The Suzuki Association is having an online conference program called "Parents as Partners". I have just watched my first video and am very excited about all we can learn from these experienced teachers and parents. As a teacher I was able to sign up myself, and add 5 parents for free. I chose the parents of my youngest students. If there are others interested it is $45/individual for non SAA members, $25 for members. The deadline is 6:00 AM Monday morning if they don't fill up before that, so get moving if you want to join in!
How easy is this?
The first video is called "Listening Like a Maniac" by Michelle Horner. Listening is an integral part of the Suzuki method. Dr. Suzuki believed children could learn music the same way they learn to speak, by hearing the "mother tongue". So Suzuki includes CDs as well as books. (When I was learning violin I had to check out cassettes and a player from my school library!)
Michelle shares the story of her daughter and herself, who were doing all the Suzuki violin stuff, including listening to the CD, but progress was slow and frustrating. But then she learned a new idea about listening. She tried it with her daughter, and saw progress speed up. But it's not just about learning more songs faster. The process became smoother and more joyful. Then she introduced this new listening idea to her own guitar students. More success!
The kids (or other family members) don't always want to listen to the same song over and over and over (and over and over and over and over and over and over and over), but you really have to get the family on board. Think of it this way: it means fewer repetitions - full of mistakes - by your child. Michelle's daughter, who is now 14, also shares on this video and encourages parents to ask their kids, if they start to complain, if they want to go back to the slower learning? Putting the music on for listening has to be the parents' responsibility up to about age 12. Michelle's daughter at 14 is still a listening maniac, but now she takes this on by herself - she knows it works!
If you wanted to learn a new language, would you be able to do so by only listening to it for 15 minutes a day? Or only hearing the words - even if it is two hours worth - only once a day? Don't just listen to your CDs straight through; repeat the songs you are learning. Over and over - at least 10 times a day. Even if your children (or you, adult learners) are eating, or playing, or falling asleep, the repetition will eventually work the music into their (your) heads, and the music lessons can then be about technique, musicality, etc. and not just correcting notes.
My own experience
I was just talking about this last night with my husband. When I was about 19 [edit: I think it was actually closer to 22, now that I think about it] I had my first opportunity to play Handel's Messiah. Back up a bit. I first heard the Hallelujah Chorus performed when I was 11. I loved it, and asked for a recording of it for Christmas. That was my first LP. (You know, kids, those "really big CDs" which your parents have in the basement from years gone by.) Lo and behold, Messiah was a lot more than one chorus! My first LP, my ONLY LP. AND my sister and I received a turntable for our bedroom!! Yahoo!! It was listened to a LOT.
So, back to my first chance to PLAY Handel's Messiah. Most of it came pretty easily, but there was one aria which was a real bear. Why? Because it was one that was omitted on my recording! While all the other movements were familiar, as though I had been playing them a long time, this one was a total foreign language to me. It didn't help that it was full of accidentals (accidents waiting to happen!). I'll revisit that in another post. My point here is that just LISTENING made playing the rest of it so much easier.
So fast forward almost 30 years and I have another opportunity to play Handel's Messiah. (An unusually long period from most cellists' perspective!) This time, I pull out that same aria and it flows under my fingers. Yes, I should be a better player, and hopefully should have retained something from having played it before, but I really am convinced it's mostly because in the mean time we have a different recording (on CD) which has been listened to over the years, which includes "The People that Walked in Darkness".
Why not try it yourself?
So, students and parents, are you up for the CHALLENGE??? How about for the next week you listen to your current piece and the next two, at least 10 times in a row each day? Become a Listening MANIAC! Just see if you don't learn that piece faster than usual.