2 sisters starting lessons-together or separate?

Joan said: Sep 4, 2007
 24 posts

I have a family of two sisters and their single mom, ready to start as pre-Twinklers. I’m wondering if I should start them together as a semi-private lesson, or start with one and then start the other in a few months. The girls are 6 and 8, and both are very enthusiastic about starting violin. Their mom has just finished an 8-wk parent training with me. We’ve been discussing how to start the girls and we’re afraid that if we start with just the older child, the younger will be quite upset. (They’ve both been looking forward to lessons for months. I guess I should have figured this out sooner….) However, I fear that starting them together will just lead to some sibling rivalry and also it will be difficult for the mom to find time to practice with both.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? Thanks!

Lynn said: Sep 5, 2007
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Start them both. It would be manifestly unfair to the younger girl to tell her she has to wait because of issues that don’t currently exist. Trust that the Mom will figure out how to work with both girls, and If rivalry becomes an issue down the road, deal with it then.

said: Sep 10, 2007
 104 posts

I don’t know if I agree that there’s a huge developmental leap between a 6-yr-old and an 8 yr.-old. I think it depends on the kid. It’s not the kind of leap between, say, a 2 year old and four-year old. In a Suzuki group class, it’s common to have multi-age groupings and I don’t think you can really see much difference between a group of 6, 7 and 8 year olds. The 8-year-olds would not necessarily be ahead of the 6 year olds. In fact, the younger kids often surpass the older kids. There’s a lot of variation in physical size, emotional maturity and fine motor skills in that age group.

I think the 6 and 8 year old sisters should start together. Sibling rivalry is overrated by parents. The parents often read WAY more into a situation than the kids themselves.

If the parents have come to the idea of Suzuki at this point in their lives, then the girls can just progress together. If the parents had known about Suzuki earlier, perhaps each sister would have started at age three, but at this point in the game, I agree it’s silly to hold the younger one back in order to give the older sister a head start. Eight years old is a pretty late start, and really six years old is kind of a late start. I would just get them going. It’s impossible to tell which one will progress more quickly, and really it isn’t fair to assume the older one will.

Joan said: Sep 10, 2007
 24 posts

Thanks for all of the suggestions. I’m going to take your combined advice and start them together. I’ve talked to the mom about discouraging competition between them, and competitiveness seems to not have been a problem in the past for these girls, so I think I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and realize that this will probably work out just fine.

Thanks again!

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 10, 2007
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1069 posts


Start them both. It would be manifestly unfair to the younger girl to tell her she has to wait because of issues that don’t currently exist. Trust that the Mom will figure out how to work with both girls, and If rivalry becomes an issue down the road, deal with it then.

While I don’t necessarily think that a 6 year old should have to wait, I do disagree with the logic of the above statement. As teachers, we “head off” potential problems that don’t exist all the time. Hopefully, we preview the hard spots in pieces—and we tell them that they have to practice this bit over and over slowly before they start the new piece precisely because of problems that don’t yet exist for that child(problems like playing the whole piece too fast and then not being able to play that one spot, etc.). These are problems that do exist for the majority of students. If there is a potential problem that a large majority of siblings in the Suzuki world have, it’s not unreasonable to try and head it off (if at all possible).

Lynn said: Sep 10, 2007
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Okay. Then let’s go on to say that to try and avoid having rivalry become an issue, let’s teach/coach/encourage the girls to appreciate each others unique abilities and progress, etc. etc.

I think you are comparing apples and oranges. Proactive teaching is taking positive steps to help students succeed. The question I was answering had to do with whether to delay the start of a younger sibling to avoid competition. That might be proactive, but it certainly is not positive, and could potentially be harmful. Sometimes, the best way to be proactive is to do nothing, but remain alert to the possibility and sensitive to the particular student and situation. Take appropriate steps when or if needed; otherwise if there is no issue, no need to treat it like one.

said: Sep 12, 2007
 104 posts

You’re absolutely right Freesia. An older child often plays with subtleties while a younger child may just play the “naked notes.” Obsession with “progress,” as annoying as it is, often focuses on the question, “what’s your polished piece?” But there is “polished” and “polished.”

But I do think the differences between these sisters’ development depends more on their individual personalities than anything else. I think they are likely to have a terrific experience progressing together—it isn’t like the 8-yr-old will be held back or the 6-yr-old pushed forward if they learn together.

Joan said: Sep 19, 2007
 24 posts

Thanks again, everyone, for your insights. We’ve had 2 lessons with both girls and it’s going very well. This is the first time I’ve taught two beginners together at that age, and I’m already seeing the benefits of teaching them together. It’s nice to be able to do things simultaneously OR one at a time- I like how they can watch while I work with the other child and also get a little “down time” between tasks.

It’s fun also to see firsthand how different the girls are developmentally as well- they can both perform pre-twinkle tasks easily but the younger sister is making silly faces and wiggling around, while the older one is completely serious the whole time! This could be partially just personality differences, but at any rate it’s interesting to work with.

Joan said: Jun 26, 2008
 24 posts


Thanks to all of your advice, the girls have done great this year. They started in September with both taking instruction from me in a “group” format (with just the two of them), then after a few months I moved them each to their own private lessons as their individual needs were becoming obvious. There have been very few problems with competitiveness as far as I can tell- only a few tears once when the other sister got to go first! Both just learned all the notes to Lightly Row today, and I will start merging them again in a dual lesson for part of the time since they have fewer technical disparities (for now!) to address.

All in all, for this particular family it’s worked well to have them start together, and I think the bond it’s created for all 3 of them is priceless, especially since Mom is a widow.

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