Friday, April 30, 2010

Confessions of a Suzuki Violin Teacher-Mom

First, a disclaimer.  If you are one of my violin students, or one of my students' parents, step away from the blog.  You don't want to read this.  I promise. 

All set?  Good.  Here goes.

Most of the time, I hate the practicing ritual with my daughter.  Almost daily, I wonder at the wisdom of giving an eight year old a $1000 wooden box with strings on it and expecting her to make music with it.  Especially at seven o'clock in the morning.  For an hour and a half. When she has the unfortunate luck of having a mom that is also a violin teacher.

Sometimes, I don't even like the violin.

And I am especially sick of Suzuki Violin Book 4.

Curse you Seitz and your double stops!  Curse you Vivaldi and your first movement with all the shifting, and your third movement with the blasted waterfalls that is impossible to memorize!  And my latest?  Curse you Bohm and your Perpetual Motion and all of you people in the International Suzuki Association who thought it was a good idea to add yet another piece to Book 4 that already takes an eternity to get through!!

Needless to say, I'm feeling a bit burnt out.

We're in a unique situation, Abby and I.    She's advanced for her age.  She can play quite brilliantly when she wants to.  But she's eight years old, and she's (very developmentally appropriately) starting to rebel and question everything I say, which makes practicing difficult.  Especially because I'm a violin teacher, and want everything to sound perfect.

Sometimes I have to pretend that I'm not the violin teacher, and ignore things that I would normally correct. 

Sometimes, like yesterday, I have to send her downstairs to practice by herself, and grit my teeth when she slops through everything.

Sometimes, (like today!) I have to force myself to put on a happy face about going to yet another concert, knowing that it's important to support her in what she's doing, because it's the concerts and the performances that she likes and feels successful after. 

So why do we do it?  (I've been asking myself that question a lot lately, so this is good for me.)

Because she is so talented.  It gives her an indentity and a peer group to participate in.  She's not very athletically inclined, but has found a home in violin.

Because it teaches her to be detail-oriented, and to set and acheive goals.

Because she really does love performing.  After concerts or rectitals, she is all smiles.  The knowledge that she feels proud of herself and successful at something that is really hard is worth the early mornings. 

Because someday, (hopefully sooner rather than later!) she will be able to go downstairs and practice all by herself and make actual progress because she wants to, and not because I'm breathing down her neck.  

So in the meantime, we'll keep plugging along.  We'll keep up with the scales, the metronome ticking along, and the memorization of the blessed Perpetual Motion.

And I'll keep propping my eyes open with toothpicks when the alarm rings at 6:10 am, and pray that summer vacation hurries up so we can practice at a more normal time of day.


  1. I'm so with you...only we're not in Book 4 yet. Somewhere in the middle of Book 3.

    I admire you for being up so early to help her. I need to do that. After school doesn't work well and I KNOW this. When we had school at 9:00 am, we did morning and it was so much better. I try to make her do her scales in the morning, but even that doesn't always happen. But we get up at 6:45. We could get up at 6:00 and have plenty of time. Hmmmm.

    I can't wait for summer, either. Unfortunately, her teacher takes a lot of time off in the summer.

    Anyway, do you know who Ed Sprunger is? He did a workshop for our Suzuki group in Cedar City a couple years ago, and I bought his book called "Helping Parents Practice"...excellent book. More psychology than anything, but even violin teachers (and voice teachers) and other perfectly capable musicians have a lot to learn about how to practice with their own offspring. Which reminds me, I haven't read it in a while and our practice sessions are pretty scary lately (as in lots of clashing and arguing going on), so maybe I'll pull it out to reread.

  2. Oh, and I forgot to say, all of the good that comes from doing this is worth it. You're right. And I needed the reminder. As if seeing my daughter cry in her lesson yesterday because I left her on her own in practice too much this last week weren't enough. I'm going to be the amazing practicing mom this week. :)

  3. Sometimes I say to my cellist son, "aren't you done now?" even when I know he isn't, because I need a break! We are only in book 2, but he enjoys it at least.

  4. Happy birthday, Stacy!!! May 1st is a great day for a birthday. Hope yours is filled with music, cake and happiness!!



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