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Review of Let's Play Violin

I was contacted by the company nSpireMe to conduct a review on a new app called "Let's Play Violin."  I'd like to preface that this review is coming from the perspective of a Suzuki teacher.  So the pros and cons that I go over will be from the viewpoint of that particular approach to teaching rather than, say, a teacher leading large school classes.

At first glance the app does a good job of conveying a cute, game-like quality to practicing.  There's a
a monkey that gives you helpful tips and a 90 second tutorial will give you all the basics you need to know.  I noticed that there was a built-in tuner so I decided to start with that.  Suzuki students generally start lessons at a very young age so the parents are the ones in charge of tuning the instrument for quite some time.  What I liked about the tuner was that it not only registered if the string was flat or sharp but also showed you which way to turn your tuners to fix it.  This would be extremely helpful f…
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Registration for the 2019 San Diego Suzuki Institute is now open!

Hard to believe that we are already in our third year!  Early bird registration is now open for SDSI's 2019 session.  This will be our biggest year yet with lots of new class options.

Here is a sneak preview for 2019 offerings:

+Every Child Can (ECC)
-introduction to Suzuki philosophy, prerequisite for all training

+Violin Unit 1 with Cathy Lee
-amazing chance to work with a world-class violin pedagogue

+Cello Unit 2 with Alice Ann O’Neill*
-one of the best in the cello biz
*Cello Unit 1 is being offered at LA Institute this year; timing is such that you can do both!

+Supplemental Viola repertoire for intermediate students with Elizabeth (Betsy) Steuen-Walker
-Betsy specializes in the rare field of viola pedagogy

+Teaching Alternative Styles—from improvisation to rock n’ roll—to Suzuki students with Avi Friedlander
-Avi is a highly sought-after clinician who integrates jazz/pop/rock into his classical Suzuki teaching

+Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Stage 1 with Danette Schuch*

The Illusion of Mastery

Dr. Molly Gebrian touched on a concept called "the illusion of mastery" in her Rethinking Genius interview.  Basically, it's what psychologists call it when you do something over and over again, giving yourself a false sense of mastery.

Wait... if you do something over and over again, shouldn't it be mastered?

Well, not always.

The true test of mastery is internalization.  If you're still having to follow the directions for how to make chicken, you haven't mastered chicken cooking.  Mastery means that you've cooked chicken so many times you're no longer worried about the basics.  It also means that you are confident enough in those basics that you are able to add extra elements with some degree of certainty.  For example, you know how the chicken should be cooked even after adding a sauce or extra seasoning.

In other words: you can complete the task under pressure.

The physical and psychological leap from the practice room to the stage is the biggest …

'Violins Of Hope': Strings of the Holocaust

A violin maker in Israel has spent more than two decades painstakingly amassing a tragic collection: instruments played by Jews during the Holocaust. He calls them "Violins of Hope," and they will be displayed for the first time in the United States, and featured in a series of upcoming concerts.

You can watch the complete video here:

San Diego Suzuki Institute 2018 Holiday Fundraiser

The Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA) is committed to Dr. Suzuki’s belief that every child can be educated and that high ability can be nurtured in every child. With this commitment in mind the SAA has designed a comprehensive Teacher Development Program to assist teachers in creating the best possible learning environment for their students, an environment that puts a priority on the development of fine character along with excellent ability and musicianship.

Training primarily occurs through summer institute programs such as SDSI. Teachers of all ages and backgrounds pay out-of-pocket to attend these training programs in an effort to increase the quality of education they can provide to students.

The proceeds from the purchase of a San Diego Suzuki Institute hoodie or cash donation will primarily go toward scholarship money for teachers in need of financial assistance as they make the effort to take this training.

To purchase a fundraiser hoodie, follow this link:

10 Years of Teaching

As of October of 2018 I have been teaching in an "official" capacity for ten years.  It's crazy to think about!  Honestly, I think I stopped counting after about six years.

However, it's fun for me to look back and reflect on how much has changed.  I started teaching out of my parents' house when I was fresh out of college.  At the time I was inexperienced with teaching and terrified that I would forever screw up the music careers of every little student that came to me in those early days.  But every teacher has to have guinea pigs, right?

At the end of every lesson I bow with my student and say "thank you for teaching me."  When they ask, I tell them that I say it too because the lessons go both ways.  I teach them the violin and they teach me how to teach.  Little kids think this is funny usually.  Silly teacher!  Adults don't need to learn anymore!

And now, ten years later, I'm teaching out of my own house pretty confident with students (but…

Minimalist Teaching

Teaching accessories are a slippery slope. Walk into any teaching store or browse through any specialty education website and it’s almost too easy to drop an entire year’s worth of income on supplies. It’s totally worth it if it makes the job easier for you and more fun for the students, right?


I’m always toying around (pun intended) with how much is too much when it comes to accessories. Like is that cute panda clip for the bow tip really necessary? Or can we get the same job done by only using the bow itself?

I tend to favor “simple” when it comes to teaching accessories. I dislike having to spend lesson time setting up some elaborate game. While these types of games can be effective, I can’t help but feel that more moving parts means more distraction. I want the students generally focused on their instruments and not which color of magic wand they are using.

Now this is not to say that I never use extra stuff during my private and group lessons. I just have a pre…