Ask the Experts

Patience. Generosity. Empathy. Determination. Joyfulness. Problem-solving skills. Kindness. Dependability. Creativity. Attentiveness. Flexibility. Resourcefulness. A lifelong love of learning…

These are just some of the character qualities that can be shaped through study of a musical instrument. Dr. Suzuki emphasized developing “good citizens” and encouraging “a noble heart through music”—and that’s what inspired me to become a teacher. To this day I believe that music can change the world.

Which is why I want to tear my hair out when I hear a parent sigh “So, exactly when will we be done with this piece?”

To: Theo Dnt 4get 2 prctice vln ♥ Mom

In a fast-paced world of over-scheduling, over-testing, over-texting and under-sleeping, it might seem as though parents are focused only on superficial outcomes (i.e. the next piece, the “right” college, the highest grades, the most advanced group). In our frustration we ask ourselves, “How can we change parents from being goal-oriented to emphasizing character development?” However, if we look at the list of qualities (above) again, I imagine all parents would want their children to embody these traits.

So, perhaps our challenge is not to change the parents but redefine the goals. The question then might become “How can we encourage parents to care more about who their child is becoming as opposed to what they achieve?”

Change begins with dialogue…

Simply creating space for conversation may help relieve many parental anxieties and illuminate a parent’s dream for their child’s musical journey. Examples include:

  1. Start a Parent-Teacher Book Club: Choose one book per month (or every other month) to read and discuss. Intersperse books that champion character development with classics like Suzuki’s Nurtured By Love. Discuss ideas presented in the books and how they relate to practicing, group classes, musical and personal development, etc. A few of my favorite book club selections include:

    The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development by Richard Weissbourd

    The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel

    Kids Are Worth It!: Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline by Barbara Coloroso

    Teaching with an Open Heart by Edward Kreitman (especially note the chapters “Defining Progress” and “Group Class-What It’s Really All About”)

  2. Establish a “Parent Coffeehouse”: Invite parents to meet regularly for coffee and a roundtable, free-form chat. Each session could target a different subject matter like why community matters, what consistency looks and/or sounds like, or motivation.

  3. Schedule a guest lecture: Invite a master teacher or parenting expert to give a lecture or host a question-and-answer session for parents in your studio. Oftentimes a guest lecturer’s advice might even mirror our own, however, sometimes just hearing the same information in a different voice or through a fresh analogy brings positive results.

Of course, simply starting a book club isn’t going to magically turn parents “POOF!” into the balanced, unhurried, whole-child-centered practice partners of our dreams. However, gathering on a regular basis in mutual support, turning our attention to the challenges/joys of the Suzuki journey and serving, ourselves, as models of the patience, generosity, empathy that we hope to nurture in our studio is a step in the right direction.