Alexandra Ostroff, one our Customer Service Leads, talks about her experience this past week at the Phoenix Phest Suzuki Teacher Training seminar. Alexandra is clearly developing into a talented teacher; what I love most about her blog post is how open she is to learning from those around her.
This past week I took some time away from my desk and returned to Phoenix Phest in Ypsilanti, MI to continue my education in teaching the Suzuki Method. This blog entry will share some of the highlights for me from this week’s institute.
The institute setting gives students, their parents and teacher, and the teacher trainers a week away from their regular lives to focus on music and learning. Being able to see the Suzuki student-teacher-parent triangle work in fast-motion was amazing. All parties on the triangle were so on board to improve their skills and become better players and people. One night after classes, a little girl and her father spent 2 hours together working on perfecting a skill from the assignment for that day. She came back the next day with that skill set in her tool-belt and a smile on her face, knowing that she had worked hard to own it. This was a great example of one of Dr. Suzuki’s statements that we discussed this week: “Knowledge plus 10,000 times equals ability.” Although the child had not made her 10,000 repetitions, she had accomplished a good chunk of them.
A great deal of time was spent on the importance of listening to the recording and continuing to teach the pieces in Book 2 by ear, as opposed to reading the notes from a page. This method of learning allows students to continue to focus on their playing posture and bow-hold as well as learning the names of the notes that they are playing.
If a child has done the appropriate amount of listening to the recording, he or she will figure out how to play the piece, with some guidance from the teacher. I was able to observe this in a group class setting with an ear training exercise. The teacher played a piece that neither child had heard before, and within about 15 minutes after singing the song back, and with several repetitions, the children were able to play the piece. The next day, they were able to play it as a round, reinforcing their knowledge of the piece. Seeing this in action was a good reminder of Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy that “every child can.” This being said, note-reading is not being put on a back-burner for these students. Time is set aside in home lessons to focus on learning to read note durations and pitches. This does not mean that the student will be reading the notes out of their Suzuki books. By continuing to learn by ear at this stage in their playing we (the Suzuki Triangle) are able to give the student the gift of comfort while playing the violin and the ease of getting around it. Knowing my weaknesses and seeing them as strengths in so many of these Suzuki players makes me want to strive to give my student this gift.
Another thing that I took away with me from this week of learning is to remember to let my students figure things out for themselves. Nancy reminded me of the importance in allowing the learner to find the answer to a question on their own. We as people are much more likely to internalize something that we figured out on our own as opposed to being told something over and over again. This technique will help students develop problem-solving skills to use in other facets of their life, and to learn that it’s okay to make a mistake. Ms. Jackson was a great teacher to observe; watching her, I was able to learn how to ask guided questions, when to give a little help, and how to keep a great poker face.
It was a pleasure to study the teaching points for Violin Book 2 and review the Suzuki teaching philosophy with Nancy Jackson again. Ms. Jackson’s ability to connect with both her students and their parents (and watching videos of what her students from home have accomplished) continues to inspire me to strive for excellence in my studio here in Ann Arbor.