2. Choose a teacher, compare programs
3. Registration and enrollment
4. Studio Orientation
5. Student's lessons begin




Choose a method
Is Suzuki a good fit--philosophically and practically--for your family?  Read more at the Suzuki Association of the Americas' website or my overview here.  Consider the extent of the parent commitment and your family's schedule.  If you have settled on the Suzuki method, you can search a directory of registered Suzuki teachers here.

Choose a teacher, compare programs
Interview and observe several teachers.  Ask about their credentials and experience working with children of your child's age.  I like this advice from 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 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."  While you are interviewing teachers, it is best to attend without your child so that you can give your full attention to the lesson and so that you can speak candidly with the teacher.  
About Teacher Meghan


Each teacher may structure his or her program differently.  Ask whether and how often group lessons are offered, whether any pre-lesson parent education is offered and what it covers.  Ask about the types and frequency of performance opportunities.  Consider whether enrollment is rolling or only open at certain times.  Of course, also ask about scheduling, tuition/fees and billing structure.
About Breathe Suzuki Studio

I encourage parents to bring the future student along to observe current students' lessons after they have chosen their teacher.  Think of these as unlimited free lessons.  Please also bring a book or other quiet activity for the child, so that the child can tune in and out as they please.  They will still take in a lot of information about the new teacher, new environment, new classmates, and what a lesson looks like.  At first, it may be difficult for your child to keep her voice and body quiet for the whole lesson.  That's normal.  When you notice your child reaching her limit, that's your cue to quietly slip out.  By doing so, you are respecting the student having the lesson, keeping the experience positive for your child, and teaching him a valuable lesson about appropriate behavior in the lesson.  

You may want to know before you observe whether a teacher even has availability that fits your schedule.  When a parent contacts me to set up an observation, I share a schedule with them that shows both my current lessons and the lesson times available to future students.


Registration and enrollment
I enroll beginning families in small groups several times throughout the year.  This allows several beginning parents to go through Studio Orientation as a cohort, which is more supportive, social, and efficient than if we were to cover the same material one-on-one.  The next opportunity to enroll is usually listed on my home page.  Transfer families may start any time.  Ideally, the practicing parent of a transfer student will participate in the next Studio Orientation course.  If that is not feasible, I will conduct Studio Orientation with that parent one-on-one.

A completed enrollment form and non-refundable registration fee of $50 are required to hold your spot in the next Studio Orientation.  We will finalize your lesson time based on the preferences you rank on your enrollment form.  You will also need to register online to access the web calendar and manage your account.  (You may make online payments via PayPal if you choose.)

If the next Studio Orientation class is several weeks or months away, here are some ideas to sustain and build your child's excitement about violin and to get a head start before formal lessons:
1. Again, observe current students' lessons with your child.  It bears repeating: think of these as unlimited free lessons!
2. Purchase your method books, which come with CDs, and start listening to them at home when your child is around.  At Breathe Suzuki Studio we use:
Suzuki Violin School revised edition Volume 1
O'Connor Method Violin Book 1

These can be found locally or online at Shar Music.
3. Attend community concerts, student performances, or any other live music.
4.  Are you ready to spend time with your child on a musical activity NOW?  Do you have access to a piano or keyboard?  Creative Ability Development is a wonderful curriculum developed by Alice Kay Kanack.  Though developed with string players in mind, the first book (for ages 2-5) actually uses a piano keyboard as its instrument so that young students can play musical games that exercise creativity without being slowed down by the technical challenges of stringed instruments.  Please note that CAD is not meant to teach piano technique, and in fact Kanack directs adult facilitators that the games are to be undertaken only in an atmosphere completely free from correction and critique of any kind. 
The first book (Musical Improvisation for Children) can be purchased here or at
 Shar Music.  Be sure that the adult facilitator reads the instructions before beginning with the student.  Even once a student has started violin lessons, some families like to use the CAD materials as a way for the non-practicing parent to engage in a musical activity with the student. 

Do not acquire a violin for your child until your teacher advises you to do so.  I know this is counterintuitive, but it is crucial in avoiding remediation later.  We will use a practice violin and practice bow first, which will save you a little in rental costs.

Studio Orientation
The first eight weeks of instruction are intended to help the beginning parent make a smooth and supported transition into the role of competent and confident practice coach. While beginning students do not begin formal lessons until week nine, they passively learn much during this period from their parents' example, including what practicing is, what they will do in their first lessons, and how to behave in a lesson.  They want to imitate their parent, and their excitement grows.  Detailed parent orientation sample syllabus available here.  

For transfer families, Studio Orientation is an opportunity to openly acknowledge and discuss the fact that transitioning between teachers is complicated and somewhat stressful, even when the change is voluntary, but especially when it is not.  Because of the interdependence implicit in the Suzuki Triangle (student-parent-teacher), student success is requires trust and open communication between parent and teacher, as well as a shared vision of our goals and priorities and a shared understanding of the processes by which they are achieved.  It is possible for two excellent teachers--even two excellent Suzuki teachers--to work in very different ways.  This is a time to share expectations and check assumptions.  I believe it is just as important to set aside a dedicated time for those important conversations with parents of transfer students as it is with parents of beginning students.

For the first eight weeks, instead of attending Saturday group lesson, new parents meet together without students for a series of discussions about the ins and outs of practicing with your child.  We use Ed Sprunger's Building Violin Skills as our text, which I provide.  Topics of discussion include Suzuki philosophy and pedagogy, instrument care and tuning, motivating your child, fostering cooperation, lesson etiquette, making home practices fun and efficient, understanding musical terminology and notation, and much more.  (View a sample syllabus here.)  New parents benefit from having a cohort of peers who become support system for each other.  Beginning parents also glean insight from the experienced parents of transfer students.  Transfer parents benefit from a chance to reflect on how their home practices might become even more effective.  After the eighth week, new students begin attending group lesson.

For beginning families: During our weekday individual lesson time, the parent and I work together first without the child on the physical skills needed to play the violin and to help someone else play the violin.  (I require parents to rent an instrument for themselves and learn some basic playing skills.)  After about 4 lessons without the child, we invite the child to the lesson as an observer.  This way the child can get used to the teacher and new environment without feeling on the spot.  They can see what will be expected of them by watching their parent have a lesson.  

For transfer families:  We will use the first weekday individual lesson time for a one-on-one conversation without the student to discuss the transition.  Depending on specific circumstances, the student may begin his/her lessons as early as the following week.  The goal is to continue the student's individual instruction with minimal interruption.    

For Studio Orientation, the parent will need the following supplies:
three ring binder
Suzuki and O'Connor method books
tote bag for violin materials

(You will not need a violin at first because we will start with a practice violin and bow.  This saves you a little money on instrument rental.) 

Student's lessons begin!


After the beginning student has observed the parent's lesson for a few weeks, and if the student is ready, we start inviting the child to have a short lesson.  As the student’s comfort level and ability to focus grow, the student’s lesson time lengthens and the parent’s time shortens until the child consistently uses the whole lesson.

Your teacher will measure your child so you know what size violin to get when s/he is ready.

Once every three months (in lieu of group lesson), practicing parents and teacher gather without students for discussion and continuing education.