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Pauline Lerner

Nurtured by love

June 6, 2006 at 4:08 AM

One of my friends is an unusually kind person who is always doing her best to help other people. She was physically abused as a child by both parents every day for years. I once asked her how she had turned out so well, and she told me that it was because of her athletic coach in school. She was a jock, so she spent a lot of time working with him. He knew about her athletic skills and, more important, about her worth as a person. Just as he gave to her, she has given to others.

Some of us are teachers, and some are not. Some of us teach violin by the Suzuki method, and some of us don’t. Consciously or not, we all teach other people by example and by our interactions with other people. One of the most valuable assets that Suzuki bequeathed us is his approach of nurturing by love. He wrote a book about it, and William Starr, one of Suzuki’s disciples and a great educator himself, wrote about it in his book “The Suzuki Violinist.”

Suzuki believed that all babies are born with musical talent waiting to be developed. He had faith in the capabilities of all his students, and he managed to communicate his faith to them. He relied heavily on positive feedback, even when making corrections. He would often say, “That was good. Now can you do it better?” For a while, he had all his students take a test at the end of the school year to determine whether they could advance to the next higher level. Of course, they all passed the test. He listened to every one of his students and wrote a personal evaluation with lots of positive feedback for each student. (Can you imagine that happening today? Perhaps someone would write a computer program which would generate sentences of praise and distribute them randomly to students.) At the recital at the end of each school year, Suzuki had each student play something that he had been studying for some time and could play reasonably well, rather than cramming something new in at the last minute and feeling nervous and unprepared.

Suzuki had his students perform from the very start of their lessons. Each week, each student would give a “home recital” for the father. (The mother went to lessons and coached the student at home.) At first, the student would climb up on a small makeshift stage and bow to the father, who would bow in return. After a few lessons, the student would get on the stage holding the violin in rest position and proceed with the ritual bows. Still later, the student would play a few notes at the home recital. The bows, respect, and family all fit in well with traditional Japanese culture, but the inherent message can benefit all students. The student learns from the very start that he can do something of value which will be appreciated by his parents. He learns the rewards of working towards a goal and showing other people his accomplishments. He learns something else very subtle and very important – he has the ability to make others happy. He is a worthwhile person with gifts to bring to others.

All of us – kids and adults alike – need to nurture and be nurtured by love.

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