Should my 11 year old daughter take a break

Karen Merry said: Jan 7, 2013
 1 posts

My daughter is 11 years old and has been playing since she was 8. She is just about to start book 3. She has not been very consistant with practicing and since she fractured her spine (fell off monkey bars) 3 months ago she has had very little inspiration to play at all. She took a break when it was most painful for about a month and she is completely healed now and is not in pain at all.

Getting her to practice has always been a chore. She is very strong willed and also quite the perfectionist. Her ear skills are amazing and she can listen to a piece and usually work it out on her own very easily. She will often be able to listen to a song on the radio and just automatically know how to play it. She is not very skilled at reading music, as she is very ear focused.

I have tried many different methods to get her to practice. She is now saying she doesn’t like the suzuki music and doesn’t want to play it. She is very into pop/rap music, which doesn’t always fit well with violin. I have tried to find music for her that she wants to play, but she is not at all inspired. I have suggested she find what she likes to play, but she is just not making the effort. She says she wants to consider this year, but frankly I don’t see the point if she is not enjoying it. I don’t want her to be put off music.

I have suggested to my daughter that she will need to play a little every day during the vacation if she wants to continue this year. Lessons start up again in Feb. So far she has played only twice in 4 days. She has no motivation to play. I would like some feedback on what to do.

Lindsay said: Jan 9, 2013
Lindsay LogsdonViolin
55 posts

I’ll tell you two stories—

I was a student much like your daughter. As a pre-teen and teen, I hated practicing. I didn’t like the music I was working on and wasn’t into it. My parents and I fought so often, with the threat of no more lessons always hanging in the air. The more pressure my parents put on me, the less I wanted to practice. HOWEVER, I loved my violin and I loved playing when I actually did it.

I’m glad my parents didn’t pull me out of lessons altogether, because as I emerged from the fog of adolescence, I dove into my violin playing with great enthusiasm. If I had stopped playing during those years, I would have had a lot of catching up to do. Even though I didn’t progress much from age 11-15, I was still playing (even if only a few times per week), and therefore not losing what I had already gained. I’m a teacher now ;)

My second story is about my oldest son. He’s 6 years old and resists just about everything, even things he loves. He started on violin at age 2.5, and by age 4 was totally resistant. He refused to play. I got tired of wasting my money on lessons, fighting with him at practice time, and feeling frustrated. So we dropped lessons altogether, and I was able to give my full attention to my daughter (also in violin lessons). After a cooling-off period, my son started Suzuki Piano lessons, and although he resists in his typical fashion, he actually loves playing piano and will practice after a bit of obligatory humming & hawing. He is progressing very well.

So, you have to feel out the situation. If your daughter actually does like her violin but is going through a phase of pre-teen disinterest, maybe stick with it so she still has all her skills when she emerges on the other side, but relax your expectations. On the other hand, if she really doesn’t want to play violin at all, let it go and try a different instrument. Good luck!

Lindsay—Violin teacher, homeschooling mama of four, small-time publisher

Barb said: Jan 9, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

I wonder if some of the key factors are that she took a break while she couldn’t practice, and that she is a perfectionist. It can be hard to “come back” after a break if it resulted in some lost skill, which likely it did. Possibly not to your ear, but if she can hear or feel it, it will be discouraging. And sometimes it’s just hard to get back in the swing of things just because we loose momentum of the regular schedule.

But there is that thing about music and what’s cool, and resistance to parents as the kids grow more independent, or more peer dependent.

Are there any music groups she could be part of with her violin and peers? We’ve had violinists in our local school’s jazz ensembles… Last year’s Parents as Partners had a presentation on the teen beat. Suggested getting a few friends together to jam—figure out some of the popular music they like to listen to.

I did a bit of that playing with the top 40 stuff as a teen, but mostly, playing in orchestras really turned me on to the classical side by the time I was 14.

My mom let me quit private violin lessons at 11—I promised I would still play at school (lessons just weren’t fun anymore as I started book 4 and more etudes, etc., and it was summer—I wanted a break from having to practice every day, by myself, inside, instead of being with friends outside). Then as it ended out I switched to cello, needed lessons to get started… I kept at it throughout my school years, took a couple years off after graduating, but eventually knew I HAD to play again. :-) I’ve even done a bit of fiddling on a violin.

Best wishes!

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Kiyoko said: Jan 23, 2013
 84 posts

The worst thing would be to force her and have her decide she is not going to play any more. If she likes pop music, there are a few pop violinists out there you might want suggest she look into for inspiration. She shouldn’t have a hard time finding them and it might be fun for her to look. My niece got hooked on playing the violin by listening to pop violinists.

Also, I have you thought of getting her an acoustic pick up or electric violin? She could even plug into Garage band pretty easily these days, I would think. I am not a teacher but I was a Suzuki violin kid and I hit a phase where I wanted to play other kinds of music too-improvisational contemporary when it was super new (a grad student at U of M got me started in a weekly workshop for youth orchestra students and I asked Kat Hernandez to join us) and improvisational blues with some friends. I used to drool over Fender electric violins and best thing for me then was when I got an acoustic pick up. I think I was fifteen when I found the outlets, but I had a growing interest much earlier. Ironically, it all helped me improve my classical training and enjoyment of classical too. It may not be the same with your daughter but it may find her a creative outlet to help her keep going.

Courtney Morgan said: Jan 27, 2013
Smithville, MO
9 posts

I stopped playing taking lessons for about three years between the ages of ten and thirteen. I love playing the violin, but I was strong willed then and still am. I honestly did not see the point in repetitively practicing throughout the week what I had already figured out a day or two after my lessons. For me, I believe it was the right choice. I might have come to resent the instrument and my parents if I had been forced to continue. When I picked it up again, I was able to brush up on all the basics in about a week and continue progressing from there. I was also old enough that my parents were no longer monitoring my practice, so it became because I wanted to not because I had to. There was also less competing for my time since my participation in my school’s orchestra meant there was less conflict between schoolwork and practice.

Now that I am older, I completely understand where my parents were coming from. They did not want to invest in my lessons if I was not playing outside of lessons and occasional performances. I think turning me lose and allowing me to play only what I wanted to play rather than always being pushed to improve helped me recapture the love of the violin that I had lost. I also now understand some things about my teacher that I did not understand then. I loved my first instructor. He was a very gifted violinist and he did nothing but encourage me. However, he also held me back more than he should have. I did a lot of repeating the same pieces over and over because my posture or tone were not perfect, and I got bored. I think my teacher could have found ways to correct those problems earlier in my education so that they didn’t become habits, and I also think that some of the things I didn’t do so well were due to maturity. He gave a lot of verbal instructions that I didn’t understand at ten. I didn’t know what the word “hesitate” meant, and I thought a “straight bow” was referring to the actual shape of my bow, and I couldn’t see anything wrong with my bow and didn’t understand how I was supposed to fix it.

I suppose my point is that there may be a deeper issue here with your daughter that she does not yet know how to articulate. Clearly she is very talented, so there has to be a reason she is not motivated to use that talent. If I were her instructor, I would try to get to the root of the problem, even if it meant having a parent-teacher-student conference in place of a lesson.

Kiyoko said: Jan 29, 2013
 84 posts

Courtney has a great point. What is it that your daughter enjoys about playing? Does she like playing in ensembles more than solo? What does she say when you ask why she wants to continue lessons if she isn’t practicing? Is it an issue of not wanting to play repetitively? Or procrastination? Is it that it’s a chore for you to get her to practice? I was strong willed too and I can remember countless times when I was just about to start practice on my own, my mom reminding me to practice. That would mentally set me back from wanting to practice. Does she feel her teacher is motivational for her? Is she bored because she isn’t feeling challenged? Is she avoiding practice because she is frustrated from bing overwhelmed?

If she broke her spine and is still healing, could she still need some time to recover? Some would consider 2 of 4 days motivated after breaking your spine. It must be hard to maintain good posture for any length of time if her back muscles have gotten out of practice. Is she in physical therapy? Can the physical therapist help with exercises to regain strength to help her play violin? When I was growing up, the one of the few times I ever got a break from playing violin was when I broke my left index finger. Breaking a finger on the violin hand definitely affects your endurance. I can’t imagine what it is like to play after a fractured spine, even if it no longer hurts.

Having a good ear can naturally make one less focused on reading music. I am this way, and didn’t read music well until my mid-teens. (My college mates used to laugh because I’d play metal music by ear on my violin along with them on their guitars.) With a naturally good ear and memory, it is that much harder to truly learn to read music, because after a few playthroughs you “know” how the piece should sound and “feel.” I finally learned to read music and sight read well with interval training from a non-Suzuki teacher. Interval training helped me correlated my ear and musical memory to the written note.

In the end, what matters to me most is the appreciation of music I now have and the enjoyment of the ability to play beautiful music.

I hope you find this helpful.

Maria Stefanova-Mar said: Mar 13, 2013
Albuquerque, NM
19 posts

11 is a difficult age. I see many of my students changing around that time. They need to re-focus their practice in a new way in order to keep it fresh. The previous posts provide some wonderful suggestions. I just have two things in mind.
Have you thought about having her join an orchestra? That could be a youth symphony or a school orchestra in your area? I have had students whose motivation has changed tremendously after they have a chance to play together with other peers their age. She will be in an environment with other students who are interested in music and practicing. The environment and the new social aspect can help your daughter’s motivation. This will also help her get better with note reading.
There are many summer camps where she could explore playing different types of music, including pop! Perhaps doing something like that will help your daughter see playing the violin in a new light.

Sidsel Anderson said: Mar 13, 2013
 1 posts

I played the flute when I was young, but when I hit 12 I wanted to quit. My music teacher tried to convince my mom not to let me quit. I was first chair and quite good. Unfortunately my mother let me quit and to this day I wish she hadn’t. If she could have helped me though those few years I’m certain I would have regained my senses. I have picked it up again now that both of my children are playing violin and am thoroughly enjoying it. Still wish my mother would have kept me going.

My girls are in their early years in elementary school and I’ve been talking with them about my own experience, hoping that when they reach that age I won’t have to battle with them and that they will understand why I won’t let them quit. They may end up resenting me, but I’m sure when they get older they will be grateful to have the ability to play music well.

How many people do you know who lament, “I wish I had learned an instrument when I was growing up!” We’re so afraid of our children “resenting” us, music, their instruments. If we apply some of the wonderful suggestions that many of you have made, surely they will get past any kind of resentment, especially as they get older.

Emily said: Sep 22, 2013
 59 posts

I personally think music education should be treated like any other subject. If my daughter asked to quit her music lessons, I would respond in the same way as if she asked to quit reading or math class- no way :)

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer

Imari said: Sep 24, 2013
7 posts

I had a similar problem when I was that age. I practiced, just not as much as I should have. Although I liked the music I was studying, I would occasionally get bored with practicing only classical music when I loved other kinds. My awesome teacher made me practice my ‘normal’ work but also helped me to play Disney music, non-classical duets with him, and both American and Celtic fiddling. I grew to love it so much that I stuck with my classical (and mixed) lessons with him, joined a youth orchestra within a year of starting violin, quickly started with a fiddle teacher and joined a fiddle group. I really enjoyed getting to study different types of music with all of my teachers, and my parents loved the musical diversity.

Now, I still play and love classical music, but I also enjoy playing pieces from contemporary musicals, rock songs, pop, country, worship and whatever else interests me because I learned both classical and fiddling skills when I was younger and didn’t feel limited to one genre (although I certainly got my share of classical training).

I also followed artists I loved, which, aside from a long list of non-violinists, included Joshua Bell and many others. Now, I also enjoy listening to Charlie Daniels, Cait Lin the Zambian electric violinist as well as Lindsey Stirling, , alongside my classical and other CDs. Although proper training and a good core repertoire is essential, there should be no limit to her learning opportunities just because of genre.

Realizing that she can still play violin and that those same principles can be used in other genres like her favorite artists (or maybe some of those I listed above) might be the key to regaining her interest. You might even be able to find a classical orchestra or even a fiddling teacher/group she could start with.


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