Changing to traditional method teacher (for 5 years old)


Jinah said: Sep 1, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
12 posts

I am a suzuki trained teacher. I have been teaching my own daughter for 2 and a half years. She is five and half right now.
She is about to play suzuki book 4. We spend 80% of our practice time on reviewing. That means she is ready to perform all the pieces she has been learning so far. very solid. She internalized most of the sonatas and concertos already by our regualr listening.
she played on the stage in her music school more than 30 times. She also won the competiton (1st place) in April.
I taught her by rote and she plays by ear easily like most suzuki trained kids.
I found out that she also has perfect pitch. I practiced my own piece and suddenly she sang the piece my the name the note. (she even tells the difference between B and Bb)
I didn’t use any Etude books except shradieck and Position Etude by Suzuki (She finished it) All the philosophy and suzuki method worked perfectly well with her.
For her sight reading, we are doing “I can read” books. she didn’t have any problem doing the book 1, but she has hard time playing the book 2 ( when rythm and pitch are combined)- quite slow.

I decided to give her a chance to learn from other teacher at this point. so I brought her to the teacher( very scholatic, very good violinist)
he doen’t have any suzuki background. He emphasized the importance of reading music and he said that without reading music, what she can accomplsh is very limitted.
He said she needs to start Carl Flesch scale right away and also talking about sevsik and Mazas. he said he doesn’t use suzuki books after book 4.
he said he is still worried about how he can teach her when she doen’t know how to read.
But he is very interested about how to approach.
His teaching style is opposite to the most suzuki teacher. Just right or wrong, very direct without using any analogy. of course no game, no giggling. But my daughter takes everything he said very seriously and she said that she likes him.

I am trying to spend more time on reading music, but she is very slow and I think it would take quite long time to catch up with her level of playing.
I only met him once but I am not perfectly sure if he is the right teacher for my daughter. We love him, but I am just worried that she might not take any benefit from Suzuki method any more when she learns from him.
Also I feel Carl Flesh is above her level. I think she needs to do easier scale book (with shifting) before that. (any idea about that?)

How do you think?

  1. it would be better for me to keep teaching her until her reading skill catches up with her level of her playing ?
  2. since my daughter takes seriously, just trust him and let him teach. (I am pretty sure that he is thinking hard about how to teach my daughter.)

Any suggestion, and ideas?

Thank you!

Lynn said: Sep 1, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

I Can Read Music straight to Carl Flesch???! Good lord—no need to scare the child!
Serious visual overload for a young reader. Trust your instincts on this one!

My concern with this teacher would be that he doesn’t know how to work with Book 4 level technical and musical proficiency packaged in a 5 1/2 year old mind. Reading musical notation is an extremely complex cognitive activity, separate and apart from what is needed to hear and play music, or to develop technical skills. One of the beauties of the Suzuki method is that children are not limited in their musical progress by their reading ability. This idea that reading level and playing level have to be equal comes from either teachers working with older students and more developed cognitive abilities, or a misunderstanding of how brains develop. Your daughter’s reading ability will catch up to her playing level with regular practice, but to get there, the music she reads needs to be at a level where with reasonable effort she can be successful.

Are there youth orchestras in your area geared toward beginning students that your daughter could get involved with? I have found that playing in an orchestra is extremely effective in supporting and promoting progress in reading.

I think what you do next depends partly on this teacher. If he pays attention to you when you say that the material he is proposing is too advanced for her reading level, and he is willing to figure out other ways to teach a student who is still working on developing reading skills, it could be a good experience for her—and for him. I would suggest you also talk about the other elements of the Suzuki program—the listening, the focus on review, and the group classes—and about how they have contributed to her rapid development. The listening environment she’ll continue to have, but losing the group/peer interaction would be a loss for her. Does his program provide access to additional activities, or would it be just lessons? Otherwise, if it is still working out for you to teach her, you might want to wait a little longer before finding another teacher.

Sara said: Sep 1, 2009
191 posts

It sound like to me that this teacher, even though no doubt a very good player and teacher of older students doesn’t have experience in working with young children, Suzuki or not. He seems willing to try. But do you want your daughter to be his experimental student?

It seems extremely heavy putting her into Carl Flesch at her age!!

Is he open to suggestions from you? If he is open to your ideas and approach you might be able to make it work. But I think where young minds are still developing and figuring life out parents need to be cautious about who they allow to help shape them.
Teachers need to have some level of understanding of a child’s developmental process before they attempt working with young students.

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

Laura said: Sep 1, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

What a wonderful situation regarding your daughter’s progress!

As others have mentioned, this is a very special situation indeed. Most people who are unfamiliar with, or opposed to Suzuki, say the exact same thing as this teacher did: i.e. “I can’t teach this student if she can’t read.” Of course, we in the Suzuki community know that this is not the same thing as saying, “She can’t continue to learn if she can’t read.”

At age 5 and a half, if one isn’t expecting your daughter to be reading novels and writing essays about them, one shouldn’t expect her to be reading music at such an advanced level either. Yet, if she can play at that level, why stop her? Shirley Temple was a stunning child actress as young as age 5, and no one complained that she couldn’t read her own scripts herself! Apparently, her mom helped her learn her lines by reading the scripts to her, and she memorized them easily.

Let your daughter continue to enjoy her music and everything that goes into how to play it beautifully. When she is somewhere between 8-10 years old, the reading will be at the same level as playing, believe me. If she has perfect pitch, she will likely learn to read music even sooner, because she will “hear” in her head the exact note she is seeing, as opposed to having to rely on relative intervals, EGBDF/FACE, etc.

If the teacher is not open-minded to some new input regarding how to teach a child like your daughter, I would hesitate to go with him until she is older and her reading is more solid. I know a young student who had to transition out of Suzuki, and her new teacher had the same approach as you describe. He made her backtrack and start from square one with reading, so that she could only play what she could read. The sad part of the story is that much of her good set-up from the Suzuki teacher and natural musicality got lost in the process. Needless to say, her mom is rather frustrated but they have to stay with their current teacher for other reasons.

My own is in a similar situation: young, in Book 4 Suzuki, and Vol. 2 I Can I Read Music. We focus on learning and playing the Suzuki pieces well, including review. We focus separately on scales, reading, and other skills. Someone listening to the practicing from outside our open window might wonder if it’s the same person playing. But that’s fine. As I said, everything will eventually be equal. I say just let them be as young as they are, and let them learn in a way that suits them.

Jinah said: Sep 6, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
12 posts

Thank you for your reply.
My daughter took a second lesson today.
Unlike I was worried, he is open-minded with lots of great ideas for my daughter.
Also, He is very enthusiasitic about teaching my daughter.
I tried to introduce my duaghter “C major scale” in Carl Flesh. It was not easy for her.
So I let her start G major scales three octave first (which is easier shiftingwise) and
it worked out fine.
I think I have to keep the great ideas about suzuki method (review, daily listening, group class, daily practice, playing by ear..all the great stuff) and adopt new ideas from him.
it could be complimentary.
My daughter will be joining the beginner’s orchestra this year. I hope that it helps her sight- reading too.


Thank you!

Ruth Brons said: Sep 6, 2009
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

Congratulations on the fine gift of violin ability you have given your daughter!

It has been my experience that between playing in an orchestra, reading duets, reviewing basic reading with SmartMusic, and pushing through the Middle books of the Suzuki repertoire [not stopping to memorize to perfection except for group concert or solo recital pieces], the reading becomes a non-issue. It is absolutely not worth a heaping does of negativity at this point!

Best Wishes,

Ruth Brons
Inventor of Bow Hold Buddies[tm] and
CelloPhant[tm] Instant Bow Hold bow accessories

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