Being a Suzuki Parent and Suzuki Teacher, “The Ideal and The Real”
Hi, my name is Jeremy, and as of this writing, I’ve been a Suzuki teacher for about six years, a violin teacher off and on for another 3 or 4 years, and parent for the last three. I was drawn to teaching music not only because of my intense personal study, but because I have a clear vision for what is possible with children, a vision of immense possibility that includes but is certainly not limited to the study of music. Part of this vision called me to be a father. Professionally, even after getting a masters in Environmental Engineering, I am drawn to teach music. The special connection between me and my former teachers is one I will cherish for my lifetime, and one that I wanted to give to others. Perhaps if my graduate teacher had been remotely aware of Suzuki principles he would have been a better fit and kept me away from my current love!
Having kids has only further galvanized my belief of the wondrous intelligence that kids hold. They adapt completely to their environment. My oldest knows every quirk, verbal & emotional cue that I exhibit, intentionally or not, and she exerts her will to ensure I act to meet key needs. At points in the past, I tried to direct my partner and in-laws to act a certain way towards her. But I thankfully backed off quickly and now I get to see how she adapts to their quirks and cues. She fits into her environment, and draws out of it what she needs. She treats me like me, and my wife like her, and surely know that they can get more treats out of Grandma. And as a parent, probably like you if you’re reading this, you can relate to some part of this. We all love our children deeply and want them to succeed to the best of their abilities.
So, as a Suzuki teacher, you might think that I would know exactly what I’m going to do with my kids as it pertains to their musical study, right? Oi! I have applied all of my early childhood education experience to my daughters, and while I’m very proud about her development in general, questions remain. Sophie’s positive behaviors of paying attention, taking turns, respecting boundaries etc. are developing so well, but but ‘misbehaving’ remains sometimes (she is only just recently three). How do we choose an instrument? Does she even get a say in the matter? How do I judge if it’s the right time to start? What behaviors exactly does she need to do to ‘earn’ lessons? How do I know if what she is doing counts as checking off those boxes? Which teacher is right for her? How do I balance a teacher being a 15 minute longer drive, with feeling like they are a better fit? Am I ready to practice with her everyday? How am I going to make that work when it’s just me and my two kids? I always tell parents, ‘set up a routine’, but my 5 month old’s routine changes quickly, and I can’t expect her to compromise. :o) What exactly am I getting myself into!!
And then it dawned on me, as I am dealing with questions such as these, I am connected to a sea of questions that every parent of one of my students has at least dabbled in across the years. I have answered these questions in the past according to my training. This blog is born with the intent to share my journey with you, to help me distill and refine my thoughts on the matter for my teaching, and in that process, maybe some aspect of it will be of encouragement or helpful for you as a parent. I know from experience that the first year of being a practice partner is particularly difficult. Committing to stay through it for a whole year no matter what is important. But I have only known it from the teacher part of the Suzuki triangle. (And as an aside, I technically experienced it from the child side as well, although not for very long, and that story will have to be left for another day)
I want to cover many topics, including our experience with early music programs, my experience as a parent including my hopes, fears and joys, the aspects of growth that I have seen directly related to her musical study, and of course, the day to day challenges of practicing as they arise. Of course, every child, environment, and caregiver are unique, which means there is no one size fits all solution. I will try to bring my professional experience and training to bear on the issues, and highlight the spots of real vs ideal whenever possible. As a teacher, I essentially ask that parents step into a role of an ideal support person, and as a parent myself, I know that is a work in progress throughout. I hope to use this venue as a support system as well. I have a strong introverted side after all!
And I also would love to hear from anyone who reads this. Tell me about you. What would you like me to talk about? What questions do you grapple with as a parent?
Do you get 20-30 minutes of 1 on 1 time with each of your kids each day? Have you considered instrument lessons for your son or daughter? If so, what is a question you have had? How was the instrument chosen? Have you thought whether you might have to give something up to be able to ensure the success of your child?
Do you believe that the parent plays a vital role in the child’s intellectual and emotional development? Do you wonder about the actual benefits of playing an instrument? Do you agree with Shinichi Suzuki that ‘it is the duty of the parent to create the desire to learn in their children’?
Please feel free to post a comment, or send me a message with any comment or question. I would love to hear from you. Thank you.