Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the parent commitment?

Usually one parent assumes the role of the "practicing parent” for the sake of continuity.  This parent attends both individual and group lessons.  During the individual lesson, the parent observes how the teacher works with the student, takes notes, and makes sure s/he understands and can implement the teacher’s instructions for home practice.  (The teacher’s job is to equip even musically untrained parents to do this.)  Parents participate in group lessons with the youngest students and act as an audience for older students’ group lessons.  At home, the parents play the reference recording daily.  This passive listening can happen in the background during cooking, mealtime, car trips, playtime, doing homework, bath time, story time, etc.  Finally, the parent acts as a coach or “home teacher” in facilitating daily home practice with the child.  

How much time do we need to spend practicing?

Good news:  at first you may only need to practice one minute day.  Really!  Getting started will be the hardest part.  If you can get started each day, do a few minutes of work, and then end the practice before the child has lost focus, you will make great progress.  Keeping practices brief keeps your child’s experience of practice positive, which makes getting started the next day easier.  As your child gets more and more invested in her own learning and starts to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of playing music, her practices will naturally lengthen.  For the first year, just practice getting started.

Help!  I have extensive/some/little/no musical training.  How am I supposed to be the home teacher?

Any parent can be a Suzuki parent.  You do not need previous musical training.  By the same token, even accomplished musicians do not automatically have the skills to be successful home teachers to their children.  At Breathe Suzuki Studio, we spend the first 8 weeks developing the skills parents will need to work successfully with their children. 

During the preparation period, the parent receives violin instruction during the individual lesson time.  At home, parents independently start to establish their practice and listening routine.  Beginning parents meet together each week at the group lesson time for a series of discussions and exercises designed to equip parents with the knowledge and skills that make Suzuki parenting easier.   We learn from each other and build a supportive community of adults.  When we shift our focus to the child after this preparatory period, parents are more confident, competent, and supported as home teachers.  Children are always eager to start their lessons at this point.  Even though they don’t know it, they have already learned a great deal from their parent’s example and from listening to the recording.   

How do we know if our three year old is ready? Is my six year old too old? 

The youngest students are ready when they have the ability and desire to cooperate with a teacher, even if their ability to focus is limited.  Consider whether napping or toileting needs will interfere with your child’s ability to cooperate in a lesson.  The advantage of starting with students as young as three is that they embrace repetitive play (a.k.a. practice), they love routine (such as daily practice), and their ears are as receptive as they will ever be.   The rate at which they learn new violin skills is sometimes dictated by motor skill development and may seem slow.  This gives them time to really master foundational skills, which speeds later progress.   For children under age 4 (including babies and toddlers), I highly recommend Suzuki Early Childhood Education classes.  These classes teach many of the foundational and behavioral skills necessary for success in instrument study...at a fraction of the cost.
5 minute SECE video
Local SECE classes


Older beginners (6+) have the advantage of more developed motor skills and longer focus, but may not take to repetition as willingly as a younger child, so parent and teacher may need to use extra creative means to motivate repetition.  Because they also may be more goal-oriented, older beginners may want to rush through important preparatory steps.  For the older beginner, it is especially important that the parent celebrates “process over product” and is committed to a careful, solid start on the instrument.

How do we choose a teacher?

The Suzuki Association of the Americas has great advice for parents on choosing a teacher, which you can read in full at http://suzukiassociation.org/teachers/choose/.   Basically, they recommend that you take the time to choose carefully.  The long-lasting relationships between parent, child, and teacher are the core of the Suzuki experience.   Locate a few teachers in your area using the Find a Teacher search and make arrangements to observe some of their lessons.  (Don't be shy; Suzuki teachers are used to this.)  In the words of the SAA:

  • When you attend the lessons of a prospective teacher, observe the relationships between teacher and child, and teacher and parent. Is the atmosphere pleasant and relaxed? Does the teacher expect and receive respectful attention? Is there a good balance between concentrated work and good humor? Are the teacher’s comments supportive and encouraging even when necessary corrections are made? Does the teacher show a grasp of the basic technical problems and demonstrate how they can be solved? Does the teacher make sure the parent understands the goals for home practice? To questions like these, add prerequisites important to you.
  • Look for loving care of the child coupled with high standards for every level of performance. Each child should be consistently challenged to produce the best of which s/he is capable. It is possible for this to be done in an atmosphere of love and encouragement, and this is the goal of teachers who follow Suzuki’s philosophy.

Ask teachers if they are members of the SAA, and about their training and experience.  Feel free to ask to speak with currently enrolled parents about their experiences with their teacher.

When and where do lessons take place?
In my studio, I see students for their individual lesson on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoons, and also for group lesson on Saturday mornings.  When you make an appointment to observe, I'll show you exactly what lesson times are available for future students.  I teach in my home in North Portland, near I-5 and Lombard Ave.  I'll provide the exact address when you make your appointment to observe. 

Where do we get a violin?

This is counterintuitive, but it is actually very important NOT to get a violin for yourself or for your child until your teacher gives you the go-ahead.  There are some postural habits and skills your teacher will want to develop before introducing the instrument.  This is partly for the safety of the violin and bow.   More importantly, it is to ensure that the student is forming the correct habits from the very beginning and to avoid remediation.  If a student has experimented with holding a violin before their lessons, they may resist being taught a new way.    

Like many other teachers, I use a “pre-violin” or box violin to teach proper instrument handling and posture.This is because it is much easier to focus on posture and balance when the temptation to make sound is removed.  Because of this advance preparation, when the student earns the real violin, it is a much-celebrated occasion signifying real accomplishment.  When the time comes, your teacher will measure your child to determine which size violin to get.

Ok, so then where do we get a violin?

David Kerr Violin Shop. (4451 SE 28th Ave.)  You can read about their rental program on their website: www.kerrviolins.com.   After an initial deposit, a high-quality violin rental will cost $30.00/month or less.  The first twelve months of rental fees can be applied to purchase if you choose to save money in the long run by buying an instrument and trading up to the next size as your child grows.  You may have noticed that cheap violins are available online or on Craigslist.  Please do not buy a cheap violin.  Most are low quality, and low quality violins are hard to play and hard to tune.  A high-quality violin will reward your efforts; a low-quality instrument will cause frustration.  Go to a real violin shop.

What supplies do we need to start lessons?

1. Suzuki Violin School Volume One (book and CD) Revised edition.  If you are studying at Breathe Suzuki Studio, you will also need the O'Connor Violin Method Volume One (book and CD).  Both are available at local music shops and at www.sharmusic.com.

2. Electric tuner.  Available as a smart phone app!

3.  A three-ring binder and tote bag for your materials

Optional:

Recordings of subsequent Suzuki Violin School Volumes, especially Volume 4

How much do lessons cost?

Each studio structures tuition differently.  In my studio, students receive two lessons each week—one individual lesson and one group lesson.  There are 43 instructional weeks each year, including 7 over the summer.  Yearly tuition is averaged into monthly payments.  Each month’s payment includes a fee, which is applied toward teaching supplies, administrative costs, and professional development.  A current tuition schedule is posted here.

I am one of several local teachers who accept scholarship students through the Musiclink Foundation.  More information at http://www.musiclinkfoundation.org/

We’re interested but not quite ready to start lessons.  What can we do in the meantime?

There are many advantages to being in this position.  You have time to observe and interview teachers, attend performances, and talk to other parents about their experiences.  When you decide on an instrument, be sure to get the recording and start listening to it often, even before your lessons start.  Listening early and often is the single most powerful step parents can take.

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