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Music teacher for a 2-year old, Suzuki?

teacher young child violin

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#1 JessicaQ

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 14:30

My best friend is planning to start her daughter's music education. The girl is two and a half years old. The plan is for her to start formal violin lessons when she reaches the age of four. But we're looking at options of easier introductory music lessons for her before that time. Unfortunately I'm not normally around so cannot do much myself. My friend searched for local teachers and found that some Suzuki school teachers who'd take children at this young age.

I'm a little concerned with the Suzuki school to be honest, partly in the consideration that her teacher when she reaches the age to be admitted for proper lessons is unlikely to agree with the Suzuki approach. But I don't have any experience in teaching young children at all, hardly any experience in teaching.   

So I'm really looking for advices on music education for children at this age, and views on the Suzuki teaching. Are there other options for early stage music learning? And if we have to go for the Suzuki school, would the teachers be open to discuss and adapt the method?

Many thanks in advance.


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#2 BadStrad

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 15:35

Cyrilla might be able to advise on early years music games/activites/etc. I think she wrote/co-wrote the "Jolly Music" books.
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#3 randomsabreur

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 22:00

Musical steps is a fun preschool music franchise - singing is always unaccompanied and there's percussion instruments and movement to music. My 16 month old enjoys it but doesn't necessarily do what she's told...
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#4 elidatrading

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 21:48

Colourstrings have some preliminary music courses.


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#5 SingingPython

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 07:59

Ok I'll bite (Suzuki violinist here - trained / parent / trainee teacher).

 

Not all Suzuki teachers would take a child under 3 or 3.5, but one that would should be able to discuss how they work with the littlest ones, and how much experience they've had with that age group.  I would expect to be given the option of observing lessons (whether individual or group) - and recommend your friend takes that up.

 

I agree that at that age you want good fun general musicianship wherever you find it.  If your friend watches slightly older children's violin lessons and is happy with what she sees, then starting games that include hearing Suzuki repertoire would be ideal at that age, and potentially really help with starting real instrument lessons a short way down the track.

 

The thing I like best about Suzuki method teaching is that children are learning to produce music on an instrument, with a focus on the sound produced.  Not muddying the waters by presenting music as something on a piece of paper, that tells you what to do.  And not accepting that violin should sound horrible in the early stages (as I so often hear said!).

 

Properly trained Suzuki teachers will have a lot of relevant knowledge about child development, and understand in great detail what they are trying to achieve when teaching beginners.  That sort of training is not always easy to find elsewhere.

 

Personally I'd be recommending your friend find all sorts of music groups aimed at the right age group, visit them, and assess how her child responds as well as trusting her gut feeling about them, before deciding which ones to go for at this point.  And remember that what she has around at home, what music is playing at home, what they are singing, rhythm games, percussion work - is all fundamentally about developing music for her child.

 

Feel free to message me if you'd like to discuss anything in more detail.  (and you yourself, if you ever think you would like to get into teaching more - do look into Suzuki teacher training as an option!)


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#6 JessicaQ

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 14:13

Thanks so much for all your posts. We're contacting the groups to see if arrangements can be made for trial at least.

Singing Python, really thank you for offering a different perspective. When I started the thread I actually pondered a bit on whether to apologize to Suzuki teachers for what's implied. But on my part it's really more of a lack of knowledge than an aversion.

With the child, we actually already found a teacher for her, a renowned educator who taught my own teacher at the conservatory when he was little, both of them from Moscow. Problem is she doesn't admit pupils younger than the age of 4, and things are left as "come back in two years". To be totally honest, we've become a bit paranoid and worried about possible competition when the time comes.

I've just arranged for them to meet a teacher who's basically from the same school and is happy to provide some introductory tuition. I don't have much idea of what method/books she intends to use for the child and will probably have to discuss separately after their meeting.

I myself studied the (very ancient) Hohmann practical violin method along with all the horrid studies at young age, and the Suzuki repertoire was only included later as supplement. I know my teacher at the conservatory doesn't adopt the Suzuki school with young pupils but never discussed with him about the reasons. Personally I quite like how the repertoire is arranged progressively and of excellent choice, but am under an impression that it's suited for group or general music teaching. That's probably quite wrong from what you explained.

I must've been traumatized from childhood lessons I seem to have lost memories of how I learned things myself (lol, but seriously), and was completely baffled on the very few occasions when I had to teach a child. I'd certainly love to explore, that's if ever I persuade myself to teach, into a method that doesn't make music learning a torture for the child.  


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#7 Banjogirl

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 23:09

Why the violin? What if she hates it? It sounds a bit as if this child's whole life is being mapped out for her at a very early age. I know this is very much the way in some cultures but it doesn't feel as if it leaves much room for loving your instrument or frankly, for being a child.  It's admirable to want to give any child a musical education, but I'd be doing lots of singing (at the right pitch - not those awful baby classes where the leader pitches everything incredibly low and can't sing in tune), dancing, rhythm and percussion. My youngest could sing in tune before he could speak but I wasn't inclined to rush out and get him any kind of lessons at that point (age just one). Maybe I should have done, but it wouldn't have felt right. We sang together all the time and he went to ballet before he started the piano at six. There's no rush. A two year old needs to learn an awful lot of other things that are very important in life.


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#8 GMc

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Posted 23 December 2016 - 12:45

The most useful thing a 2 year old can have is a family who plays music at home then they naturally want to follow suit.    So pianists breed pianists and violinists breed violinists.  That is simply how it is.   There do seem to be Suzuki  families who keep all sizes of violins in the house and each toddler that comes along just falls into playing - and wants to as the sibs all do it.  In Suzuki a 2 year old often just ambles around with a cardboard violin at the group lessons then gets a real one at about 3 with short individual lessons and the groups.    There is a huge emphasis on posture and sound - so the individual lessons are vital.    Plus watching their sibs.   The repertoire is simply ingrained into them by their lifestyle.    I would be more worried about a Russian conservatoire teacher than Suzuki at this age - they would not have the social network side that Suzuki offers.    There are some ultra good violinists who started with Suzuki (and graduated at about age 10 going on to other non Suzuki teachers...) -  off the top of my head how about  Ray Chen and Grace Clifford?  I heard Grace the other day after a few years of study at Curtis - she is about 18 now and a really fine musician who found things in the Sibelius that I have never heard before despite having heard it 100s of times.  


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#9 JessicaQ

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 07:39

Actually I bought her a proper violin, 1/32 size or 1/16 I can't quite remember, a good size to last for a year or so anyway. The problem is the parents are not very musical and I'm not around as much. The lessons are starting after the holidays. So will see how it goes. But it's really good to expand my knowledge about the Suzuki school so I know there're options. 


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#10 linda.ff

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 11:35

My impression of the Suzuki method is almost all positive - my two daughters started at nearly-four and nearly-five.

 

The younger one lasted three years with it and then moved on to the cello; the older lasted four years and then went on to "mainstream" lessons - actually I taught her myself for one term, entered her for grade 1 in which she got a distinction, and decided I'd stop there as I had a 100% distinction rate as a violin teacher! and then we moved so she started lessons in school and only stopped at grade 5. The reason I took her out of the method was that she was becoming apathetic towards it, and not really improving her playing. She was going through the motions of what she knew she had to do, and if it wasn't perfect, well, she was doing it, what more could we ask? So I adopted the mantra "Stop playing the violin and start playing the music" - basically, it had to sound right - if you can make the best possible sound by using your nose and your toes, then use your nose and your toes, but you will probably get better results with careful placing of the left hand and much more attention and sensitivity with your bow arm.

 

The little one struggled with the method in some ways because she was, at that age, physically clumsy, and frustrated, since as her teacher said, she was about the most musically responsive pupil she'd had, but at the end of a whole year she had only just mastered the Twinkle variations, and it was another two years to graduate from book 1.

 

I realised that everyone finds their own time and manner to come ut of the Suzuki Method, but that in no way suggests that it's a bad thing - inevitably, though, it is a step towards further and more advanced study.In our group, the largest outside of london, with 58 when we were there, there were players who got into the National children's Orchestra and stayed with the method until about grade 7.

 

What I certainly found was that if you compared a Suzuki violinist with a more traditionally taught child at the same age, certainly up to about 8, the Suzuki player had not only better posture, but MUCH nicer tone and far better intonation. This was because the method was entirely based on listening in the early years and they had not been held back by having to try to read as well. Our teacher, who had been trained in Japan twice for a season at a time, said that in Japan they didn't start reading until they could play the Vivaldi concerto in A minor. She started them a little earlier because they were bound to find in Britain that they would be making music with children who had been taught in mainstream "reading" methods so they would need to read. She said that in her experience, after all the listening and the tactile experience, the reading came "all of a piece". 


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#11 GMc

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Posted 04 January 2017 - 10:49

I have always thought it was funny that the highly regimented Suzuki have no regime for reading music!! That is interesting to hear from the Japanese teacher.  I know that the highest level piano Suzuki teacher here teaches theory and reading relatively early but that the most experienced violin and cello ones leave it much later.  This is not popular with parents seeking scholarships to secondary school where they like to see some sight-reading and know that they will lead the way in orchestra.  I know a few very good young violinists in the lower state youth orchestras who have to be paired with someone who can read music but after they hear it once they seem to be able to do it immediately and in tune!


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#12 JessicaQ

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Posted 04 January 2017 - 13:46

When I asked for thoughts, the aversion to Suzuki school (as much as I didn't want to show) was mostly based on meeting the future teacher's likings rather than personal evaluation. But for discussion only and fully acknowledging that I have little knowledge of the Suzuki school philosophy and practice, in other words my ignorance, if any, my concerns would be firstly the repetitive listening to the simple music the child is playing, that I'd rather a child listen to a much greater variety of music, the proper works, but of course selective in terms of periods or composers (no Mahler for the very young), and secondly the lack of concentrated technical studies.

I'd be more inclined to let a child listen and learn to appreciate intonation, tone production and expression in larger structures, even if the immediate effect is not as good as listening to Twinkle Twinkle many times and imitating from it.

And there should be studies along the fun pieces (... Sevcik is one of those from early memories, not sure if correct though). I'd say 50:50. I guess lucky for children I'm not a teacher. I taught piano, but mainly used John Thompson's.

As to reading music, back in 2001 when I was still at conservatory taking music education course, researches suggested that it was not advisable for children to learn to read music before the age of 6 - 7, cognitive process reasons (music being another language). There may have been new development in the research. But personally I don't think young children really learn to read in the beginning. They memorise and it only looks like they are reading. But looking at the music reinforces it and in time they start to really read. Why not just let it happen? 


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#13 Banjogirl

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Posted 04 January 2017 - 17:29

You can't generalise. My six year old learnt to read music in about five minutes when he started the piano. If you make an analogy with learning a language then sooner rather than later would be advisable.


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#14 GMc

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Posted 05 January 2017 - 07:46

Some misconceptions here I suspect.   No one in Suzuki ever said you should not listen to a really wide range of music! They just want you in addition to daily hear a decent version of what you are playing so that you listen to yourself and notice when you are off the mark.  And Mahler 1 and 5 were favs of my children when young.

 

 As for studies that is pretty debatable too.   Very good way of turning off many youngsters entirely.   Suzuki contain their technical work within the repertoire...and you are meant to achieve real mastery of each bit.   I remember my DD playing in a masterclass at about 11 and the teacher praised her scale passages.   "how long do you work on your scales for each day?"   " I don't do scales at all...".  Short pause followed by "well maybe its better to learn them within the repertoire because yours are wonderful".  I would add that in harp you only have to master the pedals or levers to change key in scales - the finger patterns remain constant and transferable.  


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#15 linda.ff

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Posted 05 January 2017 - 14:02

I would add that in harp you only have to master the pedals or levers to change key in scales - the finger patterns remain constant and transferable.  

Yes, harp players, they don't know they're born...  :lol:

 

Seriously, I tell all my piano children about harp players, and explain that if they want to play in the key of G, they can't accidentally (pardon the pun) play F natural instead of F#, and that with a bit of practise, that is what piano players have to make their mind do - become like a harp.


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