Benefit Concert this Sunday, December 3 at 4p

Benefit Concert this Sunday, December 3 at 4p

Join us for a family-friendly concert this Sunday!


Sunday, December 3 at 4p at Pilgrim Congregational Church


Our students have been working hard to prepare for our annual benefit concert. This year, our concert will benefit the Heartland Alliance. OPSA students made cards and bracelets for immigrant children being held in detention centers around Chicago. Donations may be made here or at the concert. See you there!


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.

(written by Brandi Jordan and 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

6 Tips for Raising Independent Children

6 Tips for Raising Independent Children

Reposted from here. This article was written by   

As parents, it feels good—great even —when our kids NEED us. When they turn to us for guidance, affection, even that peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Those are all good things.

We do have to remind ourselves, however, our long-term parenting goal is to guide our kids from being totally dependent on us to being independent thinkers and doers. That’s no overnight task.

It happens in all the little moments and lessons that occur in the day-to-day. From little steps like letting them pick out their own clothes to tying their own shoes, to helping them learn to weigh out what to spend their allowance on to choosing a college that suits them. Every little decision they make, right or wrong, along the way is a learning experience that will help lead them to be independent people we can be proud of.

Then, the thrill you get when you see them take on a task all by themselves and win at it? That’s awesome! If you’re eager to see more of that, let’s look at ways to help your kids embrace independence.

6 Tips for Raising Independent Children

  1. Encourage effort: That perfection thing? It’s overrated and it causes a LOT of anxiety for kids. In fact, some kids are so locked into the fear of failure – they won’t even try. Instead, focus on the EFFORT. Encourage your kids to try new things, to go out of their comfort zones and be creative without the pressure to succeed or win or be perfect. When you do, they’ll be more willing to take on new tasks in the future.
  2. Family contributions: Every member of a family plays an important role in a successfully running household. From setting out napkins to picking up toys – encouraging kids to contribute in age-appropriate ways teaches them that they are part of an indispensable team that needs them! This builds their confidence, and encourages them to want to do even more.
  1. Promote problem solving. Curb your desire to jump in and fix. When a problem arises, wait. Give your child the opportunity to come up with solutions. Ask them “How?” questions. “How could you make your sister feel better after you took her action figure?” “How could you make sure you get up in time to make the bus?” If you want them to think for themselves, don’t provide all the answers.
  2. Take Time for Training: Each week, work on learning something new in a fun and engaging way. As children learn new skills and tasks, they feel more confident in learning the next one. Who knows, they may even help YOU learn something new!
  3. Turn over the reins: Every single day is filled with hundreds of choices. Apple or banana? Peanut butter or ham and cheese? Red shoes or blue? Allowing your children to make those small choices gives them a sense of control and dominion over their lives which leads to independent thinking. It also helps them take ownership of those choices – for some reason that peanut butter sandwich tastes SO much better since they picked it!
  4. Structure as a safety net: Providing structured routines for mornings, afternoons and evenings gives your kids the safety net they need to try new things in a controlled environment. That helps keep them from feeling overwhelmed by the process, and helps you keep the peace!

Raising kids to be independent thinkers and to take a proactive role in their everyday lives is a little scary for some parents at first. Don’t worry, they’ll always NEED you. Teaching them to do things for themselves is just part of being an amazing parent. Think of it as a gift that keeps on giving!

For more ways to develop strong, independent children that listen more, behave better and are prepared for future success, join me for our next webinar, How to Get Kids to Listen Without Yelling, Nagging or Reminding. Find upcoming dates and times here. I promise you’ll come away with tools you can start using right away! See you online!

Spicing up your practice

Spicing up your practice

Is practice time a challenge for you and your child these days? Looking for a few ways to keep the joy in the work? Try these great ideas from The Practice Shoppe Blog! They also have a really fun collection of practice items to help make practice more joyful. Check out the shop here.

Practice Ideas

This article was written by Leslie over at Practice Makes it Easy

Sometimes you just need to add some spice to practicing.  Here are what some of my teacher friends did with their practicing this week:

Katie Mattox from Mattix Music Studio: Having trouble getting back into practice? Make work into a game! Here’s our “train station game” from today with small tasks written on each station. Once you complete the practice goal or task, drive your train to the next station. We had to have a chocolate at the end, of course!

Asheley Watabe with The Gifted Music School, Sotto Voce Strings and Rocky Mountain Strings: It’s a super hero matching game– every time Jack does a task he gets to turn over one cup to see if he finds a match…. There are 20 cups! It’s awesome!

Kelly Stewart with The Gifted Music School: A few years back Koen Rens gave a silent masterclass. I loved how he used his violin to speak to the kids and communicate what he wanted them to do. We tried it at home. Genius! Suddenly she couldn’t sass, and more importantly, I couldn’t YELL.

Stacy Smith with the Gifted Music School and President-Elect of the Suzuki Association of Utah: Today’s practice game: Uno cards. Grab a bunch of uno cards. Get a bunch of different numbers, limit the word cards. Line them up on the stand. The kid picks the card, you pick what they do. For example: 5. “Ok, now you’re going to play 5 A major scales.” 3: “3 review pieces with a perfect wrist.” Big numbers are great for now exercises. Word cards are something you do- I usually demonstrated something but have awful posture. They always fix it! I forgot about this game until today, it worked wonders with my 5 year old. We got 45 min in without complaint.

Do you have a fun and easy practice game you’d like to share?  Send a brief description and a quick photo to

To Raise better kids, say No.

To Raise better kids, say No.

The following was reprinted from this New York Times article written by SCOTT SONENSHEIN about saying NO, or rather, not saying yes (or worse–no, then yes!) to everything your child asks for. Enjoy!

Despite the temptation for parents to say yes to their children’s wishes, research shows there’s an insidious side to chasing after the newest thing others have. It fosters a sense of deficiency that can never be fully satisfied. First they want the doll, then all of the accessories — and of course the four-story Barbie mansion.

And so I’ve taken on the work of saying no sometimes. At first, not surprisingly, my daughters, aged 4 and 9, revolted. They called me a bad father and I got plenty of mean looks. But over time, they realized the fun that comes from a no. Now my daughters pretend that their Elsa doll plays with a package of Shopkins, giving both toys a second, and better, life.

It turns out that saying no pays off far beyond avoiding raising spoiled kids. When we always yield to our children’s wants, we rob them of the opportunity to find solutions by adapting what they already have. Kids who learn from denial realize at an early age that they won’t always have the perfect tool for every job. They might not know something, have something, or be something. But that’s not the end of pursuing goals — it’s the beginning of activating their resourcefulness to find another way.

Youngsters are naturally resourceful. Give toddlers a frying pan and all sorts of uses come to their minds. As adults, we’re stuck using it to make a stir-fry. Many years of chasing after things we don’t need erodes our own ability to make more out of what we already have. It also sets a bad example for our kids.

In one study, researchers asked elementary school children to help Bobo the Bear, a stuffed animal, reach his toy lion using some materials: building blocks, a pencil, an eraser, a ball, a magnet, a toy car and a wooden box.

As children grow older, their brains develop in ways that should make it easier for them to solve this type of problem. Indeed, the oldest children in the study (6- and 7-year-olds) reached the correct solution (i.e., using the wooden box to prop up the building blocks) faster, on average, than the younger participants, who were 5.

But there was one condition in the experiment when the younger children ended up outperforming the older kids. And it had nothing to do with innate talents or artistic tendencies.

The researchers made a subtle change in how they displayed the materials. Instead of laying them all out on the table, the researchers used the wooden box as a container to store everything else, such as the magnet and pencil. Upon seeing the box acting like a container, the older children struggled to expand it to anything beyond a container. For the younger children, the box remained just as flexible a resource as it was before.

Each time we acquiesce to our kids’ latest request to buy something, we subtly condition them that their resources have limited uses. An occasional veto will compel them, in this case literally, to think outside the box.

In American culture, abundance tends to be seen as a symbol of success, prompting some parents to say yes to things they can’t really afford. Witness the elaborate coming of age parties people across cultures and income levels throw for their children, even if it means going into debt.

Many people who grow up without much recognize resourcefulness as an essential skill to get by. Those of us fortunate to live in relative abundance can benefit from occasionally experiencing scarcity. To be sure, I’m not suggesting denying children a generous supply of things they actually need like healthy meals, warm clothes and love. But plenty of wishes we cater to teach the wrong message. By having children occasionally experience scarcity, we can help them solve problems more effectively.

In one study, a set of participants wrote a brief essay about a time in childhood when they didn’t have much, while a second set wrote about growing up having a lot. Afterward, the researchers presented both groups with a problem that required using Bubble Wrap in different ways. People assigned to the scarcity group had better solutions compared to the abundance group.

Why might thinking about scarcity lead people to view their resources more expansively? With abundance, people treat resources as what they appear to be on the surface, utilizing them in traditional ways. But when embracing scarcity, they give themselves freedom to use resources in new ways. Imagine the upside of a weekend full of “nos” — it’s likely to be one occupied with new experiences: invented games, a family dance party or time spent outdoors.

This strategy has worked wonders for our family, and I received the ultimate compliment after my older daughter’s most recent birthday party. It was “the best day of my life,” she gleefully told me. Instead of paying for a party, we had a scavenger hunt in a nearby park where we asked the kids to scour the area to find things they could use to solve challenges, like making containers to protect an egg from a 10-foot fall. There were three teams of kids, each with their unique combination from a variety of materials, including newspaper, cups, leftover Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, dirt, cotton and Bubble Wrap. The kids, naturally resourceful when we let them be, had a blast. And no eggs were broken.

All was good until we got home. “Can I open my presents now?” my daughter asked. “Yes,” I hesitantly replied. I’ll have plenty of other chances down the road for my next no.