Monday, June 22, 2009

Extreme Violining

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I didn't make a return visit to the hospital due to Max's high fever, (It turned out to be an ear infection, just as I thought,) I didn't get carried off by a pack of rabid seagulls, get buried in a huge pile of dirty clothes, or check myself into the proverbial padded room due to the kids being out of school for the summer. I've just been a very bad blogger.

A bad blogger who, last Sunday, packed the van with three kids, a 1/8th size violin, and everything that we could possibly need for an entire week and then some, and headed to my mom's house for a week of fun at the Suzuki Institute.

I have a long history with this particular Institute. My first year there was 1999, working at the Summerhays Music booth. I had this job many years in a row, including one year when I was almost to pregnant to be anywhere, at at least one year when I had a nursing baby in tow. After I had had enough of selling rosin and music stands to harried moms and listening to 10,000 versions of Twinkle Twinkle played on every size violin, viola, cello and bass conceivable, I decided I wanted to do Suzuki teacher training. A year and five Suzuki books trained later, I did the responsible Suzuki parent/teacher thing and started bringing my own little violinist to Institute.

The point of the institute is to immerse the kids in music all day every day for a week straight. The younger kids have four classes that include private lessons and group classes, and the more advanced students add orchestra and chamber music. Because ISSI is one of the largest institutes anywhere, they are able to hire the best faculty from all over the world, and the teachers are amazing. You wouldn't think a 5 year old (or a 6,7,8 or 13 year old!) would enjoy a day full of violin, but the teachers do their best to make it entertaining, exciting and fun, and they do a really good job of it. The kids come away inspired- there's something about being surrounded by hundreds of other kids who are all doing the same thing you are doing that suddenly makes it much more fun. And the past two years I've been taking Abby, I've had as much fun as she has. I've enjoyed being able to observe teachers from all over the globe and refresh my teaching and my commitment to the Suzuki Philosophy.

This year, things were a little different. Since our big move in September, we live a little more than an hour away from where the Institute is held. So rather that drive and hour each way everyday, I decided to pack everyone up and move to my parent's house for the week. And while I can put Ashlynn in the on-site daycare for the week, Max is still very much attached to me.

After last week, I've decided that there is very little in the world that is more exhausting than hauling my 7 year old violinist all over the Suzuki Institute while trying to keep my 7 month old happy. This year, there was no observing other teachers to refresh my own teaching; there was only pacing up and down the halls of the high school trying to convince baby Max that it was ok to fall asleep despite the fact that he wasn't home in his bed, and that there were violins playing all the time.

Abby came away inspired. She loved her teachers- two from Sweden, one from Belgium, and others from all over the country. She learned Swedish fiddle tunes, she had a class in Dalcroze Eurythmics, and she got to walk the halls playing "Witches Dance." We saw old friends, crossed the campus back and forth to the daycare countless times, and heard amazing concerts.

And I came away very tired. I knew it was going to be an interesting week when we sat in the opening assembly, and I was trying to feed Max. Anytime anyone would clap, he would pop off leaving me exposed to anyone who happened to be looking my way. I decided then and there that if I didn't flash half the people at Institute that week, I would consider it a success.

Well, no one reported me for indecent exposure. Max slept occasionally, flirted with everyone he saw and doesn't seem any worse for wear. Abby got several compliments from her teachers, including one teacher from Santa Barbara, CA who observed her materclass lesson one day and told me that Abby was the best set up violinist she had seen the whole week of Institute. We hauled up and down the stairs carrying the stroller what seemes like 1000 times. Ashlynn did approximately 342 art projects in the daycare. Abby played about 9821 versions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And we are all very very happy to be home.

If I hear Twinkle Twinkle Variations one more time, it's not gonna be pretty.

Or maybe I'll just go to sleep.

The fiddle concert. Spotting your violinist in the masses becomes something like a game of "Where's Waldo?"

Goofing off while Abby is in class. I dare you to look at this picture without cracking a smile. He was giggling so hard at this point that he almost fell out of the stroller.

I'm realizing as I'm posting these pictures that I hardly have any pictures of Abby at institute. They're all of Max. Because everytime I thought to take a picture of Abby, Max was either fussing or dead asleep in my arms.

And this is what he thought of the concerts.


  1. I've said it before and I'll say it again - you are insane! Glad all is well.

  2. hehe - you're a good blogger, stace- and think of how long it took you to start! and we owe ourselves a girl's night out for making it thru with our sanity! :)

  3. Hello Stacy,
    I am so glad i found you blog, I was interestin in starting my son(20mths) on the violin. I live in las vegas and as you accurately predicted all of the traditional music teachers have declined to take my son on as a student.
    I was wondering if 20mth is too early, and if not do you have any suggestions as to where to look for a good suzuki teacher: here in vegas?

  4. You know, in my experience, 20 months is just way too young. Before a child is ready to start music lessons, they need to have an attention span long enough to follow simple directions, and the experience to listen to and follow instructions from someone other than a parent. Most 20 month olds (my son included!) are still in the middle of separation anxiety, and aren't able to follow instructions from a teacher. Plus, children that young just do not have the gross or fine motor control that the violin requires- they're just not developmentally ready for what it requires.

    In my experience, (and I've started more than my share of 3 year olds!) is that even 3 year olds are difficult and sometimes not ready to start formal lessons. I've had so much more success and lots less frustration starting 3 1/2 or 4 year olds than 3 year olds.

    Your best bet is to enroll your son in some kind of music class such as music together or kindermusik. I love Music Together, and can't speak highly enough of the good it does. It is very thorough, and does a fantastic job of preparing kids for music lessons. That combined with listening to lots of good music and exposing him to all kinds of music and movement will do a great job of preparing him for lessons.

    Good luck!


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