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A Violinist Parents’ Education

How far should a parent guide their child when it comes to playing instruments? My daughter recently performed at Carnegie Hall with seven hundred forty-six Suzuki violinists and while I sat listening to them play, I pondered over the idea of how much commitment it took to perform in front of two thousand people. My daughter started playing Suzuki violin at age six. Back then, I thought six was too young to play an instrument, but in the world of Suzuki violin, six years old was old.

As a matter of fact, her violin teacher almost declined in taking her as a student because of the age factor. The process of being accepted as a student with this teacher consisted of a preliminary interview with a parent before meeting the child. It was from this preliminary interview where I was told that it was preferable to accept students as young as three and the cutoff was six. After the interview and meeting with Shaina, she was accepted as a Suzuki student.

For Suzuki violinists, there are key components needed to be successful in learning how to play. One factor is parent involvement. Parents are strongly encouraged to be involved, whether it’s listening while your child is practicing, or learning how to play the violin as well, as a way to keep abreast of what your child learns. My capacity to keep up with my lessons only lasted for a few weeks, which amounted to about three songs. My husband lasted a while longer because he loved it. He had hoped to be able to play with our daughter by the time of her bat mitzvah next year, but unfortunately, he, too, had to quit due to his work schedule.

The most important factor is practice. Practice means differently for every person, but for Suzuki players, practice is paramount. One of the philosophies is practicing on the days that you eat, which is quite clever since eating is a daily necessity. Daily practice is not mandatory, but strongly encouraged so parents must commit to have their child practice. That commitment has not excluded its share of whines and complaints, but in the end, practice gets done.

In the five years that my daughter has been playing the violin, she has not missed a single day. Initially, the goal to practice daily was a welcome challenge for Shaina. Lately, as her time has become limited due to an increase in schoolwork and her desire to be more social has become attractive, practice has lessened its appeal.

Therein lies the question of how to go forward. As parents, we want our daughter to benefit from opportunities that may serve her in the future, but at what cost? Should the final decision be hers since it is her life that will be affected, not ours? We have always instilled the idea in her that once you make a commitment to do something, you have to honor that commitment.

To her credit, Shaina has not wavered from her daily practice as of this writing, but my husband and I know that the time may come when she will ultimately put down the violin and say, “I’m done”. Until then, I plan on continuing to be her biggest listener and supporter. That’s my take on this, what’s yours?

One Response to “A Violinist Parents’ Education”

  1. Amy says:

    My daughter started piano in first grade and did beautifully. Family and friends who teach piano lessons, but sadly don’t live close enough to us to be her teacher, commented on her apparent natural gift. Her second year of lessons getting her to practice became more difficult as she moved from the introductory book that seemed a breeze for her into pieces she had to think about and work at a bit. This school year presented something I never expected. Full out fits and major resistance to practice and lessons. It seemed like as soon as she had to actually work out a challenging piece and practice scales and it didn’t seem like fun, but work, interest was gone. I was committed to using this as a teachable moment about responsibility, working through challenges, stick-to-it-iveness, the value of a music education, etc. And then her attitude became worse and worse. Her father caved and canceled her lessons, causing a great deal of conflict in our family. And then I saw once the piano wasn’t a factor, unlike the peace my husband was hoping for, this attitude was then mapped onto other responsibilities. She learned bad behavior and I learned to stick with my gut and firmly guide her to keep her commitments and view hard work as valuable. And she’s going back to piano lessons.

  2. [...] A Violinist Parents' Education « The Pinay Perspective For Suzuki violinists there are key components needed to be successful in learning how to play. One factor is parent involvement. Parents are strongly encouraged to be involved, whether it's listening while your child [...]

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