Notes from a Suzuki Mom: When the Student is the Teacher
Today, we're posting our first customer blog! And it's a charming, lovely story from Megan Crownholm in Germany about the frustrations and joys of being a Suzuki mom. If you'd like to contribute to our blog, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. A big thanks to Megan and her daughter for their insightful story!
Sometimes being a Suzuki parent is a humbling experience. And not just in a “Wow, every other five year old on Youtube is better than my daughter” way. In our post-"Twinkles" but pre-"Allegretto" days, I was a frustrated Suzuki mom. My daughter, who had always treated her preschool teachers with reverence, was a squirmy worm while practicing, talked back to her talented violin teacher, and threw tantrums during lessons. On lesson days with her teacher, she showcased none of the excellent playing skills that I had observed during our home practices.
One particularly challenging practice day, I found myself alternately holding my breath and exhaling noisily. It was not yoga breathing. Why couldn’t my daughter, who had played “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” so masterfully for three consecutive days, play the song straight through today? Despite the repetition in the song, she would jet through the opening line, and by the end of the song, she would collapse into tears. Finally, trying to mask my frustration, I said, “Here, I will play it for you on my violin.”
Although I was up against the double-whammy of being a new violin player and a new Suzuki mom, I felt confident that my modeling of how to correctly play the ending would solve the problem. As an elementary school teacher, I know the importance of modeling and have seen timid students find confidence in following my lead when approaching new math problems or struggling to find the main idea of a reading passage.
Buoyed by the idea that, though I was an inexperienced violinist, I was an experienced educator, I picked up my violin and started to play the song. After a few missed notes and some poorly hidden giggles from my daughter, I approached the last line of “Go Tell Aunt Rhody.” Without question, I was going to nail this. After all, the first and final lines of the song are nearly identical, so what could go wrong?
I’m sure that there is some clever word or phrase that describes what happens when your fingers simply won’t obey, much like being tongue-tied, and that word would precisely illustrate what happened to me that day. I could feel my frustration moving up my body, my face burning hot, but I was determined to persist. Just then, my daughter laid her small hand on my bow arm, stopping its movement.
“That’s okay, mama, that’s a tough part,” she said, smiling sweetly.
This time, my loud exhale actually served to relax me. I realized that playing the violin is hard and that some days you simply need to give yourself (and your child!) a break. Instead of insisting that my daughter tearfully plow on through “Go Tell Aunt Rhody,” as I might have done in previous weeks, we played a round of “my turn, your turn” with one of our old favorites, "Twinkles." And I never again took for granted that a piece was so easy that a five-year-old should be able to play it.