Acapella App Fun

Acapella App Fun

What do your OPSA teachers do when they can’t perform with others during a pandemic??

They create their own music… with themselves!

Enjoy this recent fun that Meg Lanfear (OPSA founder, director, and violin teacher) had with the App Acapella.

Parent Class Resources: First and Second Classes

Parent Class Resources: First and Second Classes

Parent Classes at OPSA

As part our program, we hold parent classes for all of our new Suzuki families. These meetings occur during the beginning group class so as to facilitate parent attendance. Having families in our program who are familiar with the Suzuki method and philosophy not only strengthens our Suzuki community, but also increases the joy and success our students experience with their music lessons. We are grateful to parents for partnering with us and creating the time to be present. 

As I was sending out emails to the parents in this class, I thought it might be helpful to simply post these resources here for everyone to benefit. Here are the resources and assignments from our first and second parent classes. I will post the resources discussed after each class. 

Session One: 

The Suzuki Association has a lot of useful information for parents. You can become a member and support the work of the SAA as well as receive the Suzuki Journal which includes lots of helpful articles. Coming up soon is the SAA Parents as Partners event. This is an online event that you can check into when it is convenient for you and watch many videos made by teachers and parents offering advice regarding practice, etc. Here is more information.

Also mentioned in our session with regards to the SAA are the Suzuki summer institutes around the country (and Belize and Canada!). Here is the link to the page about these options.

Here is the Beyond The Music Lesson podcast

There is also this podcast: Building Noble Hearts.

Quick recap of assignments: 1. Read Pages 1-36 in Nurtured By Love, available in many places, including the op public library.  

2. Place post it notes around house/car or set an alarm on your phone to remind you to turn on the Suzuki recording. (Make sure YOU hear the recordings, too, not just the child—not with headphones, for example).

3. Reflect on your ”Why?’ (Simon Sinek: Why do Suzuki lessons? What do you hope your child (and you) will learn?

Session Two:

Growth mindset resources:

Knowing about and/or believing in growth mindset is a good start, but living it and making it part of our daily and regular language especially with our kids is another. These resources can help.

1. Book by Carol Dweck: Mindset. And more follow up  info for parents/schools. 

2. Podcast for kids re growth mindset.

3. Podcast re growth mindset pitfalls. (Stefanie, the host, is a brilliant local Oak Parker!). 

4. “Kan“: p.46 in NBL. “Without stopping, without haste, carefully taking a step at a time forward will surely get you there. To commit oneself to untiring patience and strong endurance, what we call kan—intuition or sixth sense—is an absolute necessity in education”. 

5.  Article about Tiger Woods and how his father taught him (a lot of parallels with the Suzuki philosophy). An excerpt: ”For a dad so involved in his son’s sports life, Earl saw golf as merely a vehicle to teach life lessons. ‘My purpose in raising Tiger was not to raise a golfer. I wanted to raise a good person.’ Golf was a way to learn about personal integrity, focus, commitment (it’s the only sport where you have to call penalties on yourself). His greatest thrill was not seeing Tiger win the Masters; it was seeing the Tiger Woods Foundation open the $25M Tiger Woods Learning Center, an institute for inner-city kids. Unlike so many parents, Earl didn’t see sport as a way to earn a good life; he saw it as a way to learn one.“

10 Gift Ideas for Young Musicians!

10 Gift Ideas for Young Musicians!

As holiday seasons quickly approach, 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 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

Joshua Bell Oak Park string academy

3.  Accessories

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.

practice help at Oak park string academyMusic Mind Games Oak Park string academy

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 special concert opportunity to hear OPSA violin faculty, Elizabeth Huffman and Meg Lanfear at the Harris Theater in downtown Chicago for a Beatles Tribute concert. 

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.

Planning at Oak Park String Academy

10. Time

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.  



2019 Benefit Concert for A House in Austin: Saturday, December 7 @ 3p

2019 Benefit Concert for A House in Austin: Saturday, December 7 @ 3p

Saturday, December 7, 2019, 3p

Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest

Support A House in Austin today!

Donate Here

Dr. Shinichi Suzuki Oak Park River ForestDr. Shinichi Suzuki was a Japanese violinist and humanitarian. Witnessing the destruction of his homeland due to the second World War, he formed a vision to help nudge the world toward peace through its children. Through music, Dr. Suzuki hoped to build noble hearts in children all around the world.

With this in mind, we produce an event each year that connects our students from Oak Park and the surrounding areas to the larger world they live in. In previous years, our students helped to raise money through their music for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), the Heartland Alliance’s unaccompanied minor program, and Hephzibah Children’s Association. 

This year, our music students are collaborating with A House in Austin
OPSA students will be performing a concert at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest on December 7 at 3:00p. Please join us for the concert and support the work of A House in Austin here

OPSA students and faculty will be collaborating with other Oak Park area musicians to create a moving concert to include violin and cello students of all ages and levels. In previous years, we performed music from Syria, Lebanon, China, Romania, and more. This year, the concert will include a Vivaldi Double concerto performed with full string ensemble, a piece by Argentinian composer, Astor Piazzolla, a Beethoven string quartet and even a holiday sing along. Students will join to play music together and hopefully make the world just a little more peaceful and beautiful.

A House in Austin will be the recipient of the funds we raise. In past years, OPSA has raised almost $2,000 for our recipient organizations. We hope to do even better this year! You can make a donation right away!

A House in Austin at Oak Park String Academy


Community Night for Benefit Concert recipient: A House in Austin

Community Night for Benefit Concert recipient: A House in Austin

Everyone welcome!

Learn about A House in Austin November 17, 2-3p

Come and make a craft, enjoy some treats and hear from visitors from A House in Austin. They will share about what their organization does to help families and community members in the Chicago neighborhood of Austin.

Our December 7th Benefit Concert at Grace Lutheran in River Forest will be in support of A House in Austin. Stay tuned for more concert details!