How do you deal with the green-eyed monster?

Connie Sunday said: May 8, 2010
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

Such is the nature of the universe (and the musical world) that no matter where you are on the food chain, there is always someone better than you and always someone not quite as good. Even very eminent people regret that they’re not conducting, or composing, or recording like so-and-so…

So my question, if you yourself feel envy (and are aware of it) or if you’re responsible for the development of children who do, how do you deal with it? I’ve seen lovely things in children (and adults) but also some not-so-lovely things on occasion.

Here is an example (which I frequently share with my students): When I was an undergraduate there was a Chinese-American girl in her master’s program; beautiful, sweet, well-mannered, brilliant, played unbelievably well, who came to my school when Sergiu Luca was hired to teach there. He brought a lot of his students from Michigan, and she was one. I couldn’t say that Lucy LIn and I were close friends, but I always admired and respected her. What a beautiful girl and fantastic musician! If you look at the old Paul Rolland tapes, the little Chinese girl—that’s her.

The last year of her master’s program she learned both the Beethoven and the Tchaikovski violin concertos. And her very first audition after she graduated was with the Boston Symphony (not the Pops, the Symphony). She won the audition and later that year I saw her sitting second chair, firsts in the Tanglewood orchestra under Bernstein. She later became concertmaster of the London Symphony and is currently I believe doing chamber music in Boston.

When you do a recital in graduate school it is common to design a little flyer to announce your recital and post it all over school. Apparently some other girls in the music department took her recital programs down and wrote negative things about her, about being Chinese, and who knows what. She was hurt. I was really angry when I heard about this because it was so mean, entirely based on jealousy, I am certain. And I was told that her feelings were hurt, and she did not deserve that.

Unless you’re King of the Universe (as none of us are, except in our imagination) one, as an adult, has to learn to deal with jealousy when it comes up. How do you deal with this, how do you deal with it in children?

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Sue Hunt said: May 19, 2010
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

In my studio we start addressing this at the Pre Twinkle stage. All students have regular chances to perform something they have been working on during the group lessons. All children AND parents notice nice things about the performance and after the applause has died down, they take turns in making compliments.

I sometimes get parents to monitor someone else’s child while we play a through piece and to report on everything that went well with that child’s performance. We all go through periods when everybody else’s kids appear to be making quicker progress than ours so hearing another informed adult giving such unreserved praise to is a great tonic.

said: Sep 18, 2010
 63 posts

In my studio, jealousy doesn’t happen much and I figured out why recently. Families in my studio share lessons with other students—I’m not sure if that is standard, as I have heard Suzuki teachers teaching without people watching. Students frequently play together in lesson and at group class, and I encourage some chatting between parents and students during lessons.

In any case, as a result, I have a collection of families that I am extremely pleased with. They are supportive of one another and I rarely hear negative or jealous comments about each other, or other students. The only families that have this competitive nature are the ones that have not been able to be paired with someone else due to scheduling difficulties.

Alie said: Sep 22, 2010
Columbus, OH
21 posts

Hi All,
In my Suzuki program I often deal with this sort of thing as well. I recently had a parent inform me that her daughter would “die” if another student (which she named) passed her in the Suzuki repertoire. I looked online for days in hopes of finding a great article. i found this posted online by Siefort Piano Studio, although she gives credit to the teacher trainer who she got it from. Enjoy!

**The Butterflies in My Studio

When I first began teaching the Suzuki method, I was confronted with parents who had decided that this method would result in their children becoming musical prodigies. These were very pushy parents and the children were not happy! Luckily, I attended a class for Suzuki parents led by Beverly Tucker Fest, a well-known teacher-trainer, who read a story taken from Zorba the Greek:

Butterfly”I remember one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree, just as the as the butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited a while, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened, the butterfly started slowlin crawling out and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath. In vain. It needed to be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand. “That lively body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.”

The Seifert Piano Studio is filled with all kinds of butterflies that serve as reminders to the parents that all the students have potential to become beautiful musicians, but they must be allowed to develop in their own time, not mine or the parent’s and that every student is different, just like the butterflies.


Connie Sunday said: Sep 23, 2010
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

That is a beautiful story, and makes me cry. When you are all your life associated with studying music, and really not in the “real world,” as so many of us are in that we’re mostly living in around students and universities and so on, being mainly taken up with that, we get, some of us, a little disassociated with the hardships of the world.

I can speak for myself, and say that, anyway. It is only when I get out in the “real world” that I get hurt. Universities are like Ashrams, in a sense; I feel much safer in these intellectual environments; I don’t much care for the “real world.”

But our students are out there, and our parents, and it’s difficult. There is a lot of hostility and struggle that has nothing to do with violin. As teachers we really do bring something to the world, and make it better. I believe that with all my heart.

Thank you for the beautiful story.


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Irene said: Sep 24, 2010
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

Thank you for sharing the beautiful story.

Alie said: Sep 24, 2010
Columbus, OH
21 posts

I’m so glad you guys enjoyed it as much as I did! I’m thinking of passing out a blank butterfly coloring page in group class as “homework”. When the kids bring their finished butterflies back we will talk about the fact that no two butterflies are exactly the same. Then I will pass the story out to the parents….

Do any of you have other stories or analogies for a parent class?



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