Start the new year off right with some wonderful suggestions for parents from the book Beyond the Music Lesson by Christine Goodner!
Be present. Mentally and physically, it’s easier to work with your child when you know what motivates them, how they learn, and exactly what they should be working on each week. When you are fully paying attention to your child during practice, you’re demonstrating a couple of really important things. First, that their work matters. You care, and are paying attention and listening to all the effort they’re putting into their playing. Secondly, you are demonstrating that playing an instrument well is a worthwhile skill that you’d like them to gain. Thirdly, by paying close attention, you are showing them that both of you are facing this together. You’re available to help them with whatever challenge they may face during this practice.
Practice daily. We aim to practice daily, not because it’s important whether or not your child touched their instrument on a specific day, but to show them the value of the grit and perseverance that practicing daily demonstrates. Students will also progress more quickly when they practice regularly, since physical skills take time and repetition to grow.
Listening leads to success. With a foreign language, students who haven’t been exposed to how it sounds will often have trouble with pronunciation. Likewise, with music, listening is the best path toward a fluent performance. If we expect children to create beautiful music, they must also hear beautiful music! Regular listening helps create a mental recording of the piece, and when students fully know how something should sound it’s much easier for them to recreate it.
Create a positive and supportive practice environment. You’ll have a much easier time getting your child to practice with you if they expect to receive praise, support, and encouragement throughout the interaction. Learning how to work with your child is important; practice will be much more successful if you can figure out how your child learns, and how they approach challenges. Once you know these things, you can support your child in a way that helps them succeed in any difficult situation, not just ones involving their instrument!
Be part of the Suzuki Community. Group classes and concerts, master classes, summer institutes - there are many ways to get involved. When your child is around other children who are growing and improving on their instrument, it provides them a huge motivation to practice and improve their own skills!
Focus on mastery, not speed. Successful families will make sure students are mastering their music and technical skills rather than rushing on to the next new piece. New things are fun and exciting, but real progress toward long-term goals comes from refining music we already know, making each piece more beautiful and polished. The number of songs in your child’s repertoire is not as important as how well they play them, so never skimp on review! Make sure your child truly knows all their pieces; this will develop their playing far more than half-knowing more songs.
Keep these ideals in mind as you and your child work toward a successful 2019!
- Shannon Jansma, published in the January 2019 issue of the Ann Arbor Suzuki Institute newsletter