maybe I just need permission…..

said: Jul 24, 2010
 1 posts

I think I just need some thoughts from some parents and teachers who can understand my situation. Sorry for the length of this post.

I have four kids, three are Suzuki violin students. We’ve been in Suzuki for 8 years; my daughter age 13 is in book 7, son age 9 is in book 5 and son age 6 is in book 1. I also have an older child who took traditional piano and never was naturally musical. Of course I blamed myself because he didn’t do Suzuki! He stopped his lessons in 8th grade.

My daughter asked to play violin at age 3 and we started her at age 5. It was such a great experience and she enjoyed it so much that when her brother was 5 he started too. He also enjoys the music and the experience. They are very musical—they are able to hear and then play, they sing in tune, etc. When my last son turned 5, I started him too. He didn’t really express an interest, but didn’t say he didn’t want to either. I put it out there as “it’s what we do in our family”.

From the beginning it was challenging with my youngest. He never liked to practice, even the practice games I used to do for the other kids would only keep him happy for a short time. After 1 1/2 years of lessons he is working on Allegretto. I’m not concerned about his pace—it seems to me that he is getting it. He has a nice bow hold, he usually bows straight, and lately he has been playing more in tune by correcting his finger placement so it sounds right. I think he’s doing fine. BUT… he hates it. He cries and throws himself down constantly during practice. He dislikes group class. He plays too fast just to finish, he doesn’t care about matching the recording. He constantly puts himself down saying he’s so bad at it, he can’t do it, etc. I tell him over and over that he is doing really well, but it falls on deaf ears. Every practice session is the same. I’ve tried all my Suzuki mom tricks, I’ve even tried bribery. The other night after struggling with a line of Allegretto that he insisted was terrible, I suggested, “Pick your favorite review piece and we’ll end your practice on a happy note.” His response while fighting back tears…”I don’t have a favorite review piece. I just really wish I never would have started this in the first place.” It broke my heart…and I thought, what am I doing? Why am I making this boy play the violin? He can do it, but his heart isn’t in it. Is all this misery doing him more harm than good?

Can he know at age 6 that the violin isn’t for him? Have we given it enough time? Like I said in my subject line, I think I just need someone to give me permission—that it’s okay to not play the violin! Teachers, do you see students who just aren’t right for the instrument despite the best efforts of the parents? How do you decide when it’s enough? Thanks in advance for your comments and reading through my long post.

Jennifer Visick said: Jul 24, 2010
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1069 posts

Has he shown interest in a different musical instrument? Or in a different performing art? Or even in the visual arts?
Does he show similar frustration at other activities that his older siblings also excel in?

My inclination is to say that THE ARTS should not be optional, but the specialization, perhaps, can be changed (although it shouldn’t be changed very often in the years before high school).

Unfortunately our school system has a culture that says that a basic grounding in music and in the arts in general ARE optional skills to learn, whereas a basic grounding in, say, history, math, literature, or reading are writing skills are not optional. Even sports or physical education is considered “less optional” than learning an art.

What would you do if your son expressed a similar attitude toward mathematics? Or towards learning to read?

said: Aug 22, 2010
 9 posts

There likely is no one right answer to your questions. But it might help if you hear about experiences from other parents. I too have asked the same questions, as neither of my children were eager to take music lessons, and we have had some large struggles with practicing over the years. My eldest’s lessons have not been Suzuki. My youngest has taken Suzuki violin since age 5 1/2. There are plenty of times that I have felt like throwing up my hands and ending my “not optional” approach to music. But it has become so much easier as my children mature. By age 9, practicing for my eldest became a total breeze, and it is getting much easier with my 8-year old as well. (I did permit my eldest to switch instruments….twice! I don’t know that that was a good choice, but to my surprise he often goes back and practices instrument #2 enough to prevent “losing ground.”)

It may well not be the case for you, but in my case I have found I intersperse my comments and suggestions too much during practice, which both interrupts the flow and puts my child on the defensive. I don’t know if this helps, but best wishes, whatever course of action you decide to take.

Sara said: Aug 29, 2010
191 posts

Not everybody plays the violin ~ so in that regard, yes, it is OK for your son to not play the violin.
However, there are so many developmental advantages to the Arts in general, that if I were in your place, I would tell my son that if he really doesn’t want to play the violin, that’s OK.BUT he needs to choose an instrument that he does want. Perhaps he would be more inclined to play a woodwind or brass instead of string? The one thing I would really be firm about though if you agree to let him quit/change instruments is that he arrives at a finishing point so he doesn’t learn that it’s OK to just up and quit when you don’t like something. Either have him finish out the semester, finish to the next recital, etc. You and your teacher together should agree on an appropriate finishing time. I have seen students do this and in that “quitting time” they realize that they really do like it and after they have reached the finish line decide they want to continue.

I agree in RainJen that what would you do in the instance that he doesn’t want to learn to read or do math? That’s not optional. Neither should the Arts be optional. But specifics can vary.

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

This topic is locked. No new comments can be posted.

You must log in to post comments.

A note about the discussion forum: Public discussion forum posts are viewable by anyone. Anyone can read the forums, but you must create an account with your email address to post. Private forums are viewable by anyone that is a part of that private forum's group. Discussion forum posts are the opinion of the poster and do not constitute endorsement by or official position of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Inc.

Please do not use the discussion forums to advertise products or services