Welcome to the wonderful world of music! You have made a very important decision in your child’s life to begin a process that will benefit both of you for many years. Suzuki training is one of the most rewarding and positive experiences that you can provide for your child and I believe it can be a factor in strengthening the parent-child bond which can do nothing but enrich relationships for the entire family.
Parents have the responsibility for creating an atmosphere at home that is positive and structured. The areas in which you need to supervise are:
1. Playing the Suzuki recording. Play the recording at least once a day. Twice is better!
One of the components of Suzuki philosophy is listening. Many children do not normally listen to classical music in abundance in the home setting. If your audio collection contains classical recordings, please play these for your children as much as possible in addition to the Suzuki recordings. Many parents find that listening in the car is a wonderful time (captive audience!). There are many sources for obtaining inexpensive recordings of classical music. Also, many local libraries have fine collections available for loan. Some families like to pick one special recording a week and do saturation listening. This is an excellent idea which parallels the philosophy of listening to the Suzuki recording on a daily basis.
Even if a child listens to a tremendous amount of music in the home the playing of the Suzuki recording daily provides the child with a model for all music he/she will be learning. Many children after a few months will be able to learn notes effortlessly with faithful listening which enables me to work on technical and musical skills at the lesson. This also makes your job at home much easier! Parents of a second child learning the same instrument have experienced this phenomena. The second child usually learns pieces much faster than the first child. The second child also has the benefit of having the first child as a model in addition to the passive listening.
2. Please try to arrange your schedule so that practice time is at a most positive time of the day.
Many families have different schedules, and children have different times of the day where there learning is optimal. Several families find morning practice to be most productive. (This is MY favorite time) Other families need to practice in the evening. I have found that whatever time is the best to try and stick to the same time every day.
You are less likely to face resistance to practice down the road if the practice time is consistent and non-negotiable.
For students who are more advanced, splitting practice time might be a good idea with heavy study work done in the morning before school, and review and technique done in the afternoon and evening.
3. KEEP PRACTICE POSITIVE!!
This is perhaps the most challenging component for the parent. Being a parent myself, I can understand this most acutely. Even though this is not a competitive activity, parents have a tendency because of the standardized repertoire to start comparing their child to another in the program. (My child started lessons a month earlier, why is that student on the next piece already?) Please remember that your child is unique. All children learn at different paces and have different challenges at different times. It is my job to constantly evaluate their progress and give them the tools they need to succeed as necessary.
There are many ways that practice can be fun! During the course of your study, we will discuss these as needed. Think of your own development. How do YOU react when someone is encouraging instead of critical? Positive instead of negative? Nurturing and smiling instead of punitive?
This is not to say that your child should control the practice session! While it is fun and necessary that children feel they have choices in how to structure and practice session, it is up to the parent to make sure that ALL choices are acceptable.
PRACTICE NEEDS TO BE CONSISTENT!! In the studio there is much praise given for daily practice. While I realize that some days may be busier than others, even 5 or 10 minutes of practice is better than none at all. In the beginning, the pattern of practice is even more important than developing skill level. Good practice habits translate into good study habits at school. As the ability level of the students increases so does the practice time. This is also consistent with school expectations.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. How much time should we practice?
This differs with each child. Obviously a 4 year old child will have different practice habits than a 10 year old even at a beginning level. A 4 year old ideally should practice 5 or 10 minutes 2 or 3 times a day. A good rule of thumb is to end practice while the child is still interested. This way, practice ends on a positive note. Some children need more structure in their practice time and the parent may need to set goals BEFORE the practice session begins. By the time a student reaches Book 3, they are practicing 45 – 60 minutes a day.
2. What happens if we need to miss a lesson?
If you know in advance that you will not be able to attend a private lesson, please try to arrange an alternate time. If this is not possible you will be allowed 1 make up lesson per semester. Students are expected to assume responsibility for asking me for make up lessons.
3. What happens if my instrument breaks a string?
You should carry a spare set of strings in your case at all times. If you are not physically comfortable replacing them, I can do it for you or show you. The dealer where you rented the instrument has replacement strings for purchase and can also replace them as necessary. When you rent an instrument, you are financially responsible for the cost of the strings whether through breakage or replacement.
4. How often should I tune my instrument?
EVERY DAY! Even though some instruments hold their tune amazingly well, the tuning should be checked on a daily basis. Please tune ALL strings – instruments are designed so that certain amounts of pressure are necessary at certain points – if only two strings are tuned, this places unnecessary pressure on the violin and the bridge may warp or crack. It is also possible that the bridge may gouge the face of the instrument. If you have trouble with tuning, please ask me about an Intellituner which is an inexpensive alternative for help with tuning.
5. What do students wear for concerts?
This depends on the venue and the season. If the concert is a formal concert, we dress in combinations of black and white. All black is also acceptable. Students also need to wear some kind of shoe that is not an athletic shoe. Sandals are acceptable. Boys may wear a tie or suspenders and girls may wear nice pants if they prefer. Girls need to be careful of high heels, earrings, and other jewelry – these items should be worn during practice to make sure that they will not interfere with performance. Girls may NOT wear nail polish. Also, students with long hair may wish to arrange it securely.
6. If I need to talk to you, when should I do this?
Please do not use your child’s lesson time to discuss any issues other than those related to lesson material. I would be happy to talk to you on the telephone at any time. I try hard to return all calls within 24 hours. The best time to reach me is mid day. Even better is via e-mail. My e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
7. When should we consider purchasing an instrument?
Most students can rent instruments until they reach a full size. However, if your student advances quickly, you may want to consider purchasing an instrument earlier. Normally when a student reaches Book 4 level they should have a better quality instrument.