Holding the violin up for an entire hour—child abuse?


Connie Sunday said: Aug 1, 2011
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

Something odd and unusual occurred at the lesson of some children I’m teaching, just for about six weeks, while they visit their father here in my town. They live with their mother in another (much larger) city during the rest of the year.

Good kids, nice dad (a physician); kids are just starting, about 1/3 of the way through the first Suzuki book. But here’s the thing: they told me that their teacher made them hold their violins up, in playing position, for the entire hour of their lesson.

I don’t know how I feel about that. One of the first things I noticed about both of them when I started working with them last week, is that they hold the instrument up so beautifully. I’m not happy with the straight pinky on the bow hand (but am not able to get them to correct that, easily, despite installing a pinky pad and numerous gentle reminders.)

But is this not an odd thing, to require a 8 and an 11 year old to hold their instruments up throughout the entire lesson?? Teacher, a Dr. ___ in a large city, is Chinese and uses the Suzuki books as materials without really being a Suzuki teacher (as is so common, of course). But that does seem a little harsh to me. Not very Suzuki/Montessori oriented, shall we say??

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Patricia said: Aug 1, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

wow? sounds awful to me… but I do play games where students keep their violins up for 2—3 songs at a time? but not for the entire length of the lesson?

Irene said: Aug 1, 2011
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

I would definitely take my daughter out of the studio if her teacher makes her hold the violin up for an hour. i am sure she can hold the violin beautifully if she is train that way, but give her more time, she can still learn to hold the violin properly. what is the hurry? It doesn’t sound very balanced and fun to me.

Sara said: Aug 2, 2011
191 posts

I have heard Chinese violin lessons are really intense! Holding the violin for the entire hour would not surprise me coming from a Chinese teacher. One of my students lived in China for a very short time and her mother was shocked at not only what was expected in the lesson, but also the length of it.
They have a different approach which seems to work for them, but for us, seems harsh.
This reminds me of an article I read regarding Chinese mothers. Reading it may give you some insight into the culture and therefore the lessons of the culture.
Here is the link:

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Paula Bird said: Aug 5, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

It’s really hard to know for sure what goes on. If you only have the story from the young student, you may not be getting the whole picture. Many times a student has told me an interesting story, and the parent has quickly corrected the story to include the accurate details. The “hour” may only seem like an hour and may have been a shorter period of time. Hard to know without being there. I know that playing a 3.5 or 4 hour Mozart opera is difficult to do. I don’t think I could hold my arm up for an hour without a break. Just not physically possible, which is why I question the authenticity of your source. Now, if the parent told me that, hmmm.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Barb said: Aug 5, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Hmm.. Interesting question just crossed my mind. Does it take more to hold a violin arm up or a cello arm up? Or is it the same? And holding the violin up is different than holding the arm up, isn’t it? I mean, you can drop your arm while still holding the violin in playing position, right? Not that that is easy, especially for beginners. I know in my two years of violin lessons I didn’t find it easy to hold up without my arm. I know I had a really funky shoulder rest, though.

I hadn’t played a full concert program in a while, and last spring played Messiah again. The first thing I did was sit down and play it with a recording to look for the spots to polish. I found out how out of shape I was—just killed my left shoulder and back holding that arm up! Didn’t quite make it to the end. Thankfully in live performance there is a bit more break between movements and an intermission! It sure told me I should extend my practice sessions, though! :-) (I’ll pass on the Mozart operas!)

Back to the OP, I also would question the source. Another possibility would be that they made a game of it to see if they could hold their violins up the whole hour (not necessarily expecting or requiring it). But there are some teachers out there. A friend of mine in high school told me his teacher hit him (his hands?) with the bow. :shock: The article on Chinese mothers was enlightening. Thanks for sharing that, Tigerstar.

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Cynthia Faisst said: Aug 6, 2011
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

This is a reminder of how important it is to make sure the body of the violin does not extend past the elbow when the arm is reaching straight out from the shoulder. A good way to keep the angle at the elbow 90degrees or smaller when the fingers are in first position.

Our children are not walking as much or climbing as much as we did in our childhoods. We need to be creative about finding ways for them to use those muscles as their environments become more and more urban. Parents are working longer and longer hours and depending on child care services to make sure their children get enough physical activities. Unfortunately understaffed facilities do not have enough staff to supervise and find it easier to park children in front of a TV or PC.

I’m doing lots of research with my students to find ways to over come this with activities away from the instrument. They are doing quite a bit of warm up before practicing, especially if they have been away on a vacation from the instrument.

Ms. Cynthia
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
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