Student Unable to Participate in Group/Performances

Katherine said: May 3, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
75 posts

Another question!! I am starting a new student who is a 7th day adventist. He is unable to do anything other than church on Saturdays which means he will never participate in group lessons and will likely miss performances (and without attending group lessons I don’t see how he can perform with the ensemble anyway).

I strongly believe that group lessons are integral to the learning process.

Should I take this student on anyway, or should I suggest the parent find another teacher who will not expect at least some participation in Saturday group work?

I am not sure I am prepared to move group work to Sunday to accomodate him.

Thank you for any thoughts on this.

Phankao said: May 3, 2013
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

I am a Seventhday Adventist. Yeah, I’d just look for another teacher. Surely there are others.

Kelly Williamson said: May 3, 2013
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
248 posts

I had my group classes on Sunday afternoons because that was the only time that nobody had religious services in my diverse group. (Some of the Christian families did have extra church events in the afternoon as well as on the Sunday mornings, but it was not every week, so we were able to compromise.) It worked very nicely.

I guess it depends how established your group is, how unwelcome or inconvenient the change would be, and how much you’d like to include that kid. We used a church space for our concerts as well as our group classes, and when I had a very religious family who were uncomfortable with the big cross on the wall, I draped a sheet over it. I didn’t want anyone to feel excluded for religious reasons. But again, the group was quite diverse—at least a quarter of the students were Jewish (whether liberal or Orthodox), and there were a few Muslim and Hindu students as well as Christian and non-practicing/other. So there wasn’t any feeling of “everyone” having to change to accommodate one family… which is what people sometimes seem to resent. ;)

Kelly

Susan said: May 3, 2013
 Violin, Viola
22 posts

Sounds like Kelly gave you a good option. I think there are two others…first, take on the student and have him not participate in group classes; second, refer him to another teacher. If you take him on and he doesn’t participate in group classes and performances held on Saturday, he will miss a large part of the Suzuki philosophy. However, he won’t miss what he hasn’t had, and you can still create a strong Suzuki triangle. So he would be like a traditional student with one lesson per week. If you choose to refer him, are there teachers that have group classes during the week? For me, this was when I really needed students, so I took them on and we all just adjusted.

Katherine said: May 5, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
75 posts

Thank you everyone for your thoughts. Kelly that is a good point that Sunday afternoon could be a better time. I went ahead and polled my parents to discover 1) most prefer Sunday afternoon for the group lesson and 2) one current student is in church programming all day Sunday and would never be able to attend a Sunday group class. So I am thinking perhaps I can alternate between Sat AM and Sun PM for group lessons so everyone gets a chance to attend.

I don’t know of any teachers in this immediate area that I would recommend or I would gladly refer him. There are excellent teachers (non-Suzuki) about an hour drive from where this family lives, and besides being a distance away, these teachers don’t do group lessons.

Phankao said: May 6, 2013
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

Alternating sure sounds like a good idea. My little boy’s group lessons are all on Sunday afternoons.

Charlotte Dinwiddie said: May 6, 2013
Charlotte Dinwiddie
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Poughkeepsie, NY
10 posts

While it may be preferable, not every good Suzuki teacher is able to offer group lessons. One thing that was very helpful to me was hearing Ann Montzka-Smelzer say that she looked forward to Institutes because she didn’t have a group lesson at home and that she loved playing with the groups. Anyone who knows Ann and what an exceptional teacher-trainer she is, will vouch for the fact that not having a group on a weekly basis did her no harm. If there is no other suitable teacher nearby, I would suggest taking him as a student, as long as he is able to do the practicing and work you would normally require in your studio.

Kelly Williamson said: May 6, 2013
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
248 posts

Not to contradict what Charlotte said, but I think it’s important to note that being in a musical family with siblings who were all playing (like Ann’s), would greatly help to mitigate the lack of a group class. There are many variables, both positive and negative, in any environment. I don’t know the particulars of kgm’s prospective student, but it’s worth considering this. A child who might be the only young musician in his family, and whose parents might be new to it all and needing lots of help and support with helping him to practice, could perhaps not be compared to a student like Ann!

I remember one such student that I had. Her mom had no prior experience with music lessons herself, but her little girl came to her and asked to learn the flute. First they went to a local “conservatory” in a strip mall, and it was clear to the mom that the teacher had no idea how to teach a child of seven. She didn’t know music, but she was a teacher herself, and she did know good teaching! So they looked around a little more and came to me, and we were all happy. However, it still took a few months for the mom to accept that regular attendance at group class really was worth the extra time and travel. I let them ease into it at first, and then started insisting. It then took only one class for the mother to tell me, unasked, in the following lesson that she noticed how much more motivated her daughter was after the group class, and how much easier it was for them to practice together at home.

There’s just no substitute for group class, and some kids need it much more than others—socially or musically, or both. In passing, there are other ways to get the peer support/group environment in there when you have a challenging schedule. I am rebuilding my studio in a new town—as soon as I had two students, I put them back to back and overlapped their lessons so they could have fifteen minutes together every week. Even that small “group” component has had very noticeable results for the younger and less experienced of the two girls. I see her improvement in musicality, expression, and rhythm, and she frequently tells me how much she loves playing with the other girl. Now that there are two more students, everyone will be getting together as a proper group very soon. I can’t wait!

Kelly

Katherine said: May 7, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
75 posts

I agree Kelly that for most kids there is magic that occurs when they have the opportunity to work with at least one other child as well as take private lessons. Certainly learning can be made to work w/o group lessons (and I agree that then the home environment is key), but I see a huge boost in motivation and abilities with group work (I started regular group lessons last fall)—so much so that it is hard now to imagine not using this apprroach with every student. Even the most practice-resistant child will practice in the group setting, I find. It also gives the kids more performance opportunities than they would get as soloists, while also of course opportunity to learn ensemble skills. Most of my kids feel very confident performing as part of the group now—not all are really ready to perform solos—we have not done a recital—I feel learning first to play with a group is part of the process of developing confidence. Our group has been performing once a month now since February and we are booked for 3 more community performances between now and September.

I think I have worked out a solution (alternating group lessons between Sats and Suns) so everyone can participate at least some of the time.

I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and input greatly!

Paula Bird said: May 7, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Can you work out a group class with another student? Does the student before or after this particular student lend itself to a group situation. Even a tiny class is better than no class. I often had group classes with families.

Yes, I agree, once the student gets to a group class, there is no stopping them from returning! However, there are some special family situations. I do have students who never come to class, no matter what I do. I don’t worry about it anymore. I know it would be better if they came to class, but I cannot force them. Oh well. Many folks do not follow their doctor’s orders either.

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

Katherine said: May 7, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
75 posts

Paula—yes that is also a possibility that he could share a lesson occasionally with the child who is taught right after him. Depending on how things go I may try to do that.

So far I have not had any students not come to group class at all. I have one who misses over half of them. Fortunately she is a motivated child with a supportive home env. I see the biggest problem for her is that she misses a lot of Music Mind Games and she cannot read, or recognize aurally, rhythms or note values nearly as well as the others at her level. As an aside, I find this a little odd b/c she has been taking private piano lessons for a couple of years, but I don’t know anything about the teacher.

G said: May 8, 2013
G Ordun
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Vienna, VA
21 posts

kgm -

I’ve noticed the same thing: students who miss a lot of group class have much more difficulty with all aspects of theory.

So now, a student who misses group class is treated to a mini-group—there are at least 3 of us—at their next private lesson.

FWIW,
geOrdun

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