This holiday season we have a few suggestions to help parents who are encouraging their children’s musical studies with gifts that support their efforts. Enjoy!
Having a sturdy music stand available in your child’s practice area is a great way to show support for their music studies. A solid stand will hold all of their music books and because of its solid desk, it will support any writing you or your child might need to do during practice. (And who can resist these fun colors?!).
2. Practice Space makeover
If you already have a stand like the one above, try adding a few inspirational messages or images for your child in or around their practice space. You could consider framing images of famous violinists such as Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn or Sarah Chang and/or printing some nice quotes about practice such as,
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good, it is the thing that makes you good.”—Malcolm Gladwell
“Only practice on the days that you eat.” -Shinichi Suzuki
“The slower you go, the faster you get there.” -John Link
Metronome. Every music student needs a metronome. While there are many metronome apps available, I am a fan of the ‘old school’ metronome placed on a stand or shelf nearby for several reasons. First, it is loud. And second, there are no distractions from other apps or excuses to wander into social media during practice. 😉
Pencil Holder. Don’t be caught without one!
Page markers. A fun way to mark the pages of assignments in your music books.
Highlight tape. Students enjoy using this tape to mark the “map” or form of a piece or to use it to mark spots that need extra practice.
4. New Case strap
Having a new accessory for their instrument could not only zhuzh up their violin case, but also perhaps their enthusiasm for it (and even the practice it demands). These straps at Strapsy are fun and unique!
5. Fun Games and Practice items
A great way to bring some humor and play into a hard working practice session is to use little trinkets and games to keep things light and the corrections impersonal. Can you balance a friend on your violin while you play your review piece? Can you move a bead for every “keeper” achieved in a phrase? Along the same lines, try adding a fun music game to your practice or for a family game night. Michiko Yurko, a Suzuki piano teacher in Washington D.C, developed these fantastic materials. Many of our students order the puppy pack. Try playing traditional card games like War, Solitaire, or Go Fish with these music note cards.
6. Concert Tickets
We are so fortunate to live in an area where there is an abundance of live music ready to be heard almost anytime. OPSA teachers perform in a many different places around the Chicago area. You can hear them in a chamber concert, downtown in an orchestra performance, in River Forest in a Bach cantata, and more. The Chicago Symphony has lovely children’s concerts like these. You can also find inspiration together by attending a Chicago Youth Symphony concert.
Here is a concert opportunity with OPSA violin faculty, founder & director, Meg Lanfear, and cellist and chamber music coach, Jean Hatmaker, performing at Grace Lutheran in River Forest. They will perform as part of the excellent Bach Cantata Series offered here every year.
7. Subscription to Spotify
Having access to music anywhere, anytime as well as the ability to share songs between devices and people (such as your teacher!) makes a Spotify subscription a great choice for music students. And, as you may know, the Suzuki albums are all available here. We prefer the Suzuki Evergreens playlist as this offers the Suzuki version of the violin pieces as well as the original version (e.g. a German children’s choir singing O Come Little Children).
8. A personal musical history file
I recently saw a great idea a parent had to collect their child’s funny sayings, some photos, messages from family, childhood artwork, etc. and emailed it to an email address in their child’s name. They turned over the account to their child when they graduated high school. I thought that a similar idea would be lovely for a child growing up playing an instrument. Keep a Dropbox folder of their images from concerts, a few videos, and a list of the repertoire studied and accomplishments achieved through the years. I also love the idea of briefly viewing this folder together in a time of low motivation to show your child how far they have come with their skill development.
9. Support building a routine
Students enjoy playing their instruments, but sometimes struggle to find a practice rhythm to their day. Sitting with your child at a time other than practice time and helping them sort through some of the obstacles to practicing can be time well spent. Are there a few moments before school that have previously gone unproductive that could be used to work through an etude or review pieces? When can listening happen? On the way to school? During dinner? Help to navigate these opportunities with your child. This support to develop and maintain a routine can make the difference between a frustrated student and one who feels they have strategies to help them conquer their day.
Some of my most vivid memories of my own young violin studying years involve my childhood home in Virginia. I recall being in our living room, practicing with my Suzuki Dad. He is sitting right in front of me perched on the edge of the wooden rocking chair, holding his notes from that weeks lesson in his lap. He watches me do an exercise several times in a row while checking to make sure that my repetitions meet the criteria set out in the assignment notebook. He is tired, having worked all day. He has an older daughter who wants to tell him about her day at school and a young son begging him to come and play catch with him outside. He also has a wife in the midst of starting a business, tired herself this evening and cooking dinner for our family in the kitchen across from the living room. And yet my Dad is there—giving it his all as a Suzuki Dad. I am forever grateful, both for the memories as well as the skill those moments helped develop.