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Principles of Sowing and Reaping for the Suzuki Parent: 5 Steps to Beginning Suzuki Success by Preparing the Soil

Last school year, I started a group of 4-5 year old students in a pre-twinkle cello class. One mother actively ignited her daughter Ella’s interest in the cello before enrolling in the program. Over the course of a few months, she helped Ella prepare to engage in a new learning process. They observed lessons, listened to cello music, talked about the cello, and actively built Ella’s excitement - all before starting lessons.

This experience allowed me to see how much a parent can cultivate their child’s interest, motivation, and readiness. It gave me a new appreciation for the parents’ role in preparing young children for a positive Suzuki experience.

Here are five ways to prepare the soil to help your child succeed in a Suzuki experience.


1. Build Your Knowledge

Parents are integral to the success of the Suzuki process. If you start a young child in a Suzuki program, your role as a parent will be very active. Your knowledge and education about the Suzuki method and philosophy helps your child be more successful. Read about the philosophy and understand how and why your teacher does what he does. When you have captured this shared vision, you can work as a team to help your child succeed.

If your teacher requires you to attend parent introductory classes or read materials, she are not trying to make your life complicated. Your teacher wants to see you and your child succeed. Your teacher knows that if you take time to prepare for the experience, it makes a big difference.

Here are some resources to pursue:
2. Expose Your Child to Musical Environments

Many young children have an avid curiosity about music. Cultivate this curiosity. Let them see the artistry. Let them experience the joy of music. Whet the appetite.
  • Take your child to concerts. You can read about a mom’s trip to the symphony with her young daughters here
  • Let your child meet professional musicians
  • Expose him to instruments and classical music
  • Watch YouTube performances of great musicians
  • Check out classical music CD’s from your local library
  • Find the classical music radio station in your car
  • Watch other children playing instruments - modeling is powerful
We can’t love what we don’t know.

The mother in my studio who worked to cultivate her child’s interest told me that she was constantly playing cello YouTube recordings at home before they started lessons. She bought recordings of cello sonatas to play in the car on the way to preschool. One day in the car, her daughter exclaimed that the cello piece being played was going to be at her princess wedding!

3. Observe Lessons

Observing Suzuki lessons has many purposes. Some parents see this as a way to interview a teacher, which is important and valuable. It also allows your child a window into the process of acquiring musical skill. This can be especially useful to observe the same student over the course of couple of weeks of lessons. Does it take longer to master something than you might have thought? Observation also allows you and your child to see appropriate lesson expectations, etiquette, and how the studio runs.

Ella and her mom made the effort to observe 4 lessons before starting cello. Ella was very ready for “her turn!”

4. Listen to the Repertoire

Purchase the appropriate Suzuki CD volume 1. Even if you think you may start lessons in six months or a year or more, start listening to the songs. You are about to start learning a whole new language of music. Start listening to that language! Let your child fall in love with the songs and the sounds. This pays huge dividends later.

5. Heighten Anticipation

Parents can build anticipation and create motivation by how they talk about starting lessons. The respect that you demonstrate towards your teacher will be the model that your child follows. Consider how to share your excitement for the process. “I can’t wait for us to start our cello lessons! I am excited for us to learn together.” You can even prepare your child for some of the challenges, “I imagine that taking an instrument will be a lot like school - some parts you will love, and some parts may feel tricky.”

Rich Soil

Ultimately, a parent cannot control their child’s interest or force readiness. But a parent can influence their child and nurture a child’s musical curiosity. Actively cultivate the soil, and a child will have a more successful musical learning experience.

Taking these steps requires more time and work for the parent at the onset. It seems easier to just start lessons and not worry about these things. But be encouraged - the preparation will payoff.

Rich soil is the first step towards a rich harvest.

Consider how you can take an active role to enrich and cultivate the soil for your child’s musical experience.

What preparation will your child need in order to thrive? Leave a comment.

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.

Comments

  1. This is a superb guest blog! We got the chance to practice a lot of what Ms. Bowman preaches when my son was a little guy. We enrolled in just the weekly Kodaly classes offered by our local Suzuki violin program. Sam was almost 3 then, and we spent 10 months in it while we played the Book 1 CD in the car, etc. The benefit of a slow start helped me probably more than my son. Watching the Suzuki parents in Kodaly and around the studio (all group classes were on the same Wednesdays) gave me confidence I could be a Suzuki parent too! These gals were so humble and full of good humor about the journey. I feel the same way today - and my son is a high school sophomore currently preparing a Bach Partita and the Mendelssohn violin concerto for spring programs.

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    Replies
    1. Slow 'n steady always wins. I would have to say that's really the hardest thing about musical instruments is the lack of satisfying instant results. Everything is a gradual change. The most successful music students usually aren't "prodigies" but usually those that have fully immersed themselves in their studies.

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    2. Sara,

      Thanks for sharing your comments and thoughts. It's great to read about how beneficial the Kodaly classes and listening were to you and your son on your Suzuki journey. I agree that having the community of other Suzuki parents is so helpful for success. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

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