In our studio we have regular weekly private lessons, which can range in length from 20 or 30 minutes to 2 hours or more. The length of lessons depends on the student's age, readiness, maturity, the degree to which they can follow instructions, concentrate and focus, and of course, the level of their playing, the demands of their music, and any musical challenges before them.
Lessons take place every week that the Ann Arbor Schools are in session. Students are expected to prepare for and attend all their lessons. Consistency matters.
During vacation breaks during the school year, the studio is on break. Special lessons can be arranged during breaks if you wish or need and if Wendy is available.
Pre-Twinklers who are very young will have shorter lessons, with parents receiving instruction for the balance of the lesson time. Starting with pre-Twinkles, beginners have 30 minute lessons. Those beginners who exhibit greater maturity and readiness may have 45 minute lessons even in Book 1. By mid-Book 2 all students are expected to have a 45 minute lesson. By Book 3, some students are ready for an hour lesson depending on attention span and maturity. However, by Book 4 and higher all students have lessons of one hour duration, at least.
Consistent Mindful Practice = How to make progress!
Everyone can learn! But the pace at which students progress in their musical achievements on their instrument depends on how well many basic factors are met:
1) The preparation of the home environment* before lessons begin, and throughout the time of musical study. (*Very important, to be discussed at length later!) 2) The student learns to pay attention to the teacher, listen, respond, and participate fully during the lesson. 3) The careful observation by the parent of what the teacher is giving the child to learn during the lesson, and how the child is responding. 4) The notes the parent takes during lessons which are a valuable resource for use during the week's practice, creating a record of the student's progress. 5) The quality of parent and child teamwork** in home practice so that the parent becomes the home practice buddy, providing loving support and cheerful encouragement for the child. Be the non-critical cheering section! Don't teach; let the teacher teach! (** This topic is so important that we will spend time talking about it, on parents' nights. Stay tuned!) 6) The amount of time, the regularity and the quality of practice, best established when children are young! The parents are the primary partner to their child's home practice! Keep the mood positive, upbeat, fun, and loving. Never scolding, nagging, complaining.
Another crucial factor affecting learning is 7) Consistent listening! Listening takes maturity and develops musical depth and understanding! It allows for culture to be transmitted and for deep learning to take place. It includes - listening carefully to the teacher at the lesson, and to the music to be practiced. - listening respectfully to the parents, at all times at home and especially during practice times. - listening to the recording of the assigned piece and to the whole book, at least once every day each week. - listening to music already learned in past books. - listening to pieces yet to be assigned in the same book and in future books - "Special Listening" -- In addition to listening to their Suzuki pieces, my advancing students choose a piece from the violin repertoire outside of the Suzuki pieces. Each week they listen to a new piece, played by the world's great artists, found on their own, or with a parent's help, on YouTube, or Spotify, or other sources such as public libraries. More information will be provided on this later.
Part of preparing for each lesson, my students are to listen at home to their current pieces, and practice their assigned material for their lessons, including warm ups,scales, Tonalizations, etudes, future pieces, and review pieces.
At lessons, in addition to playing, we do fun stretches and posture work, move through the music, do rhythmic drumming, play games with thinking and lots of motion, read stories about music, and learn about the pieces being studied and the period in which they were written.
Through playing enjoyable musical games we also learn music theory, ear training, solfege, conducting, and composition, and we have fun learning the skills of improvisation.
Just how much, or how long, is it necessary to practice? How often? Dr. Suzuki said you should practice on every day that you eat! That means every day! But how long to practice? As a general rule, as you get more advanced, as long as you need to cover all the material you are to prepare.
But you mustn't exceed your concentration, or feel pain or burn-out. As a goal, at first, the length of a student's daily practice should equal the number of minutes of their lesson. For very young children, it might be less than the length of their lesson. It might be just 1 or 2 minutes!
Learning how to practice effectively is an art. It is a most important subject! It's part of what we learn to do in lessons., and it can take a long time to learn to do well. We must be patient with ourselves as we learn to practice; never hurrying, and never lagging behind, not scolding or feeling bad. Just trying to do our best!
Group classes are at the Studio most Tuesday evenings, between 6 - 7 pm.
At a typical group class we play music and exercises together. We also play different kinds of games that help support skills for playing music, learning to listen, and becoming better musicians. Through games, we have fun learning rhythms, developing tone, good intonation, varied dynamics, right and left hand techniques, posture, note reading, team playing, breathing, memorization skills, improvisation, ensemble repertoire, and exploring new musical ideas.
It's imperative to keep Tuesday evenings open !
We have 15 group classes each semester, two of which may be masterclasses in a different location and possibly at a different time.... Stay tuned!
There will also be special occasions on Tuesday evenings when we take part in seasonal events with the Ann Arbor Suzuki Institute. For these, we will meet at a different location, usually an Ann Arbor middle school. It will be announced. These may begin earlier (5:00 or 5:30) and can last until 6:30. Therefore, try to keep Tuesday evenings as open and available as possible throughout the year!
Each year we may have a number of Masterclasses, of one or two hours in duration. These might take place on a Tuesday evening or a Saturday morning, depending on availability of space. In a Masterclass, any student who's ready with their piece will have a chance to play, followed by constructive feedback and group work, and then the chance to play part of it again. We also do group work based on a technical or musical theme, and play musical games.
Sometimes we have a special guest for the second hour, who will make a presentation on a subject having to do with music, or violins, or bows, the physics of sound production, etc. It will be a specialist in an area of interest to us, who will make a presentation that will be fun and appealing, with learning for everyone of all ages, parents included! Stay tuned!
RECITALS and CONCERTS
Our studio class holds two recitals per year; one in the late fall, and the second in the spring. Everyone in the class is expected to participate, from the youngest to the oldest, including adult students! The dates of these recitals will be posted as soon as dates, venues, and accompanist are determined.
We also try to schedule community outreach events, which may include playing for the Gift of Arts at the University Hospital lobby, appearances at Briarwood Mall, farmers' markets or the Kerrytown Market, or playing for seniors at nursing homes, community centers, or other locations where there are people who can't easily get out to hear music played live.
Sharing our music in this way teaches caring and compassion, and builds noble character and beautiful hearts. And it means so much to those who are lucky to hear and see the children play.
From time to time throughout the concert season there are concerts by top violinists, violists or artists on other instruments, which would provide a valuable and enriching listening and learning experience for our studio members and families. These concerts may take place through the UMS (University Musical Society), or at the U of M School of Music. I might recommend my students attend with their parents, or we might attend as a group if I can receive a special group rate. I will keep you posted on such upcoming events!
SUMMER Lessons and Programs
I hold lessons during the summer during all weeks that I am in town. The span of time from mid-June until early September is a long time. While it's great to take a break, go to summer camp, go on vacation with your family, and relax a bit, summer also gives us plenty of time to continue to grow and develop in all ways, without the distraction of school homework, projects, exams, and pressure.
But it’s definitely not fun to get rusty or slip backwards in our playing over the long summer, and forget everything we’ve worked so hard to learn! Always strive to progress forward and upward!! You'll want to be playing your best in the fall when school starts up, and keep that good progress going forward.
I urge my students to take at least four lessons during the summer to hold their place for the fall, and to keep their technique and momentum developing.
Summer is also a great time to learn different kinds of music, to experiment, and just have fun. To make it exciting in the summer, it's a great time to explore different kinds of repertoire, and new types of techniques.
We've had courses in fiddling and chamber music, and have enjoyed music parties where we perform at restaurants for guests and our families, and then stay after to have some treats! We've held special events such as fiddling in the Mall, playing at the Saturday Kerrytown Farmers' Market, ice cream parties, and outdoor teddy bear and pizza concerts on blankets.