As a former music major and Suzuki Violin teacher I often receive comments from the parents I work with that allude to an assumption that my life growing up was free from some of the challenges that contemporary families experience. I assure you that my family struggled with all the same things current families do. I had my mother write this article for my parent workshops to demonstrate the realities of my musical upbringing. I like sharing this because my life demonstrates that even with challenges of finding routine and committing to practice, I still made it through with flying colors.
What was difficult at first - The most difficult part was finding uninterrupted time for practice and listening. I had a 6 year old and a 2 year old as well as 4 year old Heather and all demanded my attention. I was also teaching a large group class of piano and clarinet students at my home at the time. I found it tough to find a routine and stick to it.
What was easy - The listening was easy for me because I loved to listen to music. I enjoyed group lessons and the opportunity to visit with and share ideas with other parents. I enjoyed private lessons because Heather had an excellent teacher and it was a joy to watch her teach.
What we got out of it - Group recitals were a great family time for us and we often celebrated with a cake, special meal, a new dress or a meal out. As Heather and her sister Alison, who followed on violin 2 years later, grew in their musical abilities they had the opportunity to play in various area ensembles and to socialize with a variety of children from other communities. Something positive, rather than something negative. All children crave attention and music gives them a way to seek it positively.
What I would have done differently - I would have made more of an effort to keep to a strict practice schedule. Too many times I agreed to do it later or maybe we can skip today and do extra practice tomorrow....not a good thing. I tried to do extra listening on those days.
How our lives would have been different without it - I cannot imagine a life without music in our home. Heather was an intense child and I remember one day out of frustration she threw her violin across the room. Thank heaven the living room had a thick carpet and the little violin survived! I learned that when she got frustrated, we would put the violin away for the day (or once for a week) and do more listening.
Summer institutes - One of our most enjoyable and productive activities was attending the American Suzuki institute in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. It was here that I first experienced the scope of the Suzuki movement. Heather and Alison enjoyed living in a dorm, eating in a college cafeteria and socializing with Suzuki children from all over the world. It was here that they were able to hear very advanced students and to see where they were headed. They came home inspired to work hard to get to the next book or that wonderful piece in Book 6 that they had heard performed. I too enjoyed the socialization with other parents with similar concerns and interests and learned a great deal from the parent classes.