Sunday, December 28, 1997

Erin's Violin Blog 5

I've told Erin that when she is four we will start working at the violin again. (She turns four in less than two weeks.) I am committed to finding a way to make it work for us this time. We really have fizzled over the last three or four months. It's not that progress is at a standstill (though it is), it's that we haven't managed to establish a routine of daily practising.

I need to find ways to make this work. We find it very difficult to practice productively and agreeably. There is no routine of weekly lessons with some third party, no one of whom I can say "remember, your teacher said that we should practice this at least five times...won't she be happy to see how much better it is this week". All our regular interpersonal baggage gets mixed in with our music, and there is no "oasis" outside of our relationship where Erin can build her motivation, her confidence and her sense of independence.

Still, I believe I am doing this for the right reasons, and I am committed to making it work. I will make it work, I WILL make it work, I WILL MAKE IT WORK!

Saturday, December 13, 1997

Erin's Violin Blog 4

I am trying to completely re-think both my motivation and my approach in teaching Erin. If I were to give myself advice at this stage I would say:
  1. Remember that I am not primarily trying to teach the violin. I am trying to grow a capable confident human being with a good spirit.
  2. The most important thing learned in the first year is that it is normal to practise every day, that the violin is as much a part of life as brushing one's teeth.
  3. Pre-schoolers love repetition because it reaffirms their sense of mastery. They may regret mastering a task if it means they have to leave it behind and take on something new. Review old tasks not just because this consolidates learning, but because they enjoy the sense of competence. I think I push Erin too quickly to the next task once the first task seems okay. It must be frustrating for her to not get a chance to enjoy what she can do easily.
  4. The issue of control is important. Erin is at the age where she is learning to separate herself from me and assert her independance. (More on this ten years from now!) Without turning some constructive control of the lesson or practice over to the her, the only way she can assert herself is by refusing to cooperate ("I'm tired, I need a rest") or by intentionally doing a shoddy job. I need to find constructive ways of giving a sense of control to her.
  5. I need to remember that I am doing a fine job teaching my daughter, regardless of tangible progress on the instrument if I am continually and thoughtfully re-evaluating my relationship with her, enjoying the process of watching her learn, keeping the whole child in perspective, rather than just the music student, and learning from her in the process.

Friday, November 14, 1997

Erin's Violin Blog 3

It hasn't continued. I didn't realize how hard it was going to be to actually establish a routine of practising after the daily lessons (first at the institute, then with grandma) stopped. Erin has found daily practising with mom to be a big let-down after all the excitement and stimulation of the other children at the institute, and the bonus of grandma's annual visit. Practising is too much like work. She'd rather look at books or play on the computer or draw. I've grown tired of the tussle every day, trying to get her to practise. I tried really hard at first. I did everything I could to make practising fun and exciting. We took the violin on vacation with us and practised at campsites. I did my best to build the expectation of daily practise. But it has been so hard. And she resists so creatively. She really misses the peer-group exposure she had at the institute. I've almost given up. If I meet resistance, I just forget it. I think we'll have to make another fresh start. Maybe after Christmas. In the meantime, I just try to keep the violin part of our lives. We keep working on our bow-hold and violin-hold and left-hand positioning now and then. The tape still goes on every day. But I am frustrated.

Sunday, August 03, 1997

Erin's Violin Blog 2

Erin's grandma has been visiting, and she is a Suzuki violin teacher too, one with lots of experience and expertise. Erin has been having lessons with grandma, almost every day, and the enthusiasm built up during the institute has been running strong. She is learning to use her finger to play F-sharp and can now play the opening two measures of the first Twinkle variation. She is so pleased to be learning new things.

I hope the momentum continues.

Monday, July 21, 1997

Erin's Violin Blog 1

We have just returned from our first Suzuki Institute together. Erin is 3 and a half, and is playing on a tiny thirty-second-size violin (which is a little too small for her, but a sixteenth is still much too big). I am Miranda, her mother, a former Suzuki violin student and a part-time Suzuki teacher. Since we live in a remote community in the interior of British Columbia, Canada, if my children are going to get a Suzuki education, it's going to have to be me who provides it.

Erin has had this little violin for about a year now. She has scrubbed away on it as if it were a toy (gently, though) and we have casually worked on bow-hold and violin-hold and rhythm-recognition. She has been a quiet observer of many of the lessons I teach to other students, so she has absorbed a lot by osmosis. And we've been playing the Book 1 tape faithfully for a few months. But I sensed the need to officially start our teaching/learning routine, so an institute seemed like a good place to begin.

The institute we attended (the only one in British Columbia) was a tiny one, about 5 hours' drive from where we live. There were about thirty students, two faculty, and the students were mostly Books 1 and 2, ages 4 to 10. There was a group of four pre-Twinklers there this year, which gave Erin a nice cohort of peers. She was very shy for the first two or three days, snuggling in my lap, occasionally offering out a bow-hand to show off a bow-hold. But as the week progressed, she became a full participant in the pre-Twinkle group class activities, and at her last couple of master classes she actually played the first Twinkle rhythm on open E out loud for the teacher. At the final concert she enthusiastically took her place on stage with the other children and played her open string rhythms during the final Twinkles.

I feel as if we've really begun.