Article - On Individual Growth

by Marylou Roberts

Each child has an individual way of growing up in music, and many times as children grow older, things change: practice time competes with homework and the web, and a myriad of choices are ever present. It is important to keep this in mind, and allow children to come to music in their own unique and individual way, and to help them through learning a life balance. Periods of growth look different; when a child isn't outwardly progressing, a period of inner growth may be in progress. Now more than ever, children need our guidance and support. In Nurtured by Love, Dr. Suzuki uses an analogy of a tree. He notes that when a seed is first planted there is a period of growth that is not visible above the ground. If the environment is right, the sprout will grow. Finally, we see the little seedling protrude from the ground. We are excited to see the growth of the tree upward. What we don’t see, but what is equally important to the life of the tree, is the growth that is happening and continues to happen under the ground. There are periods when the tree doesn’t seem to be doing anything, but those may be periods when the tree is using all of its energy to help the roots grow stronger and deeper into the ground. The foundation must be able to support the upward (and even sideways) growth.

To take Suzuki’s analogy even further, for different people, upward growth happens on different branches of the tree. Growth happens on so many different levels, not only with playing and instrument (technique, note-reading, coordination, musicality, performance anxiety, music theory, etc.), but also in other areas of our lives (interpersonal, intra-personal, physical, mental, psychological, spiritual, etc.). Growth may not be happening on the branch you are watching. Growth may not even be happening upward, as roots might be forming, and some branches may be growing sideways.

A pine tree may reach maturity long before an oak tree does, but, given the proper environment, the oak ends up reaching maturity nonetheless. The pine and the oak each have their own form and beauty. The pine tree grows straight up and its form is neat, orderly and symmetrical. It never loses its leaves. The oak spreads out far, reaching every direction with its large crooked, asymmetrical branches, and it loses its leaves every fall. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the oak tree, or the pine tree. Each has its own beauty and purpose.

The environment is also never constant. Some years there is the perfect amount of rainfall and the tree grows rapidly. Other years, there is a drought, and the tree’s growth slows. Sometimes there are outside influences that affect the growth of students that have nothing to do with their abilities or lack thereof. There are times in people’s lives when they are not motivated. There are times when self consciousness comes into play, and times when external pressures inhibit growth. Quoted from the American Suzuki Journal, article by Susan Rickman

We as Suzuki teachers can help students grow by acknowledging their individual accomplishment, enjoyment, and encourage their identity in playing guitar. It’s an important time for honesty, perseverance at times, support at others, and guidance, always. As children grow up, more than ever they need to learn time management, with loving supportive parents by their side, pointing out a little growth here and there, and yes, sometimes being brave enough for a little pruning. Having a single bad lesson may be pivotal to growth, just as a little rain can make things better, just as much as sunshine. Just letting a pine tree be a pine tree, and letting an oak be an oak, enjoying every branch, twist and turn is all that is important. Next practice session, smile!