Mothers and fathers

said: Nov 24, 2008
 48 posts

I still find it confusing that in some places “Suzuki parent” seems to be a synonym for “Suzuki mom”.

When I take my daughter to her lesson, the boy with the lesson before ours is accompanied by his father, and the boy waiting for his lesson with the cello teacher is also accompanied by his father. My vague impression is that at our school there are probably more mothers than fathers acting as Suzuki parents, but it’s closer to 60%-40% than 95%-5%.

Is this out of the ordinary?

At a regional Suzuki workshop last year I was at one point the only father in a room full of mothers. One of them said something like “It’s so nice of you to take this interest in your daughter’s musical development” with the implication that this was unusual. Likewise, see this new thread in the Teachers’ Forum.

I find it rather depressing to think that in this day and age a disproportionately large percentage of families would assume that it’s Mom’s job to be the Suzuki parent. Is that really the case? If so, a lot of fathers are missing out!

Laurel said: Nov 25, 2008
Laurel MacCullochViolin
Langley, BC
120 posts

That sounds about on par with other areas of kids’ lives. I see more mothers than fathers taking their kids to school, for example—or, well, anything that might take place during or just after working hours.

I figure it has to do with the fact that A) parents would rather have one parent stay home at least some of the time with the kids, rather than fulltime daycare, and B) men still get the better-paying jobs, darn it! :D So it makes sense that Mom takes care of whatever extracurricular activities there are, and Dad still goes to work—and by extension, is not really motivated to get involved in such activities.

It’s too bad, but I am seeing more and more dads out there—from taking baby to the playground, to taking toddler to drop-in playgroup, to preschoolers to Suzuki and, well, preschool, and school-agers to school/music/sports/etc. So there is hope!


said: Nov 25, 2008
 48 posts

Well, I understand that … although in a lot of places nowadays, many families have both parents working outside the home. And I certainly see plenty of dads making time to show up to their kids’ sporting events, and my guess is that nobody finds that especially remarkable.

Now I’m wondering whether this is some kind of a regional/cultural thing. As I said, there are actually quite a few “Suzuki dads” at our school, but a lot of them seem to work at the local university or certain nearby high-tech employers (and a lot of them are from two-employed-parent households). But from some comments I’ve gotten elsewhere, and from threads like the one in the Teachers’ forum here, it sounds like there are a lot of places where Suzuki parent = Suzuki mom.

Laura said: Nov 26, 2008
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

Hi Jon,

Interesting topic!

I responded to that post that you were referring to in the Teacher’s Forum, and I believe that was just one teacher looking for advice for her situation (i.e. with fathers who are at odds with the mother’s efforts towards their kids’ musical education). Her situation is not unique—which is why I responded the way I did.

There are simply a lot of dads who don’t give two hoots about their kid taking music lessons, never even showing up for recitals. They don’t like to see their kids go through the sometimes frustrating regiment of daily practice, and they don’t appreciate the art enough to support the overall goal. They’d rather see their kids give it all up and “have some more fun” on the ball field. Sad but true. But let’s face it, I can’t think of any other children’s pursuit that is that detailed, that disciplined (even if presented positively), that young, as learning a Suzuki instrument. It’s no wonder why many of the “other parent”s out there run away screaming. (Fortunately, most of them don’t!)

In my neck of the woods, Suzuki moms definitely outnumber Suzuki dads, although there are a lot of Suzuki dads out there. I have some in my studio. There seem to be plenty in my child’s music school. But overall, I’d say about 90-10 in favor of the moms.

I don’t think this is a good or bad thing, just reflective of a few factors that come to mind:

  1. It’s definitely easier to do Suzuki with a stay-at-home parent. If there is going to be a stay-at-home parent, there is statistically a higher likelihood that it’s going to be Mom.

  2. On average, moms are more likely to take on the highly intimate, in-your-face nurturing relationship required for the daily, very detailed practice regiment of an instrument. Many dads do get involved in their childrens’ activities, but might feel more at home cheering on the soccer team than, for example, watching the position of the pinky finger or making sure the G sharp is in tune. I believe this has to do with the tendency for men to be wired towards the big picture, being more objective and goal-oriented. Women tend to be more into the process, being more holistic and relational. And that difference is reflected in how they spend time with their children.

  3. Sadly, there is something to the media stereotype: among our generation, there seem to be more guys into football and hockey, more ladies into Classical music and art. So Average Guy meets Average Gal, and they get married and have kids. Guess who is more likely to be the Suzuki parent? This observation holds very true for me, among the families I know.

  4. I realize that where there is a will, there is a way (e.g. doing Suzuki with two-parents working famlies)—so agreed, we ought to expect more dads represented among Suzuki parents. But I believe that the other factors listed above explain why not.

Please, before the flaming arrows (I’m ducking already!)—my disclaimer is that these are GENERALITIES. There are MANY exceptions, and wonderful ones at that, and there should be! But I don’t think my observations are too far off if we’re trying to explain a trend that isn’t necessarily bad. The Suzuki dads out there do a wonderful job, and if more dads wanted to be the Suzuki parent, no one would stop them.

Gender balance issues are interesting—just because there is a gender imbalance doesn’t mean that it’s bad. Sure, there used to be more male doctors than female doctors, and now the pendulum has shifted—that one definitely had to do with gender inequality, in that one gender wanted more opportunity but came across a barrier which has since fallen. But interestingly, there aren’t as many female lumberjacks or male kindergarten teachers, for example—not because anyone is stopping them, but simply because fewer of them are interested even if they are able/available. Same goes for Suzuki dads, I suppose.

p.s. Leopold Mozart was a Suzuki dad. :D

said: Feb 8, 2009
 63 posts

I’ve been referring to “Suzuki Parents” since I started teaching in 1998, when I inherited a fantastic family whose father was wholly committed to piano lessons for all children. He came to all of the lessons, and even when his teenagers were old enough to self-monitor their practice, he still loved to grab a book and read on the sofa in the practice room.

My husband teaches guitar where there is a definite preference by the men to help! (and yes, some of his students have shifted to bands and electric guitars…)

I’ve also done Suzuki ECE (music classes for age 0-5) and it’s great to see either or both parents there. Often the men will take baby to music class Saturday morning and that’s Mom’s “time off”.

All of the textbooks written by Suzuki refer to “Mom” since they were written such a long time ago. But I agree that Suzuki Parent is now the best term.

said: Feb 8, 2009
 36 posts

Oh god. Who cares. Listen…we are not Japan of the 1980’s ok. Some America parents don’t give a hoot about their how their kid plays violin. That’s why we as teachers have to teach the students how to be independent. Which means teaching them ASAP on how to read music and basic music theory so they can go off on their own without us having to tell them “how is goes”

Jennifer Visick said: Feb 9, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts


Some America parents don’t give a hoot about their how their kid plays violin.

True. But the philosophy of Suzuki was to get the parent involved with teaching the young child. After teaching students whose parents cared about how they played and teaching those whose parents were (sadly!) indifferent, I would much rather do the former than the latter. It just works better, and it although ‘caring’ should look different for a 5 year old than it does for a 15 year old, it’s always in the child’s best interest to have a loving parent support them in their pursuit of music. That’s why we encourage it, look for it, and work towards it, instead of throwing up our hands and saying “well, things were different back then!”

Laura said: Feb 10, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts


Oh god. Who cares. Listen…we are not Japan of the 1980’s ok. Some America parents don’t give a hoot about their how their kid plays violin. That’s why we as teachers have to teach the students how to be independent. Which means teaching them ASAP on how to read music and basic music theory so they can go off on their own without us having to tell them “how is goes”

There is no shortage of people who disagree with Suzuki, for various reasons that seem valid enough. I believe we’ve been around that circle many times on this board, with the balance of support being pro-Suzuki… because surprisingly enough, this is a Suzuki website. Open discussion is always welcome and healthy, though.

As a Suzuki supporter (former student, and now parent and teacher), my response to the above quote is the following:

Would you feel the same if you were talking not about learning an instrument, but about learning to speak or read a language? That is, would you discourage parents from speaking different languages at home, or from reading regularly to their babies and toddlers? Sure, children can be very adequately served by the school system in these areas. However, I doubt you’d find any educator or parent disagreeing with the overwhelming benefits of home-spun support, the earlier and more constant the better. That is why language immersion programs are becoming so popular in public schools: they are the next best thing to actually being raised in that language at home.

How about dancing? I’ve yet to come across a dance program of any kind that requires all students to learn from the ground up by reading and understanding choreography notation. Learning “how it goes” is how dance is taught, by rote. The notation comes later, and only to those who need it.

If those concepts are clear enough, it’s easy to understand what Dr. Suzuki was getting at. Music is a language too. If you can’t live with your teacher, the next best thing is to equip your parents to provide the teaching support at home. The stronger the foundation, the better things will go when the student gradually becomes more independent. Independence in music learning, including reading and theory, is undeniably part of the Suzuki agenda. The only difference is that it’s delayed independence. The earlier the beginning, the more delayed the independence. And so it is with most things in life.

Not everyone is able to do this, nor would they choose to. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it works, nor does it detract from the efforts of those who believe in it, and make it work even in less-than-ideal situations.

While it is highly possible to have an “idiot Suzuki teacher”, the same is also possible of a non-Suzuki teacher. Same goes for highly gifted and talented teachers of either persuasion and inbetween. Enough said?

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