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Principles of Sowing and Reaping for the Suzuki Parent: There Are No Shortcuts in Musical Training

No Shortcuts

When it comes to developing musical skill, there are no shortcuts. There are longer roads than others.
For example, if a student learns a technique incorrectly, she then has to spend valuable time and energy to re-learn it later.

Working with a competent teacher can help determine the straightest path and avoid time-wasting detours. Yet conversely, the insatiable search for the perfect teacher often has the opposite effect. Rather than fast-tracking a student, constantly switching teachers produces a lack of continuity that can hinder a student’s progression.

Still, there are no real shortcuts.

In our world of instantaneous information and fast food, the reality of the time, effort, and patience required of a parent and student on a musical journey astounds us. Why does it take so much work? As much as we may try to fight the reality, musical competence requires thoughtful and deep practice. Cultivating a precise and complicated skill demands focused practice over a significant length of time. Journalist Daniel Coyle beautifully articulates this necessary process of acquiring skill in his book The Talent Code.

If you have studied a musical instrument or your child has, you know this uncomfortable reality first hand.

Could Music Lessons Be More Like Soccer?

Enrolling a child in Suzuki music lessons differs from participating in a beginning sports league. A kindergartener can do well in soccer with a practice and game a week. A child can even take a number of months off after the fall and still do well in a spring league. Daily practice is not required for a five year old soccer participant to have an average game.

But a music student will not do well with one lesson and one practice a week. Take a number of months off of lessons and practicing, and significant rebuilding is necessary. Small amounts of smart, daily practice and listening are required to facilitate average musical competence.

Whereas beginning soccer is measured in weekly work, beginning music requires daily work. Sometimes the dailiness music requires is almost painful.

The Daily Grind

I encounter this reality in two spheres of my life. First, as a cellist, I am faced with this daily practice reality as I continue to develop my skill and prepare for performances. I have days where I wish that it was magically easier to learn new music. I wish that I could play well without the constant grooming required.

Second, as a Suzuki teacher, I see more and more parents of students frustrated by this reality. They expect that less time should be required, and simultaneously expect faster results. Parents want to see the process paying off, and they want it more quickly.

Sometimes, a parent’s expectation disregards the daily, normal process of skill development.

More Like Sowing and Reaping

I propose that enrolling your child in a Suzuki program is much more like the long-term process of a farmer who sows seeds and then avidly and faithfully works to care for those plants. He waters, fertilizes, weeds, prunes, and tends the young plants. Then after many months, or in our case, after many years, the farmer looks for a golden, ripe harvest.

The principles of sowing and reaping can change your perspective as a parent and bring more joy into the musical journey. The following blog posts will explore how these principles could positively affect your Suzuki experience.

Guest post written by Kathleen Bowman.  Kathleen is a performer and Suzuki cello teacher based in Saratoga Springs, NY.  You can find out more about her on her website.  

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