wear a funny hat.

  6. Wear funny glasses.

  7. Left foot in the air.

  8. Right foot in the air.

  9. Eyes on the ceiling.

  10. Eyes closed.

  11. With toothbrush in mouth.

  12. With gloves on.

  13. With Kleenex on keys.

  14. Write a story to sing with it.

  15. Imagine you’re on an island.

  16. Imagine you’re on skies.

  17. Imagine you’re in the ocean.

  18. With a cookie in mouth.

  19. While smiling.

  20. While winking.

  21. While crying.

  22. With a frightened look.

  23. While undressing.

  24. While dressing.

  25. With high octaves.

  26. With low octaves.

  27. While sitting on the floor.

  28. While standing up.

  29. While blowing a bubble.

  30. Making up a rap.

  31. Making up words from other languages.

  32. Making up nonsense words.

  33. Sing in a baby voice.

  34. Sing in a dad’s voice.

  35. Sing in different animal voices.

  36. Have a relative accompany you with sound effects.

  37. Have a relative play another song at the same time.

  38. Play it and reward yourself with an M&M or candy.

  39. Play it and give yourself money.

  40. Parents play one hand.

  41. Parents play another instrument at the same time.

  42. Play it at different MM markings.

  43. Wear a wig.

  44. Wear a Tie.

  45. Flip your wig.

  46. Moo like a cow.

  47. Oink like a pig.

  48. Invite friends over and act it out like a play.

  49. Invite friends over for a Piano Party.

  50. Put ear plugs in.

  51. Wear earmuffs.

  52. Wear a coat.

  53. Set an alarm clock for 5 minutes of play.

  54. Clap your feet.

  55. Play it with a damper pedal.

  56. Play it with the sostenuto pedal.

  57. Play it with the soft pedal.

  58. Play it on another piano: church, school, store, friend’s.

  59. Play it backwards.

  60. While reading a book.

  61. While balancing a marshmallow on head or toe.

  62. While gargling.

  63. While on the phone.

  64. While whistling.

  65. While wearing a crown.

  66. With the Suzuki tape.

  67. While lying on the bench.

  68. While kneeling.

  69. While standing on one foot.

  70. In the dark.

  71. With one eye shut.

  72. While telling a joke.

  73. While watching TV.

  74. Cross hands.

  75. Create some lyrics .

  76. While balancing a textbook on head.

  77. At midnight.

  78. In your head while lying under the piano.

  79. Play it while singing DO, RE, MI.

  80. While saying “I Love You.”

  81. Have parents or friends dance.

  82. By candlelight.

  83. By flashlight.

  84. With a baby on your lap.

  85. Blindfolded.

  86. Sing your name to the melody.

  87. While writing a letter.

  88. Hands separately.

  89. While drinking.

  90. While eating.

  91. At different times during the day.

  92. Play it on a dummy piano.

  93. Play it on the back of your parent.

  94. Play it on your lap and say the melody notes or harmony notes.

  95. With a pencil in your hair.

  96. With another CD going.

  97. With your parents tapping the steady beats.

  98. Play an ostinato pattern on kitchen instruments.

  99. On the phone with your teacher.

  100. While bouncing a ball with your other hand.

  101. At 15-minute intervals.

  102. DONE!

by Ann Montzka-Smelser

Have faith in your child, your teacher, and yourself.

Every child grows at a different rate. It is important to respect your child's efforts and not compare his rate with the rate of others. Put your child first by focusing on the quality of the journey more than a destination. One of the best ways to demonstrate faith and respect to your teacher is by allowing one teacher at a time. Be a silent observer during group and private lesson. A child hears the quietest parental sigh much louder than anything his teacher could say or do. Give the discipline up to the teacher at lessons unless they ask you to step in. Follow through with assignments and listening at home.

YOU are the most important and influential teacher your child will ever have. One of the most important lessons to help learning is that it is okay to make mistakes. Give yourself the many tries needed as you learn to play the instrument you are helping teach to your child. The more proficient you get at guitar, violin or piano – the more confidence and empathy you gain.


Be consistent with listening, practicing and lessons.

The more you play the recording, the more internalized the music, the easier it is to produce a beautiful ringing tone with expressive musicianship. Students that consistently listen learn and memorize pieces with much more ease than those who do not.

When practicing is a daily habit, much of the struggle is eliminated. Do not say, “we will make the practicing up tomorrow.” Five minutes is better than nothing... and you can always find five minutes.

Treat private and group lesson as a special event... not to be squeezed between many other activities (where you might come late and leave early). Your child will know this activity is important if you treat it that way.


Communicate with your teacher and other parents.

Let your teacher know if you are struggling in the practice sessions at home. Since some conversations should not be had in front of your child, use email or phone (ask your teacher which method is best for them).

Be sure to talk with your private or group teacher if you have questions or concerns about assignments, behavior, expectations, anything! We know you want the best for your child; we do too!

Other parents are vitally important for sharing joys and struggles and solutions together!

Take notes and mirror your lesson in practice.

Though you should not interrupt the flow of the lesson (and break important focus) it is important that you are clear about all assignments so you can follow through in home practice. Have your teacher check over your notes before you leave and reiterate the instructions for the practice week ahead. You are the “home teacher” but are expected to do only what is covered in the lesson. Your teacher is very careful not to move forward before a specific level of mastery is achieved. Do not move your child to the next step until your teacher gives the green light to do so.

The practice packet is extremely helpful for the teacher to know what the child has been doing all week, and asses and adjust assignments accordingly.

This is also helpful for a parent and child to see what is ahead and stay on task with daily expectations.


Be creative and enthusiastic in practice!

It is hard to be creative and enthusiastic when you are tired, hungry, stressed, rushed, etc. This holds true for your child as well. Find the best time for both of you to enjoy some time together. Many families find several short practices are more successful while others find one dose a day does it. Be sure physical needs are met so you and your child can focus. Your enthusiasm will be contagious... here are some creative ways to begin practice since “once begun is half done.”

  • Treasure hunt: write pieces or practice assignments on popsicle sticks then hide them around the room and have your child find them and do them.
  • Beat the clock: Who can be ready to practice by a certain time each day?
  • Practice candle: let a candle burn during practice time. Agree on a celebration of time together when the candle is used up.
  • Set a goal: of 50 (or 100!) days of practice in a row and celebrate with a family activity of your child's choice.
  • Count repetitions: with raisins, peanuts, or skittles.

Some other helpful tips in working with your child and keeping them actively engaged are to “ask” rather than “tell.” Praise the effort. Look for what is working, and most importantly, focus on one point at a time. (This usually means ignoring other factors).

It is easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed. Taking a breath and remembering why we want this for our children can center us. Thank you for letting us work together for you and your family. Enjoy the journey!

AuthorAnna Bross

By Heidi Ehle

Continuity is a crucial part of learning an instrument, and the link that provides continuity between lessons and practice is your precious notes! Having been a Suzuki parent, I know that in a busy day sometimes you sink into the chair at the lesson and think, “Ah, 30 minutes of down time.” Then you find yourself daydreaming, and before you know it the lesson is over. You glance down at your notebook, and see “Review Allegro” … hmmm, not much to work with. You hear your teacher compliment your child on the lesson, but you are not exactly sure what went on.

At this point you may ask your teacher, “What shall we practice this week?” This will probably get a somewhat annoyed response as the teacher thinks, “OK, do I have to re-run the entire lesson at fast forward?” although she’s glad you at least asked. Or you don’t ask and figure you’ll just get through practice somehow.

Helpful Hints

While you may need some clarification at the end of the lesson, the teacher expects you to pick out major points for practice during the lesson. Here are some tips:

  1. 1.Look for a theme, especially with very young children. There is what Suzuki teachers call the “one point lesson.” If you hear the same aspect mentioned again and again, circle it at the top of your notes (i.e., thumb position, clear high notes, where is your foot, D’s correct).

  2. In review songs, what is the teacher’s focus? Sometimes it is just a fun warm-up, but more often there is a specific goal. Children do not like mind-numbing repetition. Find the teaching point in the review (i.e., beautiful E’s, breathing, fingering D to C, air use on high notes, etc.).

  3. Write down how to do things. “Last two measures of Minuet I” is not enough. How did the teacher break it up? Did you follow the process so it can be duplicated at home? (i.e., do this small group 5 times with no slurs, then add slurs, then speed up, through the A, be careful of the C#.)

  4. In scales and exercises, try to notice how they are worked on (i.e., fruit salad, slur patterns, speed, position or tone aspects). Just writing “Do F Major scale” is usually not enough.

  5. If you can’t follow where we are in the music, make a copy of the piece as your own study copy. Whether you read music or not, you’ll find this makes a huge difference.

  6. Listen for cues. Your teacher is constantly aware of your presence—and how mentally present you are. Whenever you hear the word “practice,” heads up! Also listen for colorful language: sail your tone out the skylight, staccatos like hammering little nails, BIG beach ball bouncing. Try to use these words again in the practice. Listen for location phrases: “in the last measure of that line, where it starts on B-flat and goes up, where it says crescendo.” These location tips are often for your benefit, as the teacher and student already know where they are working.

  7. Observe and adore your child. Relish the chance to do this. Watch body language, facial expressions, how your child learns, what feelings flicker past. It’s very interesting, and you may find something to talk about later, or you may just cherish the memory 10 years from now. However, keep your reactions, especially negative ones, to yourself during the lesson.

  8. Need time to space out? OK. There are times you can, like when the teacher goes off on a long technical workout and you already have the gist of what is being done. But listen for cue words to bring you back to attention.

  9. Help your teacher: Put all materials recently used on the stand at the beginning of the lesson. Ask for clarification of practice tasks at end of lesson. Ask about review if your teacher did not mention it. Try not to do noisy things like rattle newspapers, tear checks, crinkle cellophane, etc. It’s easy to forget that listening captures all sounds—and we are listening. Bring up general practice or schedule problems at the beginning of the lesson. Starting these important and timely conversations at the end of the lesson can wreak havoc with the teacher’s attempt to stay on time. Keep the teacher informed about events that may affect the child in a significant way (moving, illness, divorce, school troubles, etc.). These things have an impact which the teacher observes, and wants to respond to appropriately. Lengthy explanations are not needed, but a word will enable the teacher to respond in a sensitive, effective way.

AuthorAnna Bross

adapted from the book Expanding Horizons: the Suzuki Student Grows Up by Mark Bjork

The dynamics of the Suzuki Triangle change from year to year and sometimes even day to day. Eventually, your child will need to become responsible for their entire home practice.

Analysis by the student should be part of every practice at home to help your child later assert independence in their violin practice.

Here are some sample questions that when asked in this order will foster in your child the maturity to decide what and how to practice. Use this like a script until you and your child have comfortably integrated these questions (or your own version) as a part of your daily practice.

  1. How do you think you played?

  2. What do you think you could improve?

  3. What did your teacher suggest to take care of that problem?

  4. How many times do you think that should be repeated for it to become easier?

  5. How secure does that feel now?

  6. Are you ready to try that section/piece all at once?

It is assumed that you will give your child ample time to answer your query.

Please be sensitive to your child's thought and response time. Remember that this is a chance for them to learn to analyze how to practice problem areas.

Parents must also be sensitive to when the child tires of the responsibility of making the decisions and needs the parent to take over. Maturity such as this is not achieved all at once, so use this practice method a little bit each day to grow their independence slowly over time!

This will prove to be an invaluable skill later in their violin practice.

The Practice Process

Mr. Bjork outlines as an interesting approach to decide what to practice using the analogy of a doctor's visit.

  1. The Examination: Play a piece, decide if anything can be improved.

  2. The Diagnosis: After identifying the problem, decide how to correct it.

  3. The Medicine: Do the necessary work to affect a “cure.”

  4. The Check Up Exam: Play the piece/section again to see if the cure has been achieved.

  5. The Follow Up Exam: Decide if the medicine needs to be administered again or if the cure should be reviewed at the next practice in order to maintain excellent health of the piece/section.

AuthorAnna Bross

by Lamar Blum

Our recent Recital Week gave all who attended a glimpse of music students in action. Pieces had been polished and rehearsed. Students dressed up. Parents provided tempting treats. The excitement of wanting to hear each student play buzzed through the group. An anxious look at the program told students when they would play. Every recital was filled with the same agendas and expectations. Every recital held beautiful music played by students with little experience as well as those who have been playing for many years.

A comment that surfaces after a program is, “Hasn’t Janie progressed a lot? She was in Book 2 last year, and here she is playing a Book 4 piece!” That is a great thing to recognize, but I’m wondering about the student who hasn’t covered so much obvious musical ground. Are they still progressing? The outward signs of a student making progress are clear. The student learns many pieces, plays with more expression, has more and better control of how to navigate the instrument, looks like he/she enjoys what he is doing, and is able to communicate musically with the audience.

Let’s set these wonderful elements aside for a moment and take a look at some not-so-obvious things that can still be called progress. It is difficult to determine inward progress as it is happening. Let’s say a student played on recital this year but played a piece only two pieces farther than last year’s piece. Did this student progress? Yes, but it doesn’t seem like very much. In this scenario, the parent might become discouraged. As a teacher, I would not think there is a lack of progress if the attitude of the parent is one of patience and trust in what the teacher is doing. If the parent has the child’s best interest at heart and if practice time is a regular event, something is happening inside the child.

Progress is usually defined as movement. Movement isn’t always forward. It will be sideways, backwards, diagonally and sometimes up and down in the learning process. The important learning goes on inside each of us no matter what the subject. As adults, we are capable of telling what goes on inside. It is more difficult to discover what is going on inside your child.

Suzuki tells of the persistent patience of a mother working with her child. A mother working with her child was having trouble with the bow flying from her hand. The child was able to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” within six months. However, control of her bow hold eluded her for a long time. It seemed this skill was impossible. The mother and the teacher did not give up. When the child was at last able to hold the bow throughout the song, the child and parent were very happy.

I quote from Suzuki, “An invisible growing faculty helped to breed a new ability until it finally became visible to all.”‘ It maybe a long time before we can tell what our child’s “invisible growing faculty” is, but it’s there. As was the case in this child, what keeps a student from outward progress is not usually instrument related. She had suffered from infantile paralysis and was finding her way back to health by using the violin.

I enjoy challenging a student when I believe that their mind is on something besides the piece to be played in a lesson. I remind them that our mind is like a CD with lots of information on it. I ask that the student take out that CD—we sometimes push the imaginary eject button—and put in a blank one. Then, I ask them to play their piece. It is amazing how well they can play when an entertaining visualization is used.

As I perused Webster’s Dictionary to clarify the definition of progress, I found words like “gradual, steady improvement,” “an official journey [of a sovereign]” and “to continue toward completion.” I would hold each of these phrases up for your consideration. We are looking for gradual, steady improvement. That is the kind that runs deep and holds meaning for you and your child. You are on an official journey with your child through life. We don’t have to be kingly for this role to be relevant. But life is official and Suzuki wanted your child to benefit the most from making beautiful music. And, lastly, the phrase “to continue” sounds important to me. I have heard many people state their regrets about not continuing a child’s music lessons. Once we find ourselves in the “regret zone,” it is difficult to retrieve the momentum of the musical experience. I believe it is better to continue while evaluating ways to make the situation enriching for your child. Even when children are resisting, there is something of benefit going on inside.

All of this is said to encourage you to focus on the inward journey of your child’s musical experience. It’s our job as adults to help our children make headway, rise, grow, gain ground, step forward, forge ahead, shoot ahead, dash ahead, go ahead, move ahead (according to Roget’s Thesaurus) and most of all…KEEP GOING.

AuthorAnna Bross

By Janice Peters

Our lives are all so busy so it is easy fall prey to the temptation of skipping daily listening or daily practice or both. So think of what happens when we skip? Why do we need to be faithful to both?

Imagine trying to learn a foreign language without ever having heard it spoken. Now think how much easier it is with an “immersion” experience. When Suzuki devised his “mother tongue method,” he capitalized on the fact that learning the language of music works much the same way as learning any language.

So why listen to the recordings? Here are a few good reasons:

  1. First, listening to good quality music is enjoyable. It increases our musical sensitivity and this enjoyment motivates the listener to continue listening.

  2. It is so much easier to master the rhythms and use correct intonation (playing in tune) when the correct example is already stamped on the mind. This also enables self-correction as the learning takes place. Once imprinted, the music enters the subconscious mind and a “musical intuition” (brain- finger connection) forms.

  3. Listening actually allows the brain to experience the music before you play it. This is like “practicing for free” without doing the work! (However, this cannot substitute for the consistent daily practice!)

  4. Being able to hear or sing the piece in the mind makes learning easier. Listening gives us this ability. It is akin to visualizing a perfect golf swing or a well-executed tennis serves prior to playing. Research has shown this really works!

So help make your child’s learning easier. Play the work piece on endless repeat each morning. Also include the previous (“polish”) and subsequent (new) pieces. This music will remain playing in the brain all day. (How many of us have had an annoying radio or TV jingle play over and over in our mind wishing we “could turn it off?”) Also listen in the background other times during the day (as in the car), concluding at bedtime.

Need a reminder? Put a clothespin or a hair clip on your bathroom towel, toothbrush, or pajamas to remind you to turn on the music at bedtime. Stick a sticker on the light switch of your child’s room. Tie a “reminder ribbon” on the car steering wheel instead of around your finger. Use a twist tie on a kitchen cabinet, breakfast coffee or cereal box, or in the silverware drawer. You can have fun with this, too. Hide clues and have a daily “treasure hunt” or draw from a hat each day to see who turns the recording on and off. Have a family contest to see who comes up with the most creative suggestions. Also, those automatic timers (for turning on lights), which can be set to turn on and shut off at predetermined hours, work well.

Play the entire CD or tape on a regular basis as well. You can have fun with it, too. Try dancing the rhythms or “head, finger or feet dancing” or make up your own fun. Be creative!

You have chosen to give your child the gift of instrumental music. Imagine how much quicker and easier you’ll both enjoy this treasure as you listen each day.

You’ll make new discoveries each time you hear the music, and your child will be on the way to experiencing the joy of finer playing with ease, coupled, of course, with diligent daily practice. So, HAPPY LISTENING! Start now.

By Edmund Sprunger



Cover the basics. Make sure the technique works well enough so the child can feel successful in the short and long term. Attend group classes and concerts. Listen to the Suzuki tapes. Listen to lots of other music well. Take careful notes at lessons.

Give the child lots of choices. A child must be given genuine choices, or it doesn't work. Craft your questions in such a way that the child can have a real choice. (e.g. If you know a child needs to practice “Allegro,” do NOT ask “Do you want to practice 'Allegro'?” INSTEAD – “Do you want to practice 'Allegro' before 'Song of the Wind,' after we practice 'Song of the Wind, or after we practice 'Perpetual Motion'?”) When you give children choices and are flexible at every opportunity you possibly can be, it makes it easier not to give choices when you can't (there may be times when it is crucial to play “Allegro” after “Song of the Wind”).

Request what's working well. Ask children to do what they're already doing well. This is difficult to resist. Catching kids goofing up is a no-brainer.

Consider ignoring it. Remember that ignoring some behaviors may be a wise move.

Don't just do something, stand there. Let the child struggle. Praise the process later. (Parents: This move is not just to show the teacher you know how to praise, but to give genuine praise. Kids can smell the difference miles away.)

Sing! SING! Make sure you're both thinking of the same song.

Be honest about cooperation. “Co-operate” doesn't mean “do what your parent or the teacher says,” it means “We work together.” Ask the child to report on the work you're doing, and you report on the work the child is doing.

Ask; don't tell. Ask the child to report whether the desired outcome happened (“Play 'Long, Long Ago,', and then I'm going to ask you if the bow colored one spot on the string.”) If the child's report does not accurately reflect what happened, before labelling the child a “liar”, consider the following possibilities:

1. The child may not have understood the instructions (I always consider this a graceful and polite place to start)

    2. The child may need to save face (What is the child risking if he admits he did it incorrectly?)

    Ask yourself “How does the child benefit from this behavior?” Know that the child is working to get something, not simply trying to make the parent work harder. If he were, what would be in it for him? Remember that the child may not consciously know what he hopes to get, in which case he won't be able to tell you what he wants directly (See “...resistance as a gift”).

    Play games. Play games the child can and wants to win: Cards, Pennies, Peel-off stickers

    Use the resistance. Ask for it. (“Push your head into my hand.”)

    Allow the child to pick the practice time. Play is the child's work, and getting interrupted can be a big irritation. If the child still fusses, develop a full picture for the child of the behavior you want. Instead of saying “Don't fuss” you say “Quietly stand in rest position and get ready for a bow when the timer goes off” (or whatever “NOT fussing” means to you). If child fails to produce the desired behavior when it's time to practice, the the parent gets to choose the practice time the next day.

    Discuss goals. Talk to the child to see if you both want the same thing. (e.g. “You know, I would like nothing better than to have you be able to do it by yourself. That's why I'm doing it with you now.”)

    Discard words like “concentrate” and “focus”. I usually consider these words to be useless with anyone under the age of... well, with anyone of any age. Instead, give the child something to focus on ( “Stay in rest position while I count to five” ---or--- “Listen for evenness in the sixteenth notes in the l ast movement”).

    Ask yourself questions. “When a child resists me I feel ____.” “A perfect child would always ___ and never ___.” “a person who wanted to make me resistant could ___.”

    Think of resistance as a gift. Consider that resistance might be the child's way of helping you. Resistance may be the child's way of cooperating by showing the adult what doesn't work. In this sense, it may be a gift. (It may be a gift and irritating!)

    Remember that slow practice is difficult. This does not mean that a child can avoid doing it. What it does mean is that it's o.k. For a child to be frustrated and to loathe doing it --- while at the same time the child does the slow, careful practice. You can't control feelings.


    Follow through with consequences, both negative and positive. If you tell a child you will take her to the zoo on Saturday if she practices every day this week, be sure to take her to the zoo if she holds up her end of the bargain. If she doesn't hold up to her end of the bargain, don't take her to the zoo. A promise is a promise, and kids thrive on stability and dependability. A child whose parents don't follow through on consequences (including negative ones) is likely to become angry and / or scared. (See Clarke, Jean: Growing up again)


    Know that children can't understand our frustrations. It's more likely that we can understand theirs. We can go down to their level, but they can't come up to ours.


    AuthorAnna Bross