An Evening of Community

An Evening of Community

Giving Artfully at Oak Park String Academy

On October 16 at 6:30p, our Monday night group class students will be visited by a speaker from Heartland Alliance. Students will learn about why we are having a benefit concert, who we are helping and how they are supporting. After we hear from the Heartland Alliance representative, Giving Artfully Kids instructors will lead the children in making friendship bracelets and cards for the children we are supporting. Students who are coming into the studio for their piano rehearsals with Melissa on this same evening may stay awhile before or after their rehearsal and make a gift as well. All are welcome at this enlightening and fun event. Please join us for an evening of community!


What You Practice Today Is Not Important

What You Practice Today Is Not Important

What You Practice Today Is Not Important: A Music Teacher’s Manifesto

(the following article was reposted from here).

I use the Suzuki Method to teach the violin. Your child may be learning through a different style. They may be learning something completely different than music. You may be learning a new skill yourself. The following idea still applies.

I could fill a whole book with stories about students, teachers, and families who can attest to the fact that their lives have been changed for the better because of how learning music through the Suzuki method has impacted them in musical and non-musical ways alike.

Professional orchestra players and a number of well-known soloists got their start through the Suzuki Method — so there’s proof that it works for raising professional musicians and great adults who pursue other careers alike.

Parents: all the effort and hard work you put into helping your child learn is worth it.

There are a lot of must-dos in order to parent a Suzuki student: practice everyday, attend lessons and group classes, listen to recordings daily, and attend recitals and performances.

Teachers constantly ask you ” Did you listen this week?” “How many days did you practice?” “Are you able to come to X, Y, Z event/class/workshop?”

You feel like there is so much to do in an already busy life . . .

But it’s not really about all that — it’s not about what your child does today that is most important.

10 years from now the fact that your child practiced on a random Monday in September is not a life-changing event.

It’s about who we are raising our children to be.

10 years from now the fact that your child has both the self-discipline to get what they need to do but the grace for themselves to know not everyday is going to be exactly ideal . . . now that is life-changing.

10 years from now when your child encounters a big obstacle or goal in life and knows they can succeed if they just break it down in little pieces and work on one at a time — that is a skill that sets them apart.

When asked what they learned from studying the Suzuki Method — adult Suzuki students don’t usually answer with the names of pieces or by listing instrumental techniques . . . instead, they list character traits: discipline, love for music, ability to break big problems into small pieces and keep going, persistence . . .

This is the life-changing stuff we’re really doing when we practice bow holds, attend institutes and practice those review songs yet again.

As parents & teachers lets focus more on what’s important:

Practicing daily: Yes — because of who we become when we do it (not because everything was done perfectly everyday)

Listening to our music: Yes — because we learn that when we need to master a new skill we can immerse ourselves in the knowledge of those who have already learned it & get a clear picture of where we will go. (and we will gain an appreciation for beautiful music)

Attending Group events like group classes/workshops/institutes/camps

Yes — not because it’s required by the teacher or it’s the thing to do but because we learn about community, cooperation, and to go be with inspiring people and learn from them in every part of our lives

Don’t worry about doing it all perfectly — don’t worry that your child is going their own speed — don’t worry that today’s practice was short and you only got through part of what you should practice.

It’s not what you practice today that’s important — it’s what you do over time with the bigger picture in mind.

Pat yourself on the back and be proud that you got the instrument out, that you haven’t given up — that you’re showing up and making this a part of your life. You are raising a future adult who will benefit from all of this in ways you may not see for many years.

It is so worth it!

10 Children’s Books for Teaching Growth Mindset

10 Children’s Books for Teaching Growth Mindset

Having a “Growth Mindset” is something we help OPSA families develop as they work towards mastering a challenging skill such as making beautiful music on the violin or cello. Here are several books to help you grow this mindset with your child. To learn even more about this concept, be sure to attend our February Workshop to hear Stefanie Faye Frank speak about the brain and how developing a Growth Mindset can benefit you and your child.

(reposted from here)  

10 Children’s Books for Teaching Growth Mindset

Written By: Brandi Jordan

Growth Mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, is the idea that when people change their beliefs about their own efforts, they can better adapt to create successful outcomes.  In other words, when you believe that you will succeed after practice and effort, your odds of doing so improve.  It’s a powerful theory that’s gained popularity and been adopted by schools across the country.  So, how do you introduce the concepts associated with growth mindset to your class? One of the best ways is to incorporate children’s books about growth mindset.  Here are 10 books to start a discussion and help your students change their perception about their abilities and efforts.

Growth Mindset Children’s Books

1. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Perseverance and creativity are key to creating marvelous things, but what happens when things go awry?

2. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

Rosie learns a powerful lesson about success and failure in this adorable children’s book with a strong female lead character.

3. Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D.

Streeeeeetch your brain and learn new things with the tips in this children’s favorite.

4. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett

What would it be like to never make a mistake? Beatrice Bottomwell is a perfectionist who must confront her very first mistake in this fun book.

5. What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada

Change your mindset about problems and you may find that nothing is as bad as it seems!

6.  Thanks for the Feedback, I Think… by Julia Cook

Feedback, both positive and negative, can create growth opportunities. It’s all about how you handle it!

7.  Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

Teaching children that it’s okay to make mistakes is one of the most important lessons they can learn.

8.  The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Creativity is on the rise in this adorable book that encourages children to embrace challenges that put them outside of their comfort zone.

9. The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

This little book emphasizes to children that being OK at something is okay!

10.  Making a Splash: A Growth Mindset Children’s Book by Carol E. Reiley

Compare a growth mindset to a fixed mindset in this children’s book that addresses different attitudes and ideas about learning.

OPSA Benefit Concert to raise funds for Heartland Alliance

OPSA Benefit Concert to raise funds for Heartland Alliance

2017 Benefit Concert

Dr. 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 surrounding areas to the larger world they live in. Last year, our students helped to raise money for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) through their music. This year, our music students are collaborating with Heartland Alliance and Giving Artfully to help immigrant children currently in limbo and being held in detention centers in Chicago. OPSA students will be making keepsakes for the children there, writing cards of encouragement and also performing several events to help raise awareness of and funds for immigration challenges, especially with regards to children. Heartland Alliance will be the recipient of the funds we raise.

For the benefit concert, we will be collaborating with other Oak Park area musicians to create a global concert featuring music from around the world. Last year, we performed music from Syria, Lebanon, China, Romania, and more. This year, the concert will include special faculty performances, global music, and even a holiday sing along. Local Suzuki students from neighboring studios will join to play music together and hopefully make the world just a little more peaceful and beautiful.

Here are two pieces from our concert last year.


Flatbush Waltz

Habits Of Successful Suzuki Families

Habits Of Successful Suzuki Families

The following is an excerpt from the book Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families which is available here.  It is meant to be a resource for families looking to answer the question: “How do we make the Suzuki method work in our everyday life?”

I was a Suzuki student, starting lessons at the age of two and a half. There are parts of being successful at the Suzuki method that I take for granted because I’ve never known anything else.

As a teacher, though, I am often reminded that there are many parts of what makes this method work that are new ideas to the families I work with.

Some of them require changing how a family plans their day, or how they interact when working with each other one-on-one.

It’s my job to explain how families can help their child be successful at studying their instrument through small, day-to-day changes and through shifting their mindset about their role in the process.

As a Suzuki parent, I struggled with all of this myself. So I want to do everything I can to make it easier for the families I work with.

That has caused me to spend the last eighteen years learning all that I can about what it is that makes families successful. The more I have learned about the topic, the more I am able to help the families in my studio. Learning an instrument is difficult. Without the right information and expectations, many people struggle or even give up, which is not the outcome I want as a teacher.

Why This Message Needs to Be Heard

I end up having a lot of conversations, both online and in person with other teachers. We often talk about what books we ask parents to read to learn more about the method. Of course, many teachers ask families to read Nurtured by Love by Dr. Suzuki,

but what next?

What resource gives a good picture of how the Suzuki method looks today, here and now, and in our own lives?

To that question, there are many varying opinions but no consensus that I’ve ever heard.

Certain books are good for technique, and others give some good insights into part of the process.

But what resource addresses the question, “How does the Suzuki method look in modern times, in our lives today?”

That’s what I’ve been looking for.

Since I haven’t found a resource that does this well for me, over the past few years, I have written my own set of parent education materials for the families in my studio. I try to answer questions before they come up about practice, the environment we create for our children to practice in, why playing in a group or with other people is important, why repetition and review is going to be a big part of our work together, and other such subjects.

Giving out more detailed materials like these, I have seen a dramatic change in how new families approach lessons and how successful they are at navigating the process from beginner and beyond.

This book [Beyond the Music Lesson] combines those materials with interviews and success stories to help answer the question, “How do we make the Suzuki method work for our family today?”

I hope teachers will find this book a useful resource for sharing with the families in their studios and most of all, I hope parents will find it encouraging and helpful to set up successful Suzuki habits in their homes.

To read more you can find your copy of Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families  (ebook or print) over on Amazon by clicking HERE  or at the Oak Park Book Table here.
Work Specifically For Each Child

Work Specifically For Each Child

My Name Is Tom. I’ve Been a Teacher for 10 Years and I Still Get My A** Kicked Nearly Every Day.

(The following article was written by Tom Rademacher and re-posted from here. We hope you enjoy it!)

No, it won’t be easy.

It won’t be easy during your first year or your second. It won’t be easy in your 10th year or your 20th. It won’t be easy in fall, and definitely won’t be easy in winter, and absolutely won’t be easy in spring. Summer is pretty easy, but teaching won’t be easy and being a teacher isn’t easy.

The danger of pretending it’s easy, of pretending we have the right answers is that struggle too quickly feels like failure.

I WENT HOME EVERY NIGHT WITH A POCKET FULL OF LOSSES AND A FEW WINS SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS.I spent my first few teaching years sure that it wasn’t right for me because I was tired every day, because I went home every night with a pocket full of losses and a few wins slipping through my fingers. Everyone around me seemed to be doing fine. Everyone around me had the same sort of easy answers we wish were true.

We say silly things like, “Set high expectations and the students will meet them.” But we skip all the things between setting and achieving expectations that are the real work of teaching.

What we mean is, “Set high expectations, communicate them effectively and while simultaneously communicating concern and love and respect, and reinforce all those things while not enforcing your high expectations in a way that will damage your relationships or that tries to be too much of a buddy. Also, check yourself constantly to make sure your expectations are focused on students, are not reflections of your own Whiteness or experiences, and then some of your students will meet them, but not all, and not on all days.”

WE TELL OURSELVES THIS WEEK IS JUST OFF, BUT WE’RE CLOSE, SO CLOSE, TO WHEN THINGS WILL CALM DOWN.We lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves it’s the full moon, or too close to a long weekend or the weather is weird. We tell ourselves this week is just off, but we’re close, so close, to when things will calm down. Any day now, “Calm City,” that’s us.

We lie to new teachers. We tell them that teaching is the sort of puzzle there are answers for. We are given what is meant to be answers in the form of new curriculum and online reading nonsense and district initiatives and classroom engagement strategies. We are given uniform approaches for complex problems that are not constant between schools, between classrooms, between days.

Here’s an unsolvable equation, the variables always change. Get it right, it’s easy, and don’t forget to show your work. But those big answers don’t work enough. Nothing works well enough for all kids except working specifically for each kid. That’s not easy. That’s never easy.

It’s not easy, it won’t be, no matter how often we tell that to new teachers, no matter what inspirational speech or email or professional development tells us how easy it can be if only we all just did this one thing. No matter how much our district and national leaders wish there were easy answers that made teacher ability matter less, it’s not easy, it won’t ever be.

THERE’S NO BETTER SIGN THAT THINGS ARE GOING POORLY IN A ROOM THAN A TEACHER WHO ALWAYS THINKS EVERYTHING IS GOING JUST FINE.The struggle isn’t just inevitable, it’s important. It shows us where to get better, where to adapt, where to throw out the old answers and come up with some new ones. There’s no better sign that things are going poorly in a room than a teacher who always thinks everything is going just fine.

My name is Tom. I’m a teacher and I get my ass kicked nearly every day. I get too angry, too disappointed. I have to learn to wear my urgency a little further from the surface. Also, my class is probably too boring still and I can’t seem to talk for more than thirty seconds without getting interrupted. Some nights I struggle getting to sleep or staying asleep because I’m worrying about that one kid, or that one class, or what next or what better. I’ve started my 10th year in the classroom, and it won’t be easy.

It will, on balance, be worth it.

An original version of this post appeared on Mr Rad’s Neighborhood as It Won’t Be Easy. Check out this interview with Tom about his new book.