What would Dr Suzuki do?
I’m at a Suzuki Institute with my child. Doesn’t matter where. And no, I’m not one of the True Followers, but the head of this institute allegedly is.
General rehearsal for the end of week concert, and the night before at 10.30 pm, there was an email reminding everyone which tempo was expected for Bohm’s Perpetual Motion in book 4.
So after a week of work on the piece, none of which was done by the head, who only ever takes the pre twinkle and twinkle classes, some of the book 4 and 5 kids are almost there, but not quite. One kid in the first row was dragged off the stage during general rehearsal. One stepped down on their own. The rest kept playing, panic in their faces.
One of the younger book 6 [edited - not 7] kids was ordered off the stage during Seitz because they got one bowing wrong. (The parent yells at the kid, as opposed to the the teacher, which is its own kind of insanity - it’s not like the kids are being paid to play, the parents are paying an insane amount). Would it KILL them to take the Bohm at a couple metronome beats less? And to tolerate that a young kid, even though very advanced, may make an occasional mistake?
And what has this got to do with the intent of the original method?
Sounds like a highly efficient way of teaching groups of children to hate music and performing
There is only one program on the institute list that has in-person events going on this week. (edit: SAA covers North, Central, South America, I checked on the off chance that I might have been there before or know someone who has)
I believe the objectives so poorly sought in the OP's example were handled very well in the Suzuki school of my previou residence.
I’m not in the US. So, probably not on the list you’re looking at.
Did they take the Bohm faster than the "official" Suzuki recording (the reference recording, as they like to call it these days)?
So, what is the role of the teacher? Is it only to set high goals, expect each student to achieve them to perfection, and punish the ones who don't? Not where I come from.
You'll note that the OP said that the
It sounds like there were two "drag-offs" - rehearsal of Bohm (dragged off by whom? if by a teacher, I'm going to project myself onto the parent and say I'd 1) be furious that someone manhandled my kid and 2) make a scene immediately about the adult's inappropriate behavior) and book 7 kid during rehearsal of book 4 Seitz (by parent) and also, I suppose there would have been an expectation for book 7 player to have reviewed Seitz for institute, which doesn't excuse the dragging off though
Ah no, not in that particular case. That one was a book 6 [edited - not 7] kid, taking masterclasses and solos in the orchestra concert. Who has probably been playing Seitz at that workshop for the last 3 years or so, but was, for a moment, unfocused and played a wrong bow. And was sent off stage for that by the head, in the middle of the piece. Plenty wrong with the parent yelling, too, but that was cruel and unusual punishment of a child in the first place.
Lydia, is it a problem that the institute is identifiable? If so, I’ll delete.
"teachers were going to be very strict and “pure” Suzuki."
Someone needs to take over from Dr Suzuki and lay down the law on his behalf. If it's not done, institutes will drift apart in their teaching and some will become heretical.
Is there a danger in placing dogmatic trust is a teaching method? Surely, across a range of educational fields, it is widely recognized that there are several good practices, but no single best practice that will work for all students everywhere, and never fail to deliver outstanding results. What I would LIKE Dr Suzuki to say is, 'Figure out what is right for each student, in each circumstance, using all of your musicality and humanity.'
A further reflection on the True Believer of the OP's post:
"However, the head declared themselves extremely unhappy with this year’s standard of achievement, including their own classes, and was aggressive with everyone..."
No, at the recital, everything was, and had been, wonderful and perfect, of course. No one sent off stage.
Whatever occurred sounds nuts! Maybe your child ate some bad rosin?
Dr. Suzuki would have tolerated a wrong bowing. The description appears to be the opposite of the methods and goals of the Suzuki method, which is not to produce professional musicians with technical perfection in playing and to browbeat students but to produce good people through hard work, perseverance, and being polite at mistakes. I was terribly shy as a youngster yet I was never nervous playing in class because of the good manners of everyone, especially the teacher, Marilyn Kesler.
"Apparently does this every year, and every year clashes with a few parents, teachers and accompanists, who then don’t come back."
I usually resist the temptation to respond to most stuff, but, I do actually know What Dr. Suzuki DID for my daughter when she was about 4 years old. Our program was the one at Eastman and he was visiting. This was in the 70s. All the kids were adding to the group on the low stage - easy access - as soon as something they "knew" was being played. There was no barrier or urging, just opportunity.
Jane Rose, What a delightful experience!
I don't think it's an issue that the institute is identifiable (and we're all carefully not using its name here, but it's also helpful for people to actually know which one it is, especially since this seems to be a pattern and not unique).
Yes, my daughter played her little heart out loving every minute of the piece that she had loved since she was two. He made it a delight. The funny part was that he was a heavy smoker and smelled like tobacco, but it didn't deter my kids from enjoying his exuberance. He bounced with enthusiasm.
Richard Pairaudeau, your example regarding Tosca and the cello player is very good.
@Christian Lesniak, yes! it was nuts!
@Jane Rose, what a lovely lovely story! Thank you so much for sharing! I feel much better now.
@Gene Wie, in fairness, it’s not a claim the institute puts out, it’s what our teacher told us.
I want to make sure that the institute is not MISidentified, it’s NOT under the purview of the SAA.
I find the sub-theme of pursuing perfection running through this thread. As one who assists with a Youth Orchestra I interact with many parents as well as the young musicians.
I think that’s unfair, George. I very seldom listen to music at home myself because it trivializes the music to treat as background, and I’m often too busy to really give it my full attention.
George, I think you are on to something here. I think a lot of younger potential audiences/musicians do not listen to very much music, or listen for any extended period of time. Perhaps, as you suggest, there are too many claims on their time for listening to seems valuable. I also wonder whether YouTube, Spotify etc offer too much all at once, and confuse rather than focusing the mind, in the way that huge menus offer excessive choice and reduce critical decision-taking. I wonder whether the logic of this is that one day we will have a generation of wonderful performers playing the Mendelssohn concerto at 10 years of age, but who have never heard the Hebrides overture or the Italian symphony. Furthermore, they may be playing in empty halls because nobody can be bothered to go to a concert and listen. We need to remember that novels are not written primarily for other novelists, art galleries are for an interested and wider viewing public, and that the art music of the western world is not a yellow brick road that is designed exclusively to lead to university and conservatoire entrance.
I think George and Richard are missing the mark a little bit.
I'd be shocked if kids weren't consuming far more music than previous generations. It's far more common for kids to have personal audio devices these days, together with headphones. And various technologies have made it far easier for them to be able to share their music and listen together during an activity.
Mary Ellen, Ann & Lydia: I should have clarified that by 'listening' I meant that the music is given full focus or very close to 100% attention, almost as though at a live performance, and yes, I too listen to relatively little, but I listen carefully, and not for background. When I listen, I often sit or stretch out on the sofa. I can listen while doing certain task that are quiet and leave plenty of mental space, such as folding socks or putting clothes away, dusting, tidying etc. I can ONLY do my ironing with music, and opera is particularly good here - not much to iron: 'Dido and Aeneas'; a couple of weeks' worth 'Tosca'; just back from holiday/over a month of build-up; 'Tristan and Isolde'. If there is an interruption I like to wait for a cadence before hitting pause. Phone calls are annoying because it only rings for a few bars.
I do not listen to classical (or rather, baroque) music much. I find that I want to give it my full attention, and I can only do that in a concert hall. I still enjoy making it.
I agree with the others here that have said they don't really listen to classical at home. It wasn't meant to be listened to over speakers.
I guess I'm one of the few that listens to music pretty constantly
I get the feeling that many of the (amateur) violinists of my acquaintance really aren't very interested in music per se. For me it's always been life's blood. As time goes by I'm playing less and less but listening more, and harder. Without trekking into London on the slow train opportunities for attending live concerts are infrequent and the quality is pretty mediocre, but with the unlimited choice of recordings that the internet offers I'm like a pig in
I first got into playing string instruments because of music I heard on classical radio, and most of my listening is still on radio. I rarely had opportunities to hear any kind of live music before college, so I've tended to be more interested in the composition than the performers, performance quality, or audio quality.
I'm a bit defensive. When I use the word "listen" I'm using that as an active verb. I'm not considering "acoustic wallpaper" as listening. That is a problem - we are surrounded by acoustic wallpaper.
Andrew, a goodly chunk of that is familiarity and accessibility. As a child, I had access to a handful of super-common recordings, on one of a handful of LPs that my parents owned. They liked the violin concerto repertoire, so we had a bit of Perlman. Later on, we got a Time-Life set of Heifetz concerto recordings from his RCA days, on cassette. Eventually late in high school I began spending my own money on tapes, back when you could get 'em for $2, and that got me the core of classic symphonic repertoire.
I didn't realize until I was an adult how much classical music I learned by watching Looney Tunes as a kid.
@Steve Jones, I guess that music not being their life‘s blood is precisely why they’re amateur violinists instead of [potentially failed) professionals.
I don't think that sort of behavior has anything to do with elitism and exclusivity. It's individually toxic and wrongheaded in a way that no one, inside or outside Suzuki, would condone.
Yes, exactly! That’s one of the values of both group classes and recitals.
In my view a Suzuki summer camp should be about what the students learn, the friends they make, and the inspiration they take home. A successful camp should add some extra jet propulsion to their own internal motivation for a few weeks or even months. Here is what you want your child to say:
There's a Japanese proverb - "if a nail stands up, hammer it down".
In relation to making mistakes while playing, whether practicing or performing, there's a professional musician I like to refer to, Rusty Young of the country-rock band Poco, in his book The Pedal Steel Handbook, pg 76:
Lydia's point is a very good one.
“But it’s possible Leonore was being ironic.”
I work for an international company, and my colleagues usually refer to each other by bare first names in a casual sense, and when writing email outside the immediate team, by first and last name (for clarity). Men, especially, may refer to each other by just the last name.
My general perception is that the difference between "Suzuki would say ..." and "Dr. Suzuki would say ..." is a quart of Kool-Aid.
Everyone can make a mistake. Many years ago my then girlfriend was taking lessons with the solo flautist of the Berlin Philharmonics. He told her a story about one of the first concerts he played with the orchestra. There was a passage that was passed around between the woodwinds. He played a wrong note and the oboe and then the clarinet played the same wrong note when it was their turn. Just to let him know that they had heard it. ??
I agree with Paul and I will add that, at least in 1984 when I was there for six months, Japan had a much higher expected level of formality than did US culture. I doubt that has completely changed. I have a Facebook friend who was a colleague of my father’s, meaning that he is both highly educated and quite elderly. I would not dream of addressing him by his first name. It is always “Dr. Lastname.”
"My general perception is that the difference between "Suzuki would say ..." and "Dr. Suzuki would say ..." is a quart of Kool-Aid."
The Austrian neurologist, Dr. Freud, was referred to as "Sigmund" by American acquaintances when visiting the USA. I believe he was bit taken aback by the informality in speech.
I hope you are not referring to Der gnädige Herr Doktor in such a casual manner, Ha! 20 years ago I addressed my professors by their first names. 40 years ago we addressed them as "Professor x", and "Professor Sir James" (Lighthill), who held the Lucasian chair before Hawking landed that number.
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