Perseverance with Book 1 and Twinkle?


said: Apr 11, 2007
 3 posts

I have a 7-year old daughter who started taking violin lessons from a private teacher when she was 5.
The teacher (young male) was not a Suzuki teacher, but started her with Suzuki book 1.
After a year and half later, when my daughter had almost completed Book 1, the teacher decided to switch to a traditional method book to start teaching her how to read notes.

Then a local Suzuki group had an opening, and she was able to get in with a Suzuki teacher (older female).
After all, this was a type of place where I wanted her to start in the beginning, so I was very happy. :D
So she started the official Suzuki program at age 7, while most other students in her group were 4 and 5.

Her new teacher had to undo everything she had learned previoulsy, which I had not expected to see.
Now 8 months have passed, and she’s still playing Twinkle.
She participates in the group lesson, but we’ve seen many students move up to the next level.

My daughter is starting to resent her violin practices and lessons, because she wants to play other songs. :(
She’s been playing violin for almost 3 years in total…
Should I withdraw her from Suzuki method? Perhaps my daughter has no talents?

It probably would not have been an issue this was her first teacher/lesson.
The teacher is good, and it’s hard to get into this school…
I just can’t help feeling that her first year and a half with the first teacher was a complete waste.
At the same time, I keep asking how long she has to stay with Book 1—especially going all the way back to Twinkle for 8 months.
Her current teacher says that my daughter is just not ready to move on to Lightly Row…

Her grade school has a student orchestra for older students.
She’s very interested in joining when she’s older, so I want her to keep playing violin in one way or another.
I also value the disciplinary aspect of learning a musical instrument.

I spoke to a couple of other parents in the group lesson, but their children finished book 1 in one year.
They said that’s the typical time frame to complete book 1.

I would appreciate any opinions or advice on our struggle… :idea:

Laurel said: Apr 11, 2007
Laurel MacCulloch
Suzuki Association Member
Langley, BC
120 posts

I’m a little short on time here, but am just wondering—what specific criteria is your daughter’s teacher using to determine that she is not ready to move on to Lightly Row?

I ask because I am a Suzuki teacher too, and I have many skills that I wish to see become automatic before we move on to new songs. Part of the Suzuki philosophy is mastering each small step before moving on to the next step.

You might ask what exactly you should be working on at home—the bow-arm motion? Fingers on tapes/in tune? Relaxed left-hand fingers? Bow thumb bent? Tempo? This might help you, and your daughter, understand where the teacher is headed.

Hope this helps!

Lynn said: Apr 12, 2007
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

8 months only on Twinkle for a 7 year old who already has some experience, seems, well, odd. If children typically complete Book 1 in a year, and after 8 months your daughter, who has already acquired enough skill to play all the songs in Book 1, is only on Twinkle, it doesn’t make sense. It’s also real hard on your daughter, who is basically being told that all her prior effort doesn’t matter. I am quite certain— even without knowing her!— that for her, completing Book 1 was an accomplishment that she worked for. Even worse, is that she came into this Suzuki class “ahead”, and now she is being held in one place while all the other, younger kids go sailing past. Not good for morale. No wonder she resents it. At least with the other teacher she made progress—in ways that are relevent to a 7 year old.

This teacher may be a good teacher, but do you feel she is the best teacher for your daughter? Even if there are technical issues (and I don’t care how good prior training was, a child standing in front of me is going to need to work on technique!) there are ways to address them without taking away all that the student has already accomplished. The world will not end because your daughter plays Lightly Row with technique less perfect that this teacher’s other students. Perfect technique and a crushed and discouraged heart is not a sucess story.

Insist that this teacher explain, in ways that make sense to you and your daughter, what the agenda is, and why she is not being allowed to move forward. It is not fair to try and “wipe the slate”, as if working only on Twinkle will make her issues easier to resolve. It won’t.

Kids are pragmatic creatures, and they will expend effort where it makes sense to do so. Their goal is always and only to play the song— by whatever means possible(’:roll:’)—not play it a certain way. They will not change the way they play until they can appreciate the reason for it—and that is where the skill in teaching comes in. Figuring out how to make details of technique, tone and articulation both apparent and relevant to a child. If your daughter is completely in the dark as to what this teacher wants from her, or can’t see why it matters TO HER (not the teacher), then it’s not working.

Ultimately, what matters is the quality of the overall experience for your daughter, not the manner in which she plays the instrument. That is a legitemate criterion for you as a parent to use in evaluating programs. Every teacher you go to will have differences of opinions on standards, proper technique, etc; there is no ultimate “right way”. If your daughter came to this teacher positive about learning the violin, and now she is resentful and discouraged, that is definately grounds for some serious conversation and re-evaluation.

said: Apr 12, 2007
 32 posts


Brief, and to the point:

Unless you have some glaring ommissions or misstatements in your post, I would not define this teacher as good, and would question why it is so desirable to get in with her.
I totally concur with Lucy. (Who I think was a little more tactful than I just was !:) )

said: Apr 12, 2007
 3 posts

Thank you all for your replies. The school has many competitive parents, and I can’t casually talk to them about anything.
Even in the group lesson, nobody talks to each other, which has added more stress to our situation.

The teacher is the head of the school, so I made an assumption…
She must be a good teacher, but now I don’t think she’s the right teacher for my daughter.

My daughter has mainly been working on bow-arm motion and the position to play on the bow.
The teacher says her bow hold, left hand and tempo are O.K; notes are perfect.

With the last non-Suzuki teacher, she had to learn to play all songs smoothly.
Now, she must use staccato for almost all notes in order to keep a better control.
These short sounds were not familiar to my daughter.

Another problems is that she’s grown in the last 8 months. (naturally…)
Her physical growth is significant enough that the teacher keeps changing the position of the bow to use.
She started using the bottom part of the bow, but now the top part of the bow as of this week.
The teacher uses stickers on the bow as guides, but once my daughter masters one position, she then gets new stickers and has to learn a new position.

Next week, I’ll have a discussion with the teacher.
If there’s no good explanation/action made, I’ll seek a new teacher before my daughter completely loses her interest in playing.
Thank you for making me realize the true meaning of “Learning”. :)

Laura said: Apr 12, 2007
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

Without further background information, I’d also have to say that the situation as presented sounds odd, and that it’s perfectly understandable why your daughter feels resentful and discouraged.

To echo Lucy: the teacher should be making it really clear what she is aiming at. If not, then you should press for clarification.

I have taken on a number of students with “a past”, so to speak, and have started them from Suzuki square one on Twinkles. (None of these have been former Suzuki students, mind you, so I realize it’s slightly different.) However, I know I have to acknowledge and hopefully preclude/prevent whatever feelings they may be having about “starting over”.

I often start by acknowledging to them the things I know they can already do. Then I say that I’d like to see them improve in these specific ways (e.g. proper hand position, improved tone, proper finger action, etc.). Then I demonstrate for them, with my own playing, why it makes a difference to improve these things. That provides them with both relevance and motivation.

So then the agenda becomes about learning a new improved way to play (or even practice!), not just learning new songs. Often, if they have old repertoire from their previous experience, I’ll use those pieces to practice the new concepts. (For example, one time the key point was about how to practice something to the point of ease or fluency, which the student NEVER had to do before.)

If all the Suzuki book 1 repertoire is already more or less under your daughter’s belt, and considering she is age-mature enough for a more advanced approach, I can’t see why this teacher wouldn’t let her work on several book 1 pieces at once to accomplish a particular teaching point.
For example (she’s in violin, right?) if it’s about keeping the bow straight, there’s no reason why she can’t do that in Lightly Row, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, and Twinkles at the same time. If it’s about playing rhythmically, then she can focus on that with Perpetual Motion or Allegro just as easily as with Twinkles. If it’s about good tone production, that can also be focused on through any number of Book 1 pieces. If she simply isn’t standing straight, it could be a challenge to see how many pieces she can get through without budging from perfect posture.

These are just a few examples that come to mind. I’m sure there are many similar ones. This is why it’s important to be clear what the teacher is aiming for.

I am sure that this teacher is still excellent and teaches her young ones to play well, but even the best approaches need to be modified for unique situations such as this. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to recognize when something needs to be done a little differently for a specific child.

As an illustration, a complete Suzuki beginner take one storybook at a time off the shelf and learns to read them properly in sequence. Your daughter already has already gone through all of the books, perhaps not properly… but it would be unreasonable to make her put them all back on the shelf, and erase her memories of every other story she knows while she is made to learn the first story properly. It would be healthier in her case to focus on reading properly, and then apply that to every story she already knows.

said: Apr 16, 2007
 103 posts

To repeat what others have said, you must talk with your teacher privately without your child there.

  • Talk about how your child is feeling, your concerns of how it is affecting her.
  • Mention why she would be feeling this way (having learned book 1 in the past), maybe your teacher has forgotten how much was learned in the past.

  • Ask her to clarify why it seems that your child hasn’t been progressing. Maybe your teacher has a plan in her mind that she just has not gotten across to you or your daughter. Maybe there is progress that you’re not aware of. Remember that each piece teaches technique. Pieces in and of themselves don’t equal success.

  • Ask if there is a way that your child can feel successful by adding at least one more of the pieces. Sometimes a child needs the motivation.

  • Make sure you have an understanding of what your role is at home, maybe there is some way in which you could help your child complete the steps your teacher is looking for.

  • Praise your daughter in her home practice for skills, rather than yeah we did the piece!

Regarding your question of how long for Twinkles, in a way Twinkles are kept for years! This is because the Suzuki Rep. is collected, each piece leads to skills in the next, preparing for each new skill. Many times teachers will use the Twinkles as a preview for some other piece—because it is an easy way to practice the new skill without making it hard.

Well that’s all I thought of for now.[/code]

Jennifer Visick said: Apr 16, 2007
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1072 posts

good advice from everyone above.

Just to add a note on how long you work on Twinkle: Dr. Suzuki deliberately put book 4 rhythms into his twinkle variations. So refining twinkle variations can and should be going on through at least book 4!

But I agree that a parent teacher meeting is definitely in order in your case.

said: Apr 17, 2007
 3 posts

Thank you very much, everyone. I spoke to the violin teacher.
She has agreed to move on to Lightly Row as of this week.
Her reason : She feels that my daughter was not properly trained by the previously teacher and lacked many basic skills.
Because my daughter had already played Book 1 pieces, she did not want my daughter to move on to the next “repeat” piece without perfectly flawless plays this time around.

During our discussion, she also blamed her scheduling conflict, although it was not an issue to us.
She admitted that she was cutting my daughter’s lessons short in the last 3 months due to her personal commitment immediately after the lesson.
She’s always behind with all of her students.
Because my daughter has the last lesson time, her lesson is around 20 minutes instead of 30 minutes.
She has also agreed to fix this scheduling conflict starting May.

It was apparent that she was aware of my daughter’s frustration.
In fact, it almost seemed that she was prepared/waiting for me to bring up this issue.

By sheer coincidence, one of Suzuki teachers in the same school just had two students leave and is in need of new students.
I’m going to keep her as an option in the near future, if the situation doesn’t improve as promised.

Thanks to all of you, I also now understand common situations of transferring students and continuation of Twinkle techniques beyond Book 1.
You all gave me great support to actually do something about our struggle and helpful knowledge before I could intelligently bring my concern to the teacher’s attention. :)

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