How the Suzuki Method benefits the inner life of the student

I believe that when a parent successfully helps their child become personally powerful at something, their experience as a working partnership influences that child for the better.

There are two ways in which I believe this process is positive for a parent and a child: firstly, to successfully and sustainably help the child reach excellence in a given field, the parent has to be very attuned to their child; and secondly, the parent gives their child access to the habits by which they can become excellent in other fields. Both of these benefits can occur with a willing parent and a great teacher to guide the way.

In order to be attuned to a child, the caregiver must go beyond basic needs-- Are they fed, changed, washed, tired? Is their homework done?-- and go inwards, sensing their child's unique intricacies. This work of reading the child accurately requires great emotional intelligence on the part of the caregiver, but it is essential when the parent and child are in a working relationship in pursuit of excellence. If the striving that is required when reaching for excellence doesn't have a solid foundation, then it will topple once the pressure to strive is gone. Therefore, it is important that the parent provide this solid emotional foundation by being attuned to the child.

In Suzuki Violin lessons this attunement can take a variety of forms, for instance knowing through observation what kinds of work tire the child more or less, and distributing them in an artful way through the practice; deeply acknowledging the child's strengths while positively building on the weaknesses; compassionately being with the child through their struggles, instead of swooping in and anxiously fixing or berating.

When the parent is attuned, the child feels seen, heard and known for who they are, and they are also given the sense that “yes, I'm okay. I'm loveable and capable, just as I am.” The attuned parent doesn't dismiss mistakes and weaknesses, but instead sees the child as they are while simultaneously holding a vision, an openness, for what the child could flower into. Through experience after experience of the parent being attuned to the child, the child will eventually learn to hold the same vision for himself, with kindness and accountability, gentleness and tenacity. Thus, the foundation of sustainable striving, a healthy self-regard and a sterling work ethic is built first by the modeling of attunement by the parent. A final and substantial benefit of an attuned parent-child relationship is that the child's inborn curiosity and zest for learning are left intact, an inner furnace that propels the child forward through their studies.

The steps towards excellence in a given field have been very well documented by Dr. Suzuki, Daniel Coyle, Timothy Gallwey and others. A carefully planned hierarchy of skills, masterful modeling, encouragement and thoughtful critique, an “immersion” environment, a supportive group of peers – these are all essential components on the path to mastering a skill. The Suzuki Violin method has all of these components built in, and provides an accessible way for the parent and child to be exposed to the process of striving for excellence. A well-trained teacher will be able to articulate and highlight each of these components in their various forms, and might suggest how each component can be applied to another area of study, thereby benefiting the student and parent immensely.

The Suzuki teacher has a unique opportunity to guide the parent and child towards an attuned relationship, and to impart the awareness of the steps towards mastery. My most meaningful pursuit is to become a teacher who is experienced in the nuances of each of these areas, and guides her students with success.  I hope to help children and parents grow in their self-knowledge, and to help them trust that they have the skills to tackle whatever they wish.


October Update

I haven't posted in a while.   There's been a lot going on!

I've been building my bike at Community Cycles, through their Earn-A-Bike program.  I haven't ridden a bike in earnest since I was, um, 12?  And the last few times didn't go so well.  HOWEVER.  I feel very strongly that riding a bike is a better way to get most places than a car, and although not biomechanically as good for you as walking, it's still moving at least part of your body. 
I knew absolutely nothing about bicycle mechanics when I started; now I know a little.  And my bike is almost done! Hurrayyyyy.

In other news, I have been hired at both Parlando School for the Arts, located in Boulder, and Center for Musical Arts, located in Lafayette.  SO, if you're looking for violin lessons, feel free to contact them as well as me!

Lastly, I auditioned for and won a spot as a section violin at the Fort Collins Symphony!  The start of the audition was harrowing:  35 minutes from my time, I shut the door to my room with my belongings, go use the restroom, to find that the door to my room locked behind me when I come back.  I try all the keys to the facility three times  and none of them work.  I resort to singing my excerpts when the proctor proudly announces that she jammed the door open with her credit card.  (THANK YOU APRIL!)  What a crazy day.  At least I didn't have time to get nervous!

I hope to be more regular posting on this blog in the future.  I have a lot of topics that I want to discuss.  Feel free to leave any questions or thoughts in the comments below... what would you like to hear me talk about?  What's going on in your life and/or musical career?  I'd love to hear from you.

Suzuki Training 2013, Part II: Reflections on kindness

I fly into Minneapolis thinking that all those green, deciduous trees look like baby broccoli.  I remember when my parents would help me entertain thoughts of eating broccoli by standing them up on my plate to look like miniature trees; soon enough my imagination became swept up with the idea of baby trees, and I'd be excited to stand my broccoli up and peer at it before stuffing it in my mouth.  Apparently this whimsical view resurfaces when tired, and now the sleepy adult Kate looks at trees as broccoli and not the other way around.

These are the (very odd) thoughts that arise as I begin my travel to back to the East Coast.

My husband-- is it weird that I'm still excited to say that?-- and I have spent the past few weeks adjusting to arid-and-ruggedly-beautiful Colorado, and now I'm on my way to Connecticut, to celebrate my mother's birthday as well as complete Violin Book 3 Suzuki training

Those who have completed any sort of book training, or any other intensive professional seminar, know how simultaneously exciting and draining the experience is.  The teacher trainers and students are trying to squeeze SO MUCH LEARNING into such a small amount of time.  I often come home with a stack of index cards to process that's an inch thick - new teaching strategies, thoughts on the meaning of what I do, connections between subjects that I'd never made before.  It's a personal renewal.  It reminds me why I love music.   Watching students and teachers work together is a meditation.

When I walked into Book 1 training with Carrie Reuning-Hummel, my emotional reserves were decidedly desert-like.  I was burnt out from conservatory and the weird politics that always seem to accompany the setting.  I had spent a lot of time critiquing myself in destructive ways, and had basically backed myself into a corner, both violinistically and personally - I couldn't move or take an action, never mind practice!, without a shaming thought.  In brief, I had lost touch with my innate life force, that goodness that is ever-present within all beings.   Somehow despite my excellent start as a Suzuki-raised violinist, I'd lost my way.

My purpose for completing that Book 1 training was to simply have some tools in my mental kit for teaching young children.  I'd recently been hired at the International School of Music, and anticipated an onslaught of young beginners - at the time, this was completely out of my comfort zone!  SO, I showed up for some tips.  What I got in return for my attendance was a renewed hope, a glimmer of spontaneous movement. 

I saw teachers meeting the students where they were.  The student was never inherently "right" or "wrong", never to be judged; different scenarios were merely different starting places.  Every step was broken down into components, and implemented with strategies, that suited each individual child.  This was a teaching method that was compassionate and imaginative.

As I've kept coming back to book trainings, I feel so hopeful about this method as a way to teach children how to learn "productively" - to learn from a place that encourages staying in touch with their inner life and their unique imagination.  I hope that I can help to make the world a more loving place by teaching this way.  And I also know that as I "teach" myself and others this way, I will put a balm over what has passed, and open myself to the dewy possibility in every new bow stroke, every new moment.

Thank you for reading. 

A new place, a new look

We made it!  After a Suzuki teacher training, a wedding, 4 days of packing, 4 days of driving across 8 states and two weeks of settling in, we are finally beginning to call Colorado home.

All of this has come with a lot of stress, but a lot of hope also.  Excitement about the possibilities that lie ahead have given me energy to go out and keep exploring our neighborhood & Boulder, as well as improve my routines.  And, not the least of all, update my professional presences. 

There are still quite a few pages to be updated on this site, but I'm very satisfied with how it's looking overall.  See anything that needs to be changed, or doesn't quite look right?  Feel free to drop me a line through the Contact form.

Here and there

In other news, the Duo Tadema  site is up and running!  We plan on organizing a recital sometime this fall, so stay tuned.

Lastly, I'm *finally* getting on the social media bandwagon, and am figuring out how to post videos to Youtube.  Come visit my Youtube channel  and look at the new content.  I have also started a Flickr page - if you want a more informal peek into the, um, dazzling life of a violin performer and teacher (and what she does on her off-time), go ahead and check it out.

Thanks for sticking with me through this post.  Here's a wedding picture for you: 

We're happy!  And tired! 

We're happy!  And tired! 

Until later!

Manifesting a dream

Hello to everyone who visits this space! 

I haven’t given you much food for thought lately, have I?  Not at all.  I’ve still been grappling with the PERFECTIONISM MONSTER that I brought up in my last post.  In the meantime, I’ve learned a lot about that monster and reams about myself.

There’s been lots of teachingArtem and I have had hours of conversations about how to best help families learn how to play violin (or guitar in his case), and how to learn to love one another better.  There’s been a little performing.  Cooking: muffins, sauerkraut, molasses cornbread, YUM.  There’s been friendships revisited and friendships newly flourishing.  I’ve gotten my first-ever hobby – no, violin never was a hobby.  I’ve been growing into myself little by little, and learning how to savor each day and each moment.

And soon we’re getting married.

And after that, we’re moving to Colorado.

THAT’S A LOT OF STUFF, you say.  Yes, it really is!  Our heads are spinning with the details… but also with excitement.  We’ve known for a while that we felt vaguely dissatisfied with the fruits of our efforts here in Baltimore, and that we were seeking different life experiences than this place seemed to offer.  Or perhaps different experiences than this setting coaxes out of us.  (When I read this post by one of my favorite-favorite food bloggers, I just shouted “YES! YES! YES!” inside of myself until I was giddy.  I might have even yelled out loud… who knows??  Anyway, she captured my personal zeitgeist.)  

So, without writing my own manifesto, let’s just say that we jumped at the opportunity to move there when one arose.  We are looking forward to being closer to nature, to building less rush and more balance into our lives.  I’ve fixated on the idea of getting a dog and proudly walking with it around our imaginary neighborhood.  “It will be my therapist”, I think to myself.

All these feel-good actions I’ve taken, and will be taking, are bringing me to health.  And I hope to share this rejuvenation with my students and clients (many of whom I have yet to meet!) through the quality of interaction that I bring to every lesson and meeting.

In the meantime, this space will be sort of under construction.  I’ll be fleshing out some areas of the site, completely changing others.  Artem and I will be putting up a website for our duo, how exciting!  Stay tuned for these changes and more, and thank you for your patience as all of this comes to pass.

Love to all of you, and please know that I wish you well!