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Suzuki Triangle

Summary of a Parent Talk and Discussion, Santa Barbara Suzuki Summer Institute, presented and led by David Malvinni, Ph.D.

violin music lessons performance
Small string ensemble performance

In our Parent Talk on the Suzuki teaching philosophy we focused on the parent role in the Suzuki Triangle. Along with the teacher, the parent forms the other base of the Triangle supporting the student.

Here is a summary of what the parent provides: 1) a good place to practice, ideally a separate music room, but at least a consistent physical space for doing work a daily practice schedule, typically at the same time every day. With my kids we practice for one hour before school, and also for about an hour before bed time; 2) a monitoring of the student’s practice and their progress. This will vary with age and level; 3) for younger students, the parent is a practice partner. As the student progresses through the books, the parent can start to allow the student individual practice time, with the goal of complete independence. This is a process that will take some time.positive and encouraging words about the student’s playing and progress.

We then had a discussion about what the student should listen to. Most parents are well aware the student should be listening to their practice CDs on a daily basis. But what should they listen to beyond this? Here opinions diverge. Some let their kids listen to pop music, alternative rock, classic rock, and heavy metal. One parent related the point from a lecture that she recently attended that grunge music can actually do damage to the brain (see link to Pudewa below). Another parent talked about a recent study where the best drivers turned out to be alt rock listeners, not classical music ones as one might expect. And finally another parent talked about mirroring, where we prefer the type of music we listen to based on our familiarity with it. (Parents will be sending me sources for these studies, which I will post). Having witnessed the “Mozart effect” come and go, I remain skeptical about the connection of music listening and its alleged effects on the brain. I noted some recent articles about how the ‘80s metal scare—that the music would destroy a generation—turned out to be nothing other than media hype (I posted a link below).

Finally, David recommended Ed Sprunger’s books on how to practice (link below). He goes over in detail how to develop practice as a skill. For example, taking a small chunk of music that is a problem or too difficult, and playing it at a very slow tempo until it is understood. When it is playable and fixed, have the student play it at least five times in a row to make sure they have actually fixed it. This is one of the first steps on the road to good practicing, where the student does not simply play through the piece from beginning to end. The teacher will give spots and preview measures for the student to work on at home. This gives the students the concept of ownership, and is part of the way they will eventually become independent at practice.

Furthermore, the parent should recognize that practicing specific selections could result in a struggling situation as the student attempts to master a particularly troublesome spot. Sprunger continues by comparing practice to a circle. This process, in other words, can be indirect: we do not just do it and get it done (linear approach), but we constantly come back to it, in numerous practice sessions, circling around it and hopefully getting closer and closer to the solution.

Some useful links to the articles referenced above:

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