Friday, July 15, 2016

Life of a Suzuki Mom

It isn't like the good old days, where our parents will just drop us off at music class and they come back half an hour later and that is it. We are told to practice everyday and next week the routine is repeated. Parents pays the fees every month, we go for the ABRSM exams every year and we become their bragging rights.

That was back then when I was learning the piano. Somewhere along the lines I actually finished the whole programme with the certification to go with it. And my parents never knew what a Staccato was or Vivace means.

The Suzuki method is a world of difference. Having left the music world for so long, I thought the Suzuki method was something new. Apparently it's been around for 50 years. Which means it was around during when I stared my piano lessons.

The Suzuki method is an amazing music programme by Japanese Violinist Shinichi Suzuki (1898 - 1998) which came up in the mid - 20th century. He pioneered the Idea that pre - school aged children could learn to play the violin if the learning steps were small enough. Due to this young age, parental involvement is also required in the learning process. Parents are required to take notes, or in the case of Ayden's teacher, encouraged me to take a video of the lesson. He also welcomes the whole family including their siblings into the class too!

With Ayden almost a year into Book 1, I can see how their method is so effective and fun to learn. The method does not require the child to be able to read, but instead you learn it by singing the notes in number fingerings. Within the 1st month of learning, one would be able to play twinkle. And twinkle is the foundation to a Suzuki child's learning,  improvements on  techniques and proper holding and bowing. With every piece you learn something new. To play on 2 strings for example, to use the finger number 4, to play Staccato. They do etudes for petes  sake and it's made so easy! Ayden aced it in 2 weeks.

But with ANY child, practice didn't come easy. It was HARD to get him to practice. We fought, we argued, there were tears, I lost my temper on many occasions.  I thought to myself, I can't keep going like this, neither do I want him to give up. As biased as it sounds, I really think Ayden can succeed in it. I didn't want him to give up so easily when the going gets tough. He did started off really enjoying it. He didn't have objections going for classes compared to his swimming class.

So I trolled the net for solutions. I found loads of Suzuki mummy blogs with all having the same issues as me!

So I found a solution. Was not quite a straight forward one, but involved many gradual steps.

Ayden had grown too reliant on me when he practices. Yes it is understood that Suzuki kids are too young to practice on their own, but he came to a point where I have to read out the notes for him because he just won't look at the score.  It is also stressful for him when I  become impatient with him. So for this pain point,  I decided to sit outside the room, but within earshot, when he practices. So he is less dependent on me, puts effort into figuring where he had gone wrong, and near enough to shout for help when he is stuck. It is also less stressful for him because he does not have a mummy hovering him over every mistake. Works like a charm.

Next, I enrolled him into a group class. Ayden is a people's person, so he was thrilled that there are other boys his age learning the violin too. This did wonders in motivating him to practice and play well.

I play duets with him. Suzuki actually has a violin duet book that covers Book 1 to 3. Yes i also play the violin. I stopped at Grade 3 when i was at University but picked it up again when Ayden started his classes. I thought it would be fun to play with him. Ayden definitely got more motivated and excited when we play together. The piece sounds so much more musical and interesting.

Lastly, I introduced a bribe. He can only play his Ipad if he practice. His siblings does not get access to the Ipad either if Abang does not practice. This is the most magical method so far!

So with the above, I'm pleased to say that Ayden is practicing everyday,  reviewing from song number 12 right to twinkle. My instruction is two times each song. Best of all, he is able to practice without me. He stops to see where he did not get right. He starts the bar again that note right. And most of all, he actually enjoys it. He is able to explain to daddy ( according to daddy during one practice session, daddy was sitting with him while I was doing the dishes), which is his favourite song. Which song is a million times better than the other, that the twinkle that he is playing is a bit different from the twinkle we usually hear.

I really hope his enthusiasm lasts. Learning a musical has so many benefits. Besides musical appreciation, it also helps a child to:

- memorising information
- Develop resilience. Controlling inhibitions. Not give up when the going gets tough.
- Prolongs focus and attention

Cheers to us Suzuki moms.

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