When it comes to violin for kids, how can you tell if your investment and energy is worth it? Here, San Francisco, CA violin teacher Carol Beth L. shares her advice…
Parents and teachers want the best for their children and students. Both want to believe in their children’s potential. So do the children themselves. All groups want the child to be successful. But not all of them measure success in the same way. When children, parents, and teachers disagree on what it means to be successful – and how to reach that success within music lessons – it can cause conflict that impedes the child’s progress as he or she learns to play violin.
Keep Your Child’s Goals in Mind
The first step is to make sure you know what your goals are, and to ensure that the goals of the child, parent, and teacher are compatible. Success for a budding professional and for a casual amateur may look very different. Like your definition of success, your goals need not be identical with your child’s or your teacher’s – merely compatible.
Once you have set your goals, success is much easier to define. If your goals are lofty, however, be careful not to let it undermine your child’s lessons. Many violin teachers are familiar with parents for whom success means finishing one song and starting the next one really quickly. We realize that not all parents think this way. But for those that do like to go fast, not so fast. If it happens, it happens. But if it doesn’t, don’t rush.
Keep Your Expectations in Check
A few years ago, I taught a summer camp with a viola student who joined at the last minute. I only knew he was supposed to be a book two student by Suzuki standards. On the first day, I listened to each student play. He took out music for “Bourree,” which is indeed a book two piece in the Suzuki method. He prefaced his performance by saying, “I’m not very good at viola.” He was right, but it was not his fault. When he played, it was clear that he had been pushed to play music that was too difficult for him. He realized his true level, and became demotivated because he couldn’t play the songs he was being assigned.
Another summer, a violin student was considering coming to my area and was interested in continuing lessons. He had had three teachers over the course of two years. When the first teacher didn’t push him to go fast enough, the mother found him another teacher. Later, she had her son audition for an orchestra. The people auditioning gave an honest assessment of his level, and noted that he was missing some basic technique. Fortunately, the mother respected their opinions very much. Unfortunately, some damage had already been done. His third teacher asked him to redo some songs in order to pinpoint technical skills he had failed to learn previously. He became frustrated and bored, and he was no longer as motivated to practice. Pushing him forward so quickly with his second teacher undermined the child’s ability to do his best.
A student is much more likely to be successful if he or she does not rush, but advances steadily and solidly, learning each piece with precision and solving any problems along the way.
Make Sure FUN is Part of the Equation
Some parents and children also come in with the view that violin for kids should be fun. I agree. Fun and humor help students learn and assimilate information, and also stay motivated. At the same time, it should not come at the expense of being serious. And yes, it is definitely possible to be serious and have fun at the same time!
Using music to connect with others and make friends is a wonderful way to incorporate fun into music. As I grew up, my mother and her friends made a point to bring us young musicians together to play music. One of my college friends only takes her violin out when we meet to play duets – but loves it when we do. Many Suzuki teachers have group classes for their students in addition to private lessons, even as beginners. Local Suzuki teachers around the world also organize and host local summer institutes – week-long camps for violinists and other musicians ages 18 and under, again including beginners. For more advanced students, many cities have youth orchestras students can join.
Success looks slightly different for nearly every violin student out there, since the combination of goals and interests is different for everyone. Nevertheless, having a clear understanding of each party’s goals and the opportunities in your area will help you, your child, and your teacher know what success looks like. This in turn will help you measure the success of your child’s violin lessons.
Editor’s Note: Still looking for more info? Check out these video resources from the SmartMusic Blog, including tips for purchasing a string instrument and concert etiquette.
Carol Beth L. teaches viola and violin in San Francisco, CA. She currently plays viola in the San Francisco Civic Orchestra and has been teaching students since 2012. Learn more about Carol Beth here!
Photo by Scuddr