Starting Suzuki Lessons

This page is intended for new parents who are thinking about starting Suzuki violin lessons with their young child.

Fall 2019 waitlist: My Suzuki program has space for new violin and viola students! I'm looking for younger beginners age 4-7 and am willing to meet with older students, too. For Alexander Technique and teenage/adult students who want occasional lessons, I schedule much more flexibly. Contact me for details!


What's involved?

You may be thinking about starting violin lessons with your young child. That's great! The Suzuki method is an investment in your child's education. It's a wonderful, intentional, and--at times--challenging way to spend time with your child. As a Suzuki parent, you'll attend individual lessons and supervise home practice until your child enters middle school. During later elementary and early middle school, I teach the child to work more and more independently. By middle school, they're playing at a high level, come to lessons alone, and practicing independently at home. And you won't be in it alone: you, the parent, will also be my student! I'll equip you with clear instructions, support you through difficult times, and help your child realize his or her potential.

How do we start taking Suzuki lessons?

First, peruse this website and decide whether I'm a good fit for you and your family. Be comfortable with the idea of making at least a year commitment to the program. Budget for tuition, an instrument, and a few materials. Think about your daily life. Do you have the bandwidth to turn on the Suzuki Book recordings daily? What about setting aside a time to practice with your child daily? Can you make it to lessons on time with a clear mind? If so, observe one or two lessons and talk with me. The first lesson is a parent orientation, then your child begins study!

What's a good age to start violin? How will I know if we're ready?

It depends. The real question here is: are you, the parent ready to take on this commitment? It's like getting a puppy! Your child asks over and over for a dog. "I'll feed and walk him every day!" they promise. Well, we all know what usually happens: parents of young children often take on the bulk of the responsibility and cost of raising a puppy, even if the children are really involved and eventually become competent, responsible dog owners themselves. Suzuki Violin is similar. Your child may be really excited to play music, but in the beginning years you will be 90% responsible for their success. Evaluate your family's unique situation and your motives for starting music. If your young child really loves music, but you're not ready for the structure of Suzuki, there are many wonderful programs such as Music Together that help develop pitch, rhythm, and a love of music. If you are from a home where both parents work demanding jobs and each day feels overwhelming, but you think you want to start your four-year-old on the violin because you heard they need to start young...you have some reflecting to do. Do you have bandwidth? Or would it be better to wait a few years, when they will be able to focus later in the day and learn more independently? Older beginners learn faster but are much less receptive to parental help. I've also started students as old as 10-12 quite successfully. There are many paths and I'm happy to discuss yours with you.

I'm not musical at all. Can I still be a successful Suzuki parent?

Absolutely! Remember, you're my student, too! My job is to meet you where you are and equip you to be a great home practice buddy and helper to your student. I provide you with very clear instructions and a user-friendly curriculum. I've had many wonderful students whose parents have no musical background -- they trust me completely and follow my instructions! If you do play the violin, please know that there are various ways to teach violin technique. To be successful, you need to trust in my approach, but you are more than welcome to ask questions and discuss things with me! Really, all you need is the time and energy to participate in the program, a willingness to learn and pay attention during lessons, and the love and patience necessary to help your child practice consistently. The method works!

Where do I get a violin?

Talk to me before getting a violin, if possible. Students age 5 and under start on a foam violin.

1. Renting. When you rent an instrument, the shop will often give you discounts and credit toward a future purchase. Thus, you're likely to stay with the same shop. **Please rent the nicest instrument possible from a violin-specific shop such as Sten Olsen Violins, Bischofberger Violins, or Kenmore Violins.

2. Buying and selling. Buying can be more economical, but then when your child outgrows the instrument, have to trade in or sell it. Beware Craigslist deals unless you really know stringed instruments - one or two repairs on a run-down instrument can set you back $250 or more pretty quickly. Local shops sell quality instruments and sometimes do trade-ins. Big catalog companies like Shar and Robertson also have good trade-in and rent to own programs.

DURING LESSONS

Arrive on time.

Arrive at your lesson a few minutes early so you can relax, wash hands, watch the end of the previous lesson, unpack, and be ready to go when it's your turn to start. Your child will be responsible for carrying his or her instrument and getting it out promptly.

What do I do during my child's lesson?

Suzuki parents are my students too! Your job during the lessons is to sit quietly, take notes, and watch the lesson carefully so you can replicate aspects of it during your home practice. Bring a tablet or phone with enough space for a short video or two - this will save you lots of time later when you're at home wondering "how do we do that, again?" I will include you in the lesson when necessary, and debrief with you to make sure you feel clear about how to practice. You can always email with questions.

Only ONE teacher during the lesson--in other words, please remain quiet during the lesson! Your child will learn best if there is only one adult teaching at a time. Let me do my job! I've taught hundreds of students and did a research study that involved reading subtle cues in students. I can tell when they're one or two tries away from getting something; often, I'll wait and give them a chance to work on it. Unfortunately, this is often the point where a well-meaning parent will interrupt with some instructions or comments for their child! Again, your child will learn best if you remain quiet and just observe. If I've just gone through a new or more complex topic, I'll often take a moment to turn to you and explain what we've done, or offer you the chance to photograph or film the new skill. And--I know that students often play it perfectly at home then it changes the moment they arrive at their lesson! I still think you're doing a fantastic job even if that happens! :)

Phones away. Please put your phone away during lessons. You may use it to take a video at the end, if needed.

Behavior expectations. I expect respectful behavior and an honest effort from all my students. I will deal with discipline issues during the lesson. I know it's frustrating if your child misbehaves, but please don't intervene unless I ask you to. Usually, I will take some time to observe and decide what to do, before acting. I may correct them immediately, or I may wait and see what they do if I give them some space or change activities. In the case of repeated difficult behavior, I'll talk to you outside the lesson and figure out how to proceed.

Challenges

Learning violin touches on all aspects of your life. Everyone struggles. Please tell me immediately if things become difficult for more than a week or two. You are not a failure at all if your child refuses to practice, or melts down when you ask them to do what I taught them! We will make adjustments and turn it into a learning experience. Often, small changes can make a big difference for a child.

PRACTICING

How much will I have to practice with my student?

All families practice daily for 20 minutes to start, and more as they advance. Practicing is like exercising regularly: sometimes it's enjoyable and satisfying, sometimes you just don't feel like starting, but usually you're glad you did it, and sometimes you just need to get through it. The rewards are tremendous if you're faithful. With regular practice and careful attention to my instructions, students enjoy the violin, improve every week, and play with beautiful sound and musicality. Conversely, students who do not practice make little progress, struggle to play, and wonder why the violin isn't fun. I ask you to report your practicing to me every week. If you practice 3 or fewer times in a given week, your lesson will be a review lesson and we will repeat the same assignment for the following week. If you consistently miss practice, we will discuss whether Suzuki violin lessons are a good fit for your family.

I didn't realize there would be so much technique and exercises involved with violin lessons. What's with that?

Violin is a complex instrument, involving asymmetrical, cross-body movements, with the two hands engaged in separate tasks. Further, there are no frets on the violin, meaning that intonation must be carefully practiced. The learning curve on violin is steep, so I break it into small steps for young beginners. Learning poor habits in the beginning can be extremely challenging to fix later. I know this first-hand from my own journey as a player. I have made it my personal mission to teach the most quality technique possible from the start.