The Happiest Most Joyful Thing You Can Do...

So I have several woodworking blogs that I enjoy reading. There is such a wealth of talent and information that people are willing to share at just the click of a button! 

I saw this posting the other day and see a lot of crossover to what we do as musicians. I just figured I’d pass it along…

I heard this quote from a radio program about craftsmanship. Grayson Perry is a British Turner Prize winning artist.

“A lot of young people are somehow put off struggle and difficulty. Boredom thresholds now because of the nature of entertainment, people are adrenalin addicted and I think that one of the big unspoken addictions in our society is adrenalin. We are addicted to drama, everything has to be exciting, black and white there’s no middle ground, we’re all being gradually pushed into this area where our attention span is that of a gnat. Difficulty, learning a skill that might take 10 years over 10,000 hours is something that frightens to death, when in fact when you attain that it is probably the happiest most joyful thing you can do”.

Grayson Perry BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed April 2008.

Followup on "A Helping Hand for Parents..."

With permission, I would like to post some thoughts that Niku (Erika and Audrey’s mother) had after reading Helping Parents Practice.

I guess the main thing that I took away from the book was that, from my kids’ perspective, I was being pretty negative. Even though I tried to give lots of praise during practice, there are always tons of things that I saw to “correct” and I think this was pretty exhausting for the girls, particularly Audrey. There is a method in the book where the parent gets three strikes before they have to remain quiet– each time I was frustrating Audrey with what I was saying or doing, she could turn over a card. After four cards I had to stay quiet. This helped me see what I was doing that was frustrating for her (not always what I thought it would be) and it gave her some control over our practices. We only did this a handful of times, but it really seemed to help. 
Besides that, here are some main things that I took away from the book:
  • The book says to just give the child one thing to focus on at a time, so now I hold my tongue on most mistakes and save my breath for the bigger issues. 
  • Make a mental note of mistakes the child is making and then praise when they don’t make the mistake, instead of criticizing  when they do.
  • Don’t jump in when they play the wrong note or interrupt in the middle of a song. This was a big one for Audrey. If she was struggling to remember the notes to a song I would sometimes jump in and help in. This really frustrated her (I found out with the card game) and she really did much better if I just gave her the space to figure it out herself.
  • I think another thing that helped me was what you said about things being cyclical and that sometimes you just have to give time for a particular phase to pass. I’m so glad that you talked with me and we stuck with it because Audrey really seems to love her cello again.

A Helping Hand for Parents...

It is a certainty that all students - and therefore all parents - go through rough patches in their studies. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when it will happen. The question then becomes how to deal with it and keep it from happening too often. 

There is a terrific book that I often recommend to parents who are having trouble with at-home practice. It is by Edmund Sprunger - a Suzuki teacher/Suzuki parent/psychotherapist. His background allows him to bring many different perspectives and levels of insight. It is a worthy read and would be a great addition to any family bookcase. 

I recently told a parent about it and they came back a few weeks later exclaiming that “it should be required reading for all parents - whether they have a Suzuki student or not!”

Home practice is almost always the thing that both parents and students struggle with the most. The good news is that you’re not alone. There are many resources available. Make sure to talk with other parents for their helpful hints. 

Most things in life worth pursuing can be a challenge at times…

The Role of a Suzuki Parent(s)

I was speaking on the phone with the mother of a potential new student the other day. It is difficult to cover all the pertinent info in a single conversation, but I try to cover as many bases and topics as possible while at the same time not overwhelming with too much verbiage…

One of the important things to talk about is the role of the parent(s) both during the lesson and at home. In a perfect world all students would have two parents/guardians who would each be performing a separate but equally important role in the student’s musical education. Obviously we don’t live in a perfect world and often there aren’t two adults involved in the process. As with all things, we still strive to do our best and keep on trucking with a smile. I will, however, outline here an “ideal” situation. 

Parent #1 - Home teacher


  • Take notes on what teacher says so concepts aren’t forgotten when you get home. If you do miss something, don’t worry - it will no doubt be reviewed in the future
  • Try to be a quiet observer. Do your best not to interrupt or give students direction - this is often confusing for the child as they don’t know who to follow
  • Try to hold questions until the end of the session to keep from interrupting the flow of the lesson. If it’s important, definitely ask right away, but if it can wait that is usually preferable.
  • Work to be an active observer. Students typically know whether a parent is involved/invested during a lesson and that can play a part in home practices. 


  • Smile! Students learn how to smile from their parents and a positive attitude goes a long way. 
  • Work in short, focused practices with your child. Remember that in the beginning we only need a few minutes a day. The important thing is consistency from day to day
  • Remember that the only job the child has is to be a child. You must lead the practice session and review concepts introduced during lessons. Be supportive and positive. 
  • Try to work with students at “smart” times. Home practices are typically the hardest thing for students and parents. We can set ourselves up for success by avoiding trying to work when students are: tired, hungry, upset, etc.
  • Keep practices positive. Get creative about ways to keep things positive and fun for students. They have a different perspective on learning their instrument. The good news is that young children love to learn! 
  • Remember that 90% of what we do every day should be review. If you are having trouble with the new concept of the week, focus on review - that’s often a good way to keep things positive. 
  • Don’t forget that the oak takes a long time to grow. If we want to build a strong foundation for the study of an instrument, keep in mind that it is a long process and each student is different. Some children need 3 steps to learn a new song, others need 20 steps for the same song. Dr. Suzuki said that all children can learn - it’s important to remember that every student CAN learn, but that every student is DIFFERENT and a UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL. 

Parent #2 - Cheerleader

  • Support and encourage your student and provide lots of motivation!
  • Support and encourage the home teacher! 

As students get older the job of the home teacher shifts to more of a note taker during lessons. Additionally, the student can start to take more responsibility over their home practice. 

There’s lots more to consider beyond this list, but it’s a start…

We R Classical and Jazz

For those who haven’t heard me speak of it in the past, we are so fortunate to have a local public radio station - 90.9 WRCJ - that supports classical music (and jazz). They play a wide variety of top notch music and have talented announcers and personalities that make listening fun. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the station I highly recommend that you do so. 

The station is currently doing one of their yearly fundraising drives. 

If you are currently a listener, you should think about becoming a contributing member. This is a public radio station and is supported largely by its members. There are no commercials and it exists solely to provide listening enjoyment - not to make money for stockholders. Please consider making a contribution! 

Happy listening…