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Principles of Sowing and Reaping for the Suzuki Parent: We Cannot Reap What We Do Not Sow

Perhaps no one told you how much work it is to be a Suzuki parent. Or, maybe you were informed, but only experience itself has clarified how long and arduous the journey is. It can feel like more than you bargained for, especially in the early stages of the Suzuki journey where so much time and energy is spent in the pre-twinkle process.

Maybe your child is past the early stages, but he is now experiencing a plateau. Your child was progressing well, and now it seems that he isn’t making progress.

How do we persevere through these challenges?

Seeds Won’t Sow Themselves

It seems archaic now, but imagine a farmer without fancy machinery, forced to sow the seeds in his
field by hand. It’s a lot of work. Maybe he has to sow the entire field on foot. Long days, exhausting, dirty work. He has to sow more seeds than you might imagine, because not all the seeds will take root. The farmer may even have a time crunch of getting seeds sown before it's too late in the season.

Much of what you do on a daily basis in practicing with your child is like sowing seeds. I find that parents are often frustrated by this. Because we live in a results driven society, we have almost become immune to the fact that some things are still old-fashioned.

Nothing can replace smart, consistent, hands-on practice in acquiring musical skill. Your job is not to look for the results. Your job is to sow the seeds. It’s a process.

Taking Shortcuts and Skimpy Sowing

Unfortunately, shortcut the sowing, scatter only a few seeds, and at harvest time, you will be disappointed.

There are times when I wish that I could bypass the sowing and just get to the harvest. At these times, I am tempted to skimp on sowing - the daily listening and practicing - and merely hope for the best. Skimpy sowing looks like not fully engaging in practice. It can look like a lack of diligence, a lack of repetition, or more subtly, a lack of attention and focus.

In contrast, bountiful sowing may take the form of experimenting with different kinds of practice, routines, and even games to engage your child. It looks like fully engaging in practice assignments. It involves employing one’s full attention to the task at hand, and doing enough repetitions that the body automatically and easily accomplishes the task.

Sowing isn’t fun. It’s dirty. It’s tiring. It doesn’t look like you did anything. When a farmer looks over a freshly sown field, it probably looks the same as it did before.

Sowing musical seeds with your child may feel the same way. Lots of effort without lots of tangible evidence. I sense the frustration from parents and can empathize. I experience this in my own musical learning process. A really productive practice session may feel mundane. Perhaps it was a lot more like getting dirty in the field.

It feels like work.

We Always Reap in a Different Season

Farmers know that if you don’t plant seeds, there will be no harvest at harvest time. That’s the discouraging news of the sowing and reaping principle. You have to sow in order to reap.

Sometimes, parents express their disappointment in a lack of results according to their timetable. Sometimes, they have been unwilling to do the right sowing or they have not done it long enough.

But more often than not, they are looking for the harvest in the same season that they sow.

You never reap in the same season that you sow.

Demanding Growth

If you are demanding results (harvest), you are going to be frustrated. The process of acquiring a skill is often not linear. Your child may need to practice 500 hundred bow holds before they can easily, efficiently, and comfortably hold the bow to make a good tone. They may need to do it 1000 times. That is a lot of sowing of bow holds. If you desire that your student be able to play artistically and with a beautiful tone in the future, they need that strong, supple bow hold. It’s worth the sowing.

Consider that your lesson times are primarily your teacher showing you and your child how to sow the right seeds for success that week. It’s the parents’ or older student’s primary job to sow those seeds at home. One lesson a week will not produce much musical skill. It’s the daily sowing over a long period of time that produces something amazing.

Robert Louis Stevenson insightfully concluded,

“I consider the success of my day based on the seeds I sow, not on the harvest that I reap.”

Can you identify the various and diverse seeds your child needs in order to harvest a fruitful musical experience? In what areas do you need to persevere in sowing and trust the process?

Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.

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.


  1. Seeds also need time to grow, when the farmer watches as the sky waters and the sun shines.


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