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!
1. Music stand
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.
…many great reasons to give the gift of music lessons this season!
At OPSA, our specialty is beginning children on their musical journey around the ages of 4 to 7 years old. If you have a child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or other loved one around this age, consider offering music lessons with OPSA as a gift this year. We have a fantastic music program that starts children out in both a private violin lesson as well as a group lesson. The ability and opportunity to make music with friends is truly the gift of a lifetime. Attending concerts where you can see all of the skills that your little one has developed through music will be such a thrill! With our Equitable Tuition Program, music lessons are accessible to all. Contact us today to inquire about our combined program of private lessons and group classes and to learn about class schedules. Now, enjoy this video of some of our current students performing in our annual benefit concert from December of 2019.
Welcoming a more economically diverse student body to OPSA.
In 2021, OPSA began what we call an Equitable Tuition Program. We believe that music education should be available to all families, regardless of income. In commitment to our values, we have structured tuition based on an equitable sharing of resources. When you pay tuition to Oak Park String Academy, you are not simply paying for your child’s music education. Your tuition is pooled with what each family can offer in order to keep the work of our Suzuki community going and growing. We all benefit from a school that reflects and serves those in and around our community.
We depend on this equitable distribution to continue our school’s mission, pay for our lesson and class spaces, and provide fair pay to our amazing and highly qualified teachers while keeping the cost of violin lessons within reach for all members of our community.
Families can take a look at the details of our program here.
Dr. Suzuki says to start with 6 hours a day…
How are those listening habits going? Are you listening *every day*? Have you figured out HOW your family prefers to listen–spotify? amazon music? itunes? On your child’s device? Your own phone? etc….
If you have fallen off of the Suzuki family listening habit wagon, you’re not alone–it happens to the best of us. But not for long! And we ALWAYS regroup and improve!
Here are 4 things to consider when trying to up your listening game.
- It is *your* responsibility as the parent of a music student to make the listening happen. Don’t leave it up to the child. Whether your child is a 5-year-old beginner or a 14-year-old learning major violin concertos…turn on the music in the house! It only needs to be in the background and it needs to be on regularly so it becomes a part of their day.
- Do you hear the music they are studying or are about to study? Make sure *you* hear these pieces as well. It will be enjoyable for you as a music parent to be able to recognize your child’s pieces and to hear whether they are improving and sounding like the recording…or not. Don’t use headphones for your child for this particular listening. This listening should be done through a Bluetooth speaker of decent quality. Here is the one we use in my house. We have two–one upstairs and one downstairs.
- Speaking of technology….HOW do you listen? If we believe that music is a language (and we do!), then we must acknowledge that it needs to be heard and constantly present in our child’s environment regularly in order to be absorbed by their ears and therefore contribute to their learning process. While I have feelings about how the International Suzuki Association chooses to distribute (or rather, NOT distribute) the official recordings (newly recorded by the AMAZING Hilary Hahn!!), we can find ways to make this easy in our modern-day life.
Here are a few ways:
- Amazon digital downloads
- Spotify: Search for Evergreen Suzuki (book levels are labeled a little wrong–book 3 actually contains the book 4 pieces etc., but the pieces on these links are correct)
- Finding these links and downloading is only the first step in the process of setting up a successful (read: regular and frequent) listening practice for our child. The next step is connecting these downloads to a device that will play to a Bluetooth speaker. In our house, we have Spotify on every device. Anyone can connect their device (a parent’s phone, a sitter’s phone, a child’s iPad or other device) to the upstairs or downstairs Bluetooth speaker and get listening going this way. I come down in the morning and turn it on first thing when the kids come into the kitchen.
…many great reasons to give the gift of music lessons this season!
At OPSA, our specialty is beginning children on their musical journey around the age of 5 or 6 years old. If you have a child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or other loved one around this age, consider offering music lessons with OPSA as a gift this year. We have a fantastic music program that starts children out in both a private violin lesson as well as a group lesson. The ability and opportunity to make music with friends is truly the gift of a lifetime. Attending concerts where you can see all of the skills that your little one has developed through music will be such a thrill! With our Equitable Tuition Program, music lessons are accessible to all. Contact us today to inquire about our combined program of private lessons and group classes and to learn about class schedules. Now, enjoy this video of some of our current students performing in our annual benefit concert from December of 2019.