Summer practice

Patricia Bradbury said: Apr 20, 2016
 2 posts

My daughter, 7, first violin lesson started in January. We love the teacher! I do not have a musical background at all so we rely heavy on his lessons to keep her on track. He does not offer summer classes. Should I supplement his lessons with a teacher in the summer? We are still learning to balance practice between her once a week lessons and I’m afraid if she doesn’t have proper instruction for the 3 months of summer break she will be starting over. I sit in with her lessons to help learn what I can but music is almost a foreign language to me :) Is this something anyone has dealt with? how has your child responded to an new teacher?


Dave Harper said: Apr 22, 2016
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Campbell River, BC
1 posts

Hello Patricia,

My experience as a Suzuki parent for the last 2 1/2
years is that summer is a great opportunity to maintain current repertoire and listen to lots of music. Are you listening to the entire recording of your book everyday? Make that a goal for the whole summer. Play everyday and maintain your current level. Have fun. Go to a music camp.

Make the most of the break. Then things will pick right up again in September.

Dave Harper

Linda Louise said: Apr 22, 2016
Rochester, NY
18 posts


Linda L Ford

Alan Duncan said: Apr 24, 2016
Suzuki Association Member
81 posts

This is a very good question—one that we, too, are working out this year for the first time. My daughter is also 7. We recently moved to a new city and changed teachers. Her teacher here, who is excellent, takes a well-deserved summer break. So we’ve also been thinking about what we’ll do. In our case, she is going to:

  • Work on repertoire for a wedding she was asked to play for.
  • Find a piece and prepare it for a fiddle contest in September
  • Attend Suzuki institutes
  • Keep up with her review

If your daughter began in January she won’t have a lot of repertoire to practice but she can make the fundamentals the focus.

  • Bow hold: practice the bow hold.
  • Practice habit—begin the habit of practicing every day. Starting that during the summer when other demands on her time are fewer may be easier.
  • Tone—focus on drawing a straight bow, relaxing the weight of the bow arm into the string.
  • Posture—is the instrument well-placed on the shoulder. How does the left hand look? Is the right shoulder relaxed? You can ask her teacher to set her up then take photos for reference use during the summer.
  • Listening—listen to the Book 1 reference recording every day. Get Book 2 and start listening to that. I’m a strong believer in listening ahead because even if they are not going to learn the piece for years, they will have it subconsciously in their heads. And it’s inspiring to hear what’s coming up next!

These are so important that even if she’s not actively taking lessons during the summer, the payoffs will be tremendous. It will take some creativity—making up games and contests around these focal points to keep it interesting and fresh. So much of progress in Suzuki comes down to daily practice, listening, and review. I don’t think she’ll have a problem.

Patricia Bradbury said: Apr 25, 2016
 2 posts

Thank you Mr. harper and Mr. Duncan! I think you are right about utilizing the summer to perfect what we have learned these last few weeks! She is very new and gets frustrated very quickly at home. I also love the idea of listening ahead! Thanks so much for your ideas.

Alena Lu said: Jun 24, 2016
 1 posts

We had similar thoughts and wanted to enhance with summer lessons somewhat complicated in that we travel most of the summer. Our teacher stated they would offer some summer classes but was traveling and ultimately did not send their availability. My partner and I discussed it and thought we should not pester our teacher during their summer break.
We reached out to a teacher in our area with whom we had a master class organized by our teacher. We were directed to clear it with our teacher first. Our teacher was extremely offended and took this to mean we were looking to switch studios. Ultimately our teacher reviewed our correspondence requesting a summer workshop and was further offended by our inquiry not containing their name. We were dismissed and told this would teach us a lesson.
We were with our teacher for several years.

Elizabeth Erb Sherk said: Jun 27, 2016
Suzuki Association Member
32 posts

I am very sorry to read of Alena Lu’s experience.
I find the question really appropriate…How to keep the momentum and motivation of regular lessons and regular practicing going through the summer months?

I love Alan Duncan’s bullets. I am going to forward the whole conversation to all my students who are taking 4 or 8 Summer Tuesday Master Classes either with me or with a colleague who teaches in my school. There is no offence to be taken. It is somewhat refreshing for a child and home coach parents to hear the same piano basics assigned with just a slightly different nuance, vocabulary or imagery. And it is also reassuring to realize that the Suzuki Music School Repertoire instills scaffolds of skills built on repetition and mastery of earlier points of skill.

“Never hurry, never stop” ESPECIALLY in the long, lazy days of summer.

May Cheung said: Jun 27, 2016
 1 posts

Dear Alena,

I am shocked to see the words your “old” teacher used to “teach you a lesson” … I honestly think that your child is better off with another teacher, someone who cares more about your child’s music education than a fragile ego!

You did nothing wrong and need to perservere. While I agree with Alan Duncan’s suggestions, I believe that it’s very beneficial to have some lessons during the summer. The difference is noticeable and painful when a child takes no summer lessons or did not go to a summer institute, I am a big fan of summer institutes! If you have not gone to a summer institute, you should go to one this summer. It’s magical and transformational! This is our 3rd year and my kids love it.

My 7 year old daughter plays the piano and my 5 year old daughter plays the violin and we are very fortunate to have great Suzuki teachers and to be a part of a big Suzuki music school, where students are free to take summer lessons with any teachers. Like Elizabeth Sherk (our piano teacher) says, it’s very refreshing for both the parent and the child to see the different approaches to the same Suzuki repertoire.

Sylvia said: Jun 28, 2016
Sylvia Evert
Suzuki Association Member
Inchelium, WA
19 posts

I’m a Suzuki mom to three kids of 6 instruments (3 piano, one violin, one cello, one flute). And I teach flute. Here’s a couple of my thoughts.

  1. Listening is like free practice for sure.

  2. Bad habits creep in easily when lessons are sparse and practice continues. If there is any uncertainty of technique (bow hold etc) etc. it might be better to wait until lessons resume than to continue something that may have to be re-learned later? After saying that, a good teacher can help a child fix a bad habit without a lot of undue stress.

  3. Enjoy the summer!

I’m actually in kind of an opposite boat. One of my kids teachers seems to think that since they have no school over the summer they should be practicing even more! She loads them up with extra reading assignments and all sorts. I wouldn’t mind a summer off!

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