February 2005

February 18, 2005 16:30

Reclaiming Lost Musical Treasures

It's raining out today and the studio is quiet after 4 very busy and eventful days of teaching. But there is something that lingers in my heart that I am sure many of you who teach must feel sometimes. I do not even understand why my thoughts linger on this note of abandonment because even now I have some wonderful students and families in my studio. I am of course doing some of the things I always wanted to do as a teacher.

But every year about this time I learn of students who will be moving away. It is the fate of starting such young students. You often never know what has become of most of them. You get to start them a age three and by age five or seven their fathers finally get that promotion or transfer they have been hoping for and your student is whisked away to another community somewhere across the country if not another country. I made the mistake of looking at old registration forms from over the years and couldn't help but wonder, "Where have all these youngsters gone?"

I don't know about the rest of the teachers in CA, but sometimes I feel like I am in the business of exporting Suzuki Students to the rest of the world. Some of these students have gone off to high school or college by now. Some of the moms of PreTwinklers have written me back for a short while often speaking of their frustration of finding another violin teacher or Suzuki teacher who felt comfortable working with a young child. My heart always breaks for these parents and their plight is far from my control. I just have to cross my fingers that some how the training they received in my studio will eventually lead them to a music program later in their development that will bring out their abilities. I find my self hoping that the new teachers they find will appreciate the well prepared treasures they see before them.

It is difficult for me to see such wonderful potential leave my program and never know if that child ever got a chance to study further or participate in another Suzuki program. You hope that, at the very least they found a school music program that continued their musical education. For that matter, the survival of music in our schools is something else we all need to keep worrying about in the future.

Currently I know only about a small handful of our PreTwinkle Alumni. It gives me encouragement to know that one of them is now working on Concertos with a fine teacher and even going to nationals from the state fiddling competitions on occasion. But I would be just as interested to know of the youngster who continued playing on through high school and just entered his premed program or engineering program in college. I would be just as interested to hear about the students who chose to do alternative activities before starting a 4 year college program. Even hearing from the special needs child who I learned so much from about teaching would be a blessing.

Each and every one of these students has a different story to tell. I wish the internet was available when some of my first students started with me. Perhaps it would have been easier for some of their parents to keep in touch with me.

In the mean time I am faced with filling my studio with the next generation of PreTwinklers and Twinklers and even a few transfer-students. It would be wonderful if I could share more with them about the accomplishments of their predecessors.

By being moved every 4 or 5 years it is very difficult for young students to develop relationships with role models in our Suzuki Community. I am very much looking for someway to fill this gap in the California life style. Our children do not always get to develop deep and meaningful relationships with their peers or observe the lives and accomplishments of the older student role models with out going to larger and less personally connected communities.
Summer Institutes are a wonderful thing but even if a student gets to go they do not see these new friends on a weekly or monthly basis. Connecting through the internet may be satisfying for an older student but it is not the same for a child who is still working on basis language skills.

When you are teaching and your studio looks like a pyramid with fewer and fewer advanced students at the top and most the beginning students at the bottom it puts a great deal of pressure on your older students as role models. No matter how well they play, some times there is just not enough of that student to go around emotionally. It is not their fault that their own peers have left the scene geographically. Additionally, I find that they suffer even more than I do in terms of being abandoned by their peers. I have had some students quit or dwindle in their efforts because their motivations for the violin really did come from the support of friendships. When you are one of the last men standing from your age group, every time you pick up the violin is a reminder of lost relationship.

I do wish the CEOs who are rearranging the lives of these families realize the impact they are having on the growth and development of our children. How can we raise young people who know how to relate to one another and work in teams at the work place if they do not get the chance to practice when they are young?

The problem with teaching under these conditions is that Ms. Cynthia is constantly re-inventing the wheel. How much easier it is to teach when you have lots of older assistants to go around. It is as if much of her hard earned gold is slipping through her fingers. This is particularly frustrating when you are developing a pedagogy that is unique and innovative. You would like very much for the results to stay near by for feed back as well as inspiration.

How much easier it is to teach good practicing habits and a musical life style when you have some living examples growing up around you. How much easier it is for inexperienced parents to get testimony from experienced Suzuki Parents in their own community.

If you are searching for ways of over coming this problem of Sustaining a "Musical Learning Community" in our fast moving and changing world please feel free to offer your suggestions and observations.

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