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Understanding Without Explanations

Sometimes talking is necessary. Children may not hear every word you say but they need to know that you are trying to encourage them. As a teacher I often wonder how much of what I say actually gets through. But that is exactly what has made me appreciate that true understanding comes without an explanation.

I’ve been working with Music Mind Games theory material more and more these days. For those that are unfamiliar it is a system of games and activities designed to teach music theory. I’ve always made a point to do theory worksheets with my students in the past. But I’m finding that I no longer need them as much as we gradually work our way through the games. The games allow the students to understand without explanation, which makes it a far more effective lesson.

One example that comes to mind is the idea of the musical alphabet. The letters used in music are always A, B, C, D, E, F, G. So, naturally, young children almost always ask why there is no “X, Y, or Z.” It is …
Recent posts

Interview with Dr. Molly Gebrian on the Neuroscience Behind Block vs. Random Practice

Welcome to Rethinking Genius, Molly! Can you tell us a little about your background in teaching and neuroscience?

Thank you for inviting me to do this, Danielle! I was a Suzuki kid myself (I studied with David Einfeldt at the Hartt Suzuki Institute from the time I started at age 7), and I’ve done some Suzuki teacher training, but these days, I’m a college professor teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I’ve been teaching for about 15 years, from 4-year old beginners, all the way up through graduate students. As far as neuroscience goes, I was a double-degree student at Oberlin College and Conservatory, majoring in viola performance and neuroscience. I had no plans to continue with neuroscience (it was just something I found fascinating, that I did for fun!), but when I got to New England Conservatory of Music for grad school, something was missing. My roommate at NEC, who had also been at Oberlin with me, participated in a study at Harvard looking at musicians’ versus …

San Diego Suzuki Institute is now a registered 501(c)(3)

As some may or may not know, I became the director of a Suzuki institute in 2017. Starting up this type of business very much felt like a roller coaster ride at times. But the moments of stress felt totally worth it in the end after we pulled off our first successful year.

With 2017 under the belt it was time to start thinking about how the institute can grow moving forward. I am very pleased to announce that the San Diego Suzuki Institute is now a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit. The non-profit structure does add an extra element to keep track from the business side. But ultimately this type of model seemed to be something that would open a lot of doors for us.

The biggest positive change is that we are now able to accept donations. Donations will allow for a multitude of scholarship opportunities that we have been previously unable to offer. We would love to be able to offer financial support to both students and Suzuki teachers interested in furthering their careers with t…

Growth Mindset

Establishing the growth mindset is one of the most important jobs of a teacher.  It's also the most challenging because you are at odds with potentially other teachers, children the student interacts with, and possibly even the student's parents.  This is not to say that all of a student's social interactions are negative.  The point is that there could be conflicting messages.

I had a teacher trainer once tell me, "Always praise the process, not the product."  The advice stuck with me and became a sort of mantra that helps me to shape the words that I choose to use during the lessons.

It's not easy!  Over many years of teaching I've come to realize that praising the process is not quite as clear-cut as the pictured chart would have you believe.  For example, saying something like "You're so talented!  You played that beautifully," is obviously something that reinforces the talent is set mentality. 

But what about the grey-area phrases?  &q…

2018 Teacher Training at the San Diego Suzuki Institute

The San Diego Suzuki Institute is continuing to expand its teacher training offerings this year with three different classes:

July 29
10:00am - 5:00pm


Every Child Can!

Every Child Can! is an introductory course on the Suzuki philosophy and its application to education. For parents, teachers, prospective teachers and others, this course provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the Suzuki approach to teaching and learning. For teachers, ECC serves as the first course in the Suzuki Association of the Americas Teacher Development Program.


July 30 - August 3
9:00am - 4:00pm


Overview of Viola Units 1-3 for Violin Teachers

A survey of viola books 1-3. Teachers attending the course need to have completed an SAA audition and have violin or viola units 1-3 already registered in order to attend.

This overview course is 15 hours total with 8 hours of observation time. Both violin and viola teachers are invited to attend.


July 28 - August 4
Starts at 10am July 28. Ends 1pm August 4. Daily schedule wil…

Parenting Trickle Over?

So my husband and I are expecting our first child in a few months.  I decided to make this blog post as a way to capture this "moment in time" so that way I can go back to it in a few years (with a few thousand tantrums under our belts) and laugh.

I've been teaching for almost ten years now.  While teaching in no way prepares you for things like 2am projectile vomit or teething, it does give you quite a bit of experience dealing with things like temper tantrums.  Naturally this has made me wonder how much teaching will rub off on my parenting skills.

I have no answers, really.  More just musings.  It occurred to me that I've been intensively watching other parents interact with their kids for a long time now.  I've even had to go so far as to praise or correct a parent on how he/she is handling practicing situations as they come up at home.  Doing this every day for years has naturally made me form subconscious opinions about what kind of parent I want to be.

So …

The Importance of Music Theory

There is never enough time to get everything done in a music lesson.  And even if there is enough time, it doesn't necessarily mean that the student is mentally on board.  All your grandiose plans can easily go out the window the moment the student walks in sobbing (for something totally unrelated to music, of course).

So it's always a balancing act.  As a musician and teacher you feel a need to pass on all of this knowledge floating around in your head.  As a business person you are also cognizant of the fact that the parent sitting in the room with you is paying for violin lessons and not spending every week discussing counterpoint.

The moment I first took on private students I was pretty adamant about spending at least some time teaching each student some sight reading.  It was something that none of my own private teachers ever spent much time on and, as an adult, I always felt was a resulting weakness of mine.  While I could read music on a basic level, things like key si…