This article will focus on two things: 1) students and parent reactions to attending a Suzuki Institute at Stevens Point, Wisconsin and 2) practice ideas from parents of UNI Suzuki School.
An American Suzuki Institute: Stevens Point, Wisconsin
The Suzuki Institute at Stevens Point, Wisconsin is a summer music experience that many of our families have come to value and plan for each summer. The institute is an opportunity of Suzuki students to receive concentrated lessons, individually and in groups. It provides motivation and reinforcement to student's normal study at home. As a parent, who has attended two institutes, it is an opportunity to see the Suzuki approach on a grand scale and to learn further skills to help our daughter. It also provides a situation where I can interact with many Suzuki parents. It is comforting to talk to parents from all over the country who share the same frustrations and joys that we experience in our Suzuki lives.
Every day at the Institute, there are opportunities to attend lectures and discussions. Therese sessions generally include discussion of Suzuki Philosophy7, parent-teacher communication, parent-child interaction, goal setting, cooperation no competition, making practice positive, early childhood development, working with teenagers and a wide variety of information related to instrumental techniques. For students, there are lengthy and spacious sidewalks for roller skating, skateboarding, and biking. The university has a pool that is open to the institute. The pool offered a welcome relief from last summer's heart.
The following reports are from several of our Suzuki families who attended the 1987 Suzuki Institute in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Judith (mom) and daughter
After attending American Suzuki Institute in Stevens Point for four consecutive summers, my daughter, age 10, and I are making plans to return for number five next August.
With at least three hours of class each day (four hours beginning with Book IV when reading is added), students make progress in five days that would take weeks to accomplish at home.
Besides lessons, there is a daily smorgasbord of faculty recitals, students' recitals and parent lectures from which to choose. Children delight in roller skating, skateboarding and biking on the UW campus with its miles of concrete sidewalks.
Although most families enjoy staying in the dorms, we look forward to spending the week in a motel with air conditioning and a swimming pool. Some families also commute from area campgrounds.
Before we attended our first institute, I assumed a child had to be some sort of musical prodigy to go to Stevens Point. But as her teacher assured us then, nothing could be further from the truth. Some families take their pre-twinklers to Stevens Point to begin their Suzuki training.
One piece of advice to parents enrolling a child in the institute-we have found that teachers in the B & C classes (group lessons) often play at least two pieces beyond the "most polished piece" for which the kids registered. It is something to consider when registering so your child doesn't have to sit down while the group works on a piece he or she hasn't yet reached.
A whole week to focus on violin without other distractions can really motivate a child and parent. We always come back home enthused and invigorated with plans to return next year!
Arlene (mom) and daughters
This was our first experience at the Stevens Point Suzuki Institute. Once we got over the shock of learning we had to carry our bags to the third floor dorm room, we were then able to settle in for what was to be a week of both work and pleasure.
Finding our way around campus was easy. Both enjoyed the many "dorm friends" they made. Their music schedule, while busy, still left time for skating and swimming.
Their music instructors came from a variety of backgrounds. One daughter was in group A teacher was Hiroko Driver from Japan. The other's group A teacher was Terry Durbin from Kentucky. The girls were presented with a variety of teaching techniques, preferences and personalities which gave the girls different perspectives on music. We attended faculty and student recitals.
Both daughters also participated in the "just for fun" Talent Show. The whole atmosphere around Stevens Point was one of music and motivation. The feeling was one of welcoming, caring and patience. If you were willing to learn and listen, there were those who were dedicated to teaching.
Annette (mom) and children (son and daughter)
Stevens Point was g great boost of motivation for me as a Suzuki parent. My kids worked hard three hours or more a day in classes. Between classes we'd stop by our favorite grove of pine trees to sit on a rock or bench and practice some more to prepare for the next class.
Scattered all about campus were other students practicing outside or in their dorm rooms. When we heard these wonderful sounds, we would stop and join in if we knew the piece. Those students who weren't practicing were on bikes, skates or skateboards toting instruments to classes. It sounds like a fairy tale, but it wasn't. We could also hear the parents of these students having the same problems we all do. Kids didn't always want to practice, go to class or carry their instruments.
The Institute ended with a grand concert. Our kids played with over 650 violinists that night, not counting the viola or cellos. There were probably around 1000 strings players at the institute that week.
Yes, there were a few five year olds playing in book 6 and beyond. But there were also 10 and 11 year olds in books 1 & 2. We were so proud that last night. The week of hard work and the years of hard work are all worth it!
Special additions from my children: Son-The teachers at Stevens Point taught me fun things. Daugher-I like it when we walked and played violin outside!
The following ideas on how to help keep practice time positive are from parents who attended a Suzuki School meeting in the school's early years.
At the beginning of each practice we set goals. I list them on a sheet of paper. It is our outline of what we will be practicing for that session. Sometimes I generate the practice list and then ask my child to order the list. This gives my child the feeling that they have a say in what they do. I am not always telling them what to do. This gives them a feeling of worth. At the end of a practice session a reward is given. This might be a sticker, small toy, or a token that can be used at a later time.
Routine is the key to our success. We practice in the morning before distraction can begin, even before breakfast. The children know that this is what we do. Practice is not an item of discussion. It is an expectation in this household. We also practice in the evening before TV viewing. We work to be positive all the time giving praise and encouragement. Giving Dad a recital is a good way to do review.
When my daughter doesn't "feel" like making music, sometimes we put on a recording and hum to it. I put so much feeling into my humming that she gets her instrument out and plays it the "right" way.
Words of wisdom: "Practice just your scales now. After dinner you can practice your other pieces. I know you are tired now, honey."
I can't play the instrument, and it makes her feel so proud of her skill when I ask her to show me how to finger something that she wants to play.
Fall, 1987 UNI Suzuki School publication