Accepting Transfer Students

Jennifer said: Aug 19, 2011
Jennifer Vinciguerra
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Pikeville, NC
4 posts

Hello! I am just building my Suzuki violin studio and I am getting an assortment of transfer students from a local traditional teacher who has moved away. In fact, I actually took lessons from this traditional teacher about 10 years ago. She is very sweet and all of her students loved her. But I think some of the parents, and the former teacher as well, are concerned that the students’ reading skills will diminish by studying Suzuki violin. I’ve got a few questions about this:

  1. I know this (poor reading skills) is a common misconception about the Suzuki community, but I also know that it can sometimes be a truth depending on when and how reading is introduced. Do you have any suggestions on how I can integrate the transfer students into my studio so that they can benefit from the Suzuki philosophy while maintaining and developing their reading skills? Most of these students would be around a Suzuki Book 2 playing level.

  2. Also, when getting a transfer student, how do you decide where to start them out in the repertoire? If you were told that a student is about at a Book 2 level how would you begin? Or what if you have no idea what level they are, how do you decide where to start them? What would your first lesson with this student look like?

  3. I think if they come in at a Book 2 level that it would be great if they could learn the Book 1 pieces so they can more fully be part of the Suzuki community and participate at festivals and institutes, but I know many parents would consider this “going backwards.” How do you handle making sure they don’t feel left out at an event because they aren’t familiar with the “easy” repertoire, but also explain that learning easier pieces doesn’t mean they are going backwards?

  4. Any other advice on accepting transfer students is greatly appreciated!

Ruth Brons said: Aug 19, 2011
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

Jennifer, it sounds like you are well on your way to building your studio!

When I take on a transfer student, I usually play it both ways.
I may inch forward from where the student thinks he is, as well as, if necessary, whizzing him through from the beginning. Soon enough the gap closes and we are all caught up. I make it clear that the reason for the review is for our benefit as a learning team, or to benefit the program’s group lesson component, and not a personal reflection on the student’s ability. I might say the foundational review is because we need to establish mutual terminologies and technical understandings of early foundational pieces, as these naturally vary from teacher to teacher. And/or I might say that we need to get some early pieces worked through to support the more beginning players for an upcoming group concert.

Best Wishes,

Lori Bolt said: Aug 20, 2011
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

Jennifer—you are so wise to be addressing these issues as you begin your studio!

You will first and foremost need to educate the transfer parents. If you’re inheriting several students at once, a meeting of parents would be great. Present the basics of the Suzuki method and the Suzuki Triangle, explaining their new role in all this. Maybe view the “Nurtured by Love” DVD. Provide some reading to take home with them. Expect to spend future time clarifying and nurturing the parent in the Suzuki way.

I generally arrange a time when I can meet with a transfer student and the parent to view the books they were using and their most recent pieces. I ask that the students be ready to play for me from the traditional book. From there, I have a good idea of their level and ability. I explain that we will “take a vacation” from playing with the notes, and will work on learning pieces by listening. I emphasize listening to the CD to the parent. At the first lesson, I always begin the Twinkles—to introduce foundational techniques, tone, etc. A level one student would proceed through Book 1, the same with a Book 2 student (I like Ruth’s comments on this). I reintroduce regular reading assignments once I see that the Suzuki basics are becoming established in the student’s playing (up to that point we do reading games at lessons). I hope this helps! Best of luck ~

Lori Bolt

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