Book 1 Graduation

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Sara said: May 12, 2010
191 posts

What do you do with a student that only practices an average of 0-2 times per week? It’s really not his fault. But this has been going on for over about 2 years now. He has boat loads of homework from school—30 algebra problems per day at the very least. Plus he is taking piano lessons. The poor kid is in overdrive. His parents know this and will be changing school this next school year. But for now, due to little to no practice his progression is extremely stunted and his is tired of book one and want to get out of it. I don’t blame him. I want him out also. However, he hasn’t mastered a lot of the techniques in there because he rarely, if ever practices. Do I graduate him anyway, because he has given it his best effort, or do I make him stay in it and master it. He can play the pieces, but his technique simply isn’t polished like the rest of my students.

Any ideas? Suggestions? I probably should have called for help along time ago. I just kept thinking that the situation would get better in time. I’m not sure that the school change will help. I am hoping it will but if not…..

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

said: May 12, 2010
 89 posts

If he’s doing algebra homework, do I assume he’s an older child? If so, maybe some “sideways” work will help … get him off the “stigma” of being in book one but still consolidate those skills that need work.

Ruth Brons said: May 12, 2010
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

It’s a good time to let him fly through the Mark O’Connor Book One!
He will get an ego boost because the pieces will be easy for him, as they follow pretty closely the skill set he has already from Suzuki Book One.
The tunes are high interest that some of the skills that are so hard towards the end of Suzuki Book One, like switching from high to low second finger, just aren’t a problem.
It sounds like he needs some fun, and this would be it.

Best Wishes,

Ruth Brons
Things 4 Strings bow accessories

Sara said: May 12, 2010
191 posts


It’s a good time to let him fly through the Mark O’Connor Book One!

His Mom won’t let him purchase another book until he finishes book one. So should I just finish it as is and then dive into Mark O’Connor?. I’m thinking that might be the best thing from here. I think you’re right that he does need some fun!
He just barely turned 14. He started at 12 with me. It’s been hard for both of us. Because he sees everyone else moving ahead. I know he is completely capable, he just has no time for any practice and is stressed out all of the time.

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

said: May 22, 2010
 63 posts

Wow, this is always a huge challenge, and I find students usually drop out of my studio at this point, sorry. There are some helpful things you can do, though.

With the older age, I find they feel book 1 is too “babyish” with all of the folk songs, which is unfortunate since so many pieces have the foundation so critically needed for book 2. I’ve found that pushing students through book 1 and graduating to get it done inevitably sets them up for failure in book 2, which is instantly difficult with the first three pieces.

Given the limited amount of practice time, for Suzuki repertoire or anything else for that matter (side trips are a fantastic idea), the only hope at this point is to get parents onside with the listening. I’d highly recommend making a mix CD of book 1,2 and 3 combined. (I find most students, especially older ones, are excited with book 3 right off the bat due to the Sonatina). If students have truly that little time to practice, they will need a minimum of 1-2 hours listening in order to retain what you have taught from week to week. This may be the only way to salvage the situation. If you can get parents onside with setting up, and being responsible for, the listening, that may help. (I have even had situations where both parents are working so much that they come home after their son is asleep and turn on the CD, repeated all night, with the student making a turnaround and learning a new piece weekly.)

If both student and parents intend on continuing into book 2, he will have to be able to decently play Christmas Day Secrets and at least one alberti bass piece to survive book 2.

At the very least, in the midst of it all, I encourage you to continuously search for ways for the student to earn his dignity and pride in playing, at each lesson, at each practice, or at any “graduation” that may be done. Even one well-played piece can make a world of difference, whether he continues or not.

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