Back to school! Tips for encouraging success in music class.

Back to school! Tips for encouraging success in music class.

Ready to get back to school?! Get ready for music classes with these tips!

Including music classes as part of your child’s education is something we feel is essential!  In D97 string classes and band are offered beginning in fourth grade. While I wish these classes started as young as Kindergarten or earlier, starting as soon as possible will prepare your child to join one of the ensembles in middle school and high school where they will have the opportunity to develop relationships with peers who are motivated and invested in something positive and worthwhile.

Here are some tips for beginning your child’s musical education journey on a high note:

1. START EARLY: Did you know that many students studying at OPSA begin lessons at the age of 4 or 5 years old and continue through high school? Consider preparing your kindergarten or early elementary student now by starting lessons with a local teacher.  While we are partial to violin lessons at OPSA, we can help recommend teachers in the area for many other instruments.

2. QUALITY FROM THE START: Find a great teacher right from the start. Many a student has quit and decided they didn’t have musical ability simply because their first experience was not designed in a way that built in success. This is heartbreaking. Avoid having to undo bad habits–both physical and mental—right from the beginning by finding a great teacher from the start.

3. TEACHING vs. PERFORMING: Ask about pedagogical training. While a teacher should be an excellent player able to demonstrate in a beautiful and skillful way (and demonstrate often in the lessons), being able to play is NOT a sign that one can teach. This would be like assuming that a farmer can cook great meals. Maybe, but maybe not. A desirable teacher will demonstrate in the lesson (after all, music is a language that needs to be heard. Not hearing it would be like trying to learn French by only reading it–tres absurde!) as well as provide assignments for practice that leave the student and parent feeling like they know what to do, how to do it and exactly how to tell that they have achieved success in their practice.

4. CORRECT SIZE: Make sure your teacher helps you find the right size and quality instrument for your child. Did you know that violins come in different sizes? Did you now that one of the biggest demotivators for kids is having a violin that is too big which makes it harder to play? You may have heard that violins are like wine–the older the better. Without your teacher’s guidance, how do you know what makes a good violin for your individual child?

5. PLAN FOR SUCCESS: Make sure your teacher has a plan. Whether it is helping you select a violin or actually playing the violin, you need guidance. Playing the violin is not like piano or even most woodwind and brass instruments. Playing the violin is one of the most challenging things your child might ever do. BUT WAIT! Please don’t run away. Having a teacher with a plan (which often arrives from a combination of pedagogical training, experience and getting to know the particular student) can truly make or break your child’s experience. A step by step plan given in small increments can help to make the process fun, enjoyable, and most importantly–successful! At OPSA, we pride ourselves in helping every child know that they can do anything they put their mind (and time) towards. Musical talent is not inborn!

6. COOPERATION NOT COMPETITION: Cooperation and inspiration–not competition. OPSA includes a community of students (and parents) that are well trained. Some may look at the success of our students and think that it is achieved through competitive pressure. This could not be more incorrect. Rather than dull drilling, berating, pressure and competition, we provide our students with goals that they can strive for among a group of peers who inspire one another to be the best they can be by following through and committing to a path of excellence. We provide our students with clear assignments that help develop not only a beautiful sound, skill, and heart but also a sense of what mastery means and an appreciation for an art form that can (when developed skillfully) express the joys and sorrows of humanity. (Whew! What an awful lot at stake!). It is not uncommon to see a parent of one OPSA child congratulating the child of another because they’ve seen their struggle and been down that challenging road themselves and know just how much work they’ve all put in to arrive here.

7. FIND YOUR MUSIC COMMUNITY: No matter how much a child may complain about practice, I have never heard an adult come up to me and say, “I am so glad my parents let me quit.” In fact, I hear the opposite quite often; adults telling me with tears in their eyes, “I used to play and I wish I had kept it up. I’m trying now, but it is much harder.” Having friends and family around who also play or are learning to play instruments can help provide your child with a sense that this is something many people do and enjoy. Family jam sessions (no matter your ability level!) can be great fun and go a long way to encourage ownership for a budding musician. A pedagogical plan, a community of students and parents who are on a similar path, an individualized approach, and support for the parents are all necessary in order to keep the musical journey going.

Finally, learning how to play the violin in a way that teaches one how to break down something so challenging into smaller, more manageable steps is a skill that we all want for our children. On those days when they are grown and adulting just becomes too much for a moment, we hope that being able to go play chamber music with their friends, or simply for themselves, will be enough to help them recharge and find peace and beauty in their life.

New Violin Class for Elementary and Early Middle School Students

New Violin Class for Elementary and Early Middle School Students

Summer Violin Classes!

  • This class is specifically for students between the ages of 8 and 11 who have started violin lessons at school during the school year and wish to continue through the summer.
  • 8-week session begins June 10 and will consist of a 1-hour class held twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:30a-11:30a.
  • This class will incorporate violin technique, reading and ensemble skills, Dalcroze inspired movement and general music theory.
  • Enrollment is limited to 8 and the cost of the class is $400 for the entire session ($25/lesson). Sign up by June 1st, and receive 10% off (that’s only $22.50 for each lesson!). Use Code: OPSA10
  • Classes are held at the Oak Park String Academy: 350 Harrison Street, Oak Park, IL 60304 and are taught by experienced instructors who are also active performers all around the Chicago area.
(And come on out to see our current students play at the “What’s Blooming on Harrison Street” festival this Saturday, 5/18, from 11:30a-12:30p!).
Email for more info.
Benefit Concert 2018 for Hephzibah

Benefit Concert 2018 for Hephzibah

2018 Benefit Concert funds to go to Hephzibah Children’s Association.


Save the Date:

Saturday, December 15, 2018 at 2:00p at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest


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 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) and the Heartland Alliance’s unaccompanied minor program. This year, our music students are collaborating with Hephzibah Children’s Association in Oak Park, IL. OPSA students will be performing a concert at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Oak Park on December 15 at 2p. 

OPSA students and faculty will be collaborating with other Oak Park area musicians to create a global concert featuring music from around the world. In previous years, 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.

Hephzibah will be the recipient of the funds we raise. Last year, OPSA raised almost $2,000 for Heartland Alliance. We hope to do even better this year! You can make a donation right away!


Oak Park String Academy benefit Hephzibah

Happy Summer!

Happy Summer!

We hope you are all enjoying your summer activities!

Individual lessons are still going on at OPSA throughout the summer although on a much more flexible schedule. Be sure to check your lesson schedule!

Here is some beautiful music to enjoy on this summer day. This is young violinist, Soo-Been Lee,  who won 2nd Prize in the Junior Division with her performances at the Menuhin Competition in Beijing in 2012. Our four OPSA violin students attending the Indiana Summer String Academy for four weeks this summer will all be playing this. We wish them fun with their beautiful music making!

Chicago Suzuki Violin Playdown @ Grant Park

Chicago Suzuki Violin Playdown @ Grant Park

Chicago Suzuki Violin Playdown

at Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago


Every June, Suzuki violin students from across Chicagoland come together for a Playdown-style concert as part of the Grant Park Music festival’s Young Artists Showcase. Plan on joining hundreds of other Suzuki children to play your pieces together on stage! Pack a picnic and stay to listen to the Grant Park Orchestra Concert afterward.

What a great way to kick off a musical summer!

Friday, June 29, 2018 | Jay Pritzker Pavilion | 5:30-6:00pm

Mandatory Rehearsal for Participants: Sunday, June 24, 11am-1pm, Polk Hall, Merit School of Music

2018 Repertoire

Book 1: Theme and Variation A; Lightly Row; Song of the Wind; Aunt Rhody; Long, Long Ago; Allegro; Minuet 2

Book 2: Chorus from Judas Maccabaeus; Hunter’s Chorus; Witches’ Dance; Gavotte from Mignon

Book 3: Gavotte in G Minor; Humoresque

Book 4: Concerto No. 2, Movement 3 – Fritz Seitz

Click here for more details regarding rehearsal location, concert attire, parking and more.

2018_Chicago_Suzuki_PlaydownOak Park String Academy at Grant Park Music FestivalOak Park String Academy at Grant Park Music Festival

Book List

Book List

Love to Learn?

Top 10 Books to Build a Brain, a Relationship and Feel Better while doing so!

  1. Mindset by Carol Dwek
  2. The Genius in Every Child by Rick Ackerly
  3. Simplicity Parenting or The Soul of Discipline by Kim John Payne Oak Park String Academy Summer Reading
  4. No Bad Kids by Janet Landsbury
  5. NurtureShock by Po Bronson, Ashely Merryman
  6. How Children Succeed Paul Tough
  7. Children the Challenge by Rudolph Dreikurs, Vicki Soltz
  8. Parenting from The Inside Out by Dan Siegel, Mary
  9. Kids are Worth It! by Barbara Coloroso
  10. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

Even before I had children, I loved to read about the youngest members of society and why, when and how people raised them to become not only informed and capable people, but also kind, helpful and aware citizens of the world. Raising kids in a culture where parents are quick to be villainized and slow to be supported is still mighty challenging, although we are making progress in many communities. Parenting is a relentless job that often leaves us feeling like we are sprinting only to reach a long line in which we suddenly find ourselves waiting, with little to do.

But take heart! We live in exciting times of research and information! It seems that every day we can read about new research and understanding about Growth Mindset, child development, the plasticity of the brain, the power of modeling and environment.  I have hope that the world around us is slowly but surely developing strategies for growing kindness and laying the seeds of empathy in the hearts–and brains– of our children.

When I feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn and wonder whether what I am doing is hurting more than helping, I find solace in books. Sometimes this is an escapist novel, but often it is a book like the ones on this list. Rather than feeling like I am reading a book about everything I am doing wrong, these books help me fill my cup with concepts, strategies, and ultimately, the inspiration to try a different way, keep at it and carry on. Even the most balanced and steady parent with a loving and peaceful upbringing has moments when they wonder, “What is this behavior about? Why is it happening and how do I handle it with this child at this moment?”  If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed as a parent and wondered how to make things easier or more peaceful (and what parent hasn’t?!), try one of these books and I hope it helps you find encouragement for what is, no doubt, the challenge of a lifetime.

Happy summer reading!

Oak Park String Academy Summer Reading