My students are as young as 4 years old. As they say, "You're rarely too young and never too old to twinkle!" Children are welcome to observe lessons and group classes until they demonstrate a readiness to begin formal instruction.
How do I know if my child is ready?
When your child can pay attention for 10 minutes or more, when your child can follow simple instructions, and when your child can communicate clearly, these are indicators that she may be ready for lessons. A desire to play the instrument or to make music are also very important, but if YOU have the desire for your child to play the violin, your enthusiasm can carry over to your child. Learning an instrument is like brushing our teeth. If we left it up to our children whether they would brush their teeth each morning and evening, they probably would not do it. As parents, we know the value and the positive long-term effects of brushing teeth, and we insist on it.
As a parent, what should I do to prepare for lessons?
The more you know about the Suzuki method, the better prepared you will be to help your child learn. Below is a suggested reading list. You do not need to read all of these before beginning lessons, but definitely read one of Dr. Suzuki's books before beginning. Some of these may be available at the public library; if not, they are available for purchase online or you may be able to borrow a copy from me:
Nurtured by Love by Shinichi SuzukiEspecially if your child is young, most of the responsibility for practicing and learning will fall to you. Make sure that there is a regular time in your schedule for private lessons, group lessons, daily practicing, and listening to the Suzuki repertoire.
Ability Development from Age Zero by Shinichi Suzuki
Teaching from the Balance Point by Edward Kreitman
To Learn With Love: A Companion for Suzuki Parents by William and Constance Starr
Helping Parents Practice: Ideas for Making it Easier by Edmund Sprunger
They’re Rarely Too Young and Never Too Old to Twinkle by Kay Slone
How long are private lessons? What are they like?
30 minutes is the typical lesson time for a beginner. I use games, singing, and movement to teach new students proper foot position, how to take a bow, the parts of the violin and bow, and how to hold the instrument and bow. As the students master holding the bow and the instrument, and as they learn the rhythms in the Twinkle Variations, they begin to place the bow on the string, to produce a beautiful, ringing tone, and how to control the bow with their bow arm. The next step is learning to bring the left hand to the violin. It often takes many months before the student is ready to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. When the student reaches that point, however, she will have mastered over one hundred essential skills for playing the violin and have a strong foundation on which to continue developing her playing ability.
Parents are expected to be present at every lesson and to take notes on the practice assignments. Parents should quietly take notes during the lesson and NOT give directions to the student. I am the teacher at the lesson. The parent is the teacher at home.
Why are group lessons so important?
Group lessons are an hour on Saturday morning at 9 and happen about twice per month. In group class, children have the opportunity to develop a peer group and experience positive peer pressure. They often learn as much from their peers as from the teacher because they are motivated by what they see their friends doing. In group classes, we practice the skills that help us to play the violin. We learn to play together as a group and to follow cues from a leader; we practice keeping a steady tempo and playing with piano accompaniment. We explore aspects of music such as matching pitches, imitating rhythms, finding the beat, developing critical listening skills, learning about great orchestral works and composers, intervals, note-reading, music theory. More advanced students also work on small-group ensembles. Everyone takes turns performing for each other.
Parents will sometimes observe the group lessons and sometimes meet in an adjoining room to discuss aspects of the Suzuki philosophy and practical applications.
Are there performances? What other activities does the studio do?
Yes! Every child is invited to participate each semester in a studio recital. We select the polished piece many weeks in advance and have practice recitals each week during the lesson. This helps to ensure that the students are prepared and minimizes recital jitters.
There are wonderful institutes and workshops that take place across the country each year, including Texas! In October 2017, we participated in a large group performance on Main Plaza. Stay tuned and watch the calendar for upcoming events!
Where do the lessons take place?
Instruction takes place at my home, near Loop 1604 and Hausman, in the Arbor at Rivermist. Group classes are at the Igo Library or my home.
I would like to join the studio. What should I do? What supplies will I need ?
If you have already read the website and this article at the SAA website, please contact me to discuss any questions you might have and to arrange lesson observations. All prospective students and parents are expected to observe several hours of group classes and private lessons. This provides a taste of my teaching style, as well as the opportunity for me to meet you and your child.
You should purchase the revised edition Suzuki Violin Book 1 recording and begin listening immediately. If you prefer to buy a CD, they are available online or at local retailers, along with the music book. You can purchase and download the recordings of revised book 2, revised book 3, revised book 4, and book 5.
You should also visit the website for the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Consider becoming a member. This website is an immense resource for you as a parent. There is a parent forum where you can converse with other Suzuki parents across the country. There are articles which will help you be a better "home teacher" to your child. Here you can find out about upcoming institutes and workshops.
Depending on the student's age and size, lessons may begin with a cardboard violin. Eventually, each student will need to rent or purchase a violin, bow, case, rosin, and shoulder pad. I strongly recommend renting an instrument first; however, if you are shopping for a violin, please take time to read this article by Laurie Niles, the editor of violinist.com, explaining why shopping for a violin by price alone is a big mistake, even (perhaps especially) for a beginner.
Parents of young children should be prepared to rent a full-size violin for a few months and to participate actively in private lessons until the parent is able to hold the violin, bow, and play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This parent education is immensely important, especially for younger students, as the parent will be the teacher at home.
There may be other supplies needed along the way, such as flash cards, a different shoulder rest, or sight-reading books. I will keep you informed as your student progresses.
How can I make the most of our lesson time?
Before coming to lessons, please feed your child a snack. Plan to arrive 5 minutes early to the lesson. This leaves time for your child to use the restroom, wash hands, and unpack the instrument quietly while the previous lesson is finished. Parents should bring their own instrument if they are participating in formal parent education; they should also bring a notebook and pen to take notes.
Come prepared! Practice every day. It is better to practice for just a few minutes every day and be consistent, than to practice for a longer period once or twice a week. Make sure that your child is listening to the Suzuki repertoire CD every day. Listen intensively to the current piece and next 2 pieces every day (I recommend a minimum of half an hour); listen to the whole CD once or twice a day.
I can't make it to the lesson today. Can I schedule a make-up lesson?
Whether you attend the lesson or not, I have reserved a time slot for you, a time slot which has not been offered to another student. I have arranged childcare for my own children. Because of this, make-up lessons are not offered. If I ever have to cancel a lesson, I will arrange for a make-up lesson or a lesson credit. If you are sick or out of town, you are welcome to have a lesson via Skype or Facetime during your regular lesson time. Please discuss this with me in advance.
What is your payment policy? How much do lessons cost?
Students pay for lessons in advance by the month on or before the 1st of the month. Semester tuition is broken into equal monthly payments or can be paid all at once. I accepts payments by cash, check, or online payment via Chase bank. Lessons will not be offered to anyone with an outstanding payment due.
Spring semester 2017 costs $700 and includes 18 30-minute private lessons, 10 Saturday group classes, and a solo recital for the studio. Tuition for students joining partway through the semester will be pro-rated.