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), the Heartland Alliance’s unaccompanied minor program, Hephzibah Children’s Association., and A House in Austin. Videos of past concerts can be viewed here.
OPSA students and faculty will create a moving concert to include violin students of all ages and levels. In previous years, we performed music from Syria, Lebanon, China, Romania, and more. This year, students will present several of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with a full string ensemble 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.
The Early Childhood Collaboration 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!
Our esteemed colleague, Laurie Niles, over at Violinist.com has compiled a very helpful list of links to help you find the official Suzuki recordings made by some of the best artists in the world. As a method based on listening, it is IMPERATIVE that you play the Suzuki recordings as often as possible for you and your child. The most successful students are the ones who LISTEN the most!
Join our Summer Small Group Violin/Viola Lessons for Young Musicians!
Is your child currently learning the violin or viola in school and looking to continue improving their skills over the summer?
We have a fantastic opportunity for them! Join our summer small group classes. Classes start next week, June 20th.
Dates: Tuesdays June 20th, June 27, July 11, July 18, July 25, and August 1 (no class July 4th)
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Location: Oak Park String Academy 350 Harrison St. Oak Park, IL 60304
Instrument: Violin or Viola
Age group: 4th and 5th graders
Cost: $185 per student for the entire session
Students should bring their current size instrument. Please DO NOT size up until after the first class if needed.
This small group lesson program has been designed to provide young musicians with a supportive and interactive environment where they can develop their skills, enhance their musical understanding, and have fun playing their chosen instrument. The sessions will be led by our highly experienced and dedicated music instructors, who are well-versed in working with students at this stage of their musical journey.
Here are some key features and benefits of the program:
Small Group Setting: By participating in a small group, your child will have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from their peers while receiving personalized attention from the instructor.
Skill Development: Our lessons will focus on building a solid foundation in technique, note-reading, musical expression, and ensemble playing.
Engaging Activities: The lessons will incorporate various engaging activities, games, and exercises to make the learning experience enjoyable and enriching.
Performance Opportunities: On the last day of the session, we will organize a small recital for the students to showcase their progress and boost their confidence.
By enrolling your child in our summer classes, you’re providing them with the opportunity to continue their musical journey and build a strong foundation on the violin or viola.
To enroll your child in this program, please complete this registration form and submit the payment of $185 by June 18.
If you have any questions, or concerns, or require further information about the program, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to assist you and provide any clarification you may need.
We look forward to helping your child grow as a musician this summer!
It’s easy to get a bit overwhelmed with school schedules as the winter months drag on. The goals we made in January might be overlooked. Or, we are simply in need of a bit of motivation.
Here are some tips on how to stay motivated when it comes to the daily work of music.
When students and parents ask how they can learn things faster I always say listen! It’s like getting at least 3 free lessons. Listen to the current piece or the entire book your child is currently learning, every day, at least 2x. This can be active or passive listening. Listening is the easiest thing to do, but sadly the easiest thing to forget to do as well. For more tips on how to make listening easier to do, please see our January 2, 2022 blog entitled January: Renew your listening habits!
Attend a concert
We are so lucky to live in an area that has an abundance of performing arts right at our fingertips. I guarantee that you can find some type of live performance every single day of the year within 25 miles of your home. Did you know that many professional orchestras have free or heavily discounted tickets for students and children? Please ask your private teacher for input on what you could go see this very weekend. Your very own OPSA teachers perform around the Chicago area regularly–go and see/hear/support their ensembles!
Play for loved ones
There is always someone who will happily listen to your child make music. Put on mini concerts often! Grandparents, neighbors, cousins, and friends are all excellent potential audiences and will love to be a part of your journey. This can be simple, like playing 1 song over Zoom to a far-flung loved one, or a more formal event such as a house concert for family and friends. Consider making and sharing your child’s favorite food after the concert!
Start planning to attend a summer institute.
Every summer there are dozens of Suzuki institutes held across the country. You can find one in practically every state and every week. Suzuki institutes are a fantastic way to get some external motivation that can carry you forward for months to come. You can find different types of institutes based on what works for you and your family. Want a rustic camp-like experience? That institute can be found. Would you prefer more of a resort feel? Or maybe you want to expose your family to what it feels like on a college campus? Want to look at mountains as you practice? All of these things are possible. Please check the Suzuki Association of America’s websiteto find a list of institutes, or speak with your private teacher to get more information on what they recommend.
Seek out creative performance opportunities
Can your child bring their violin to school for a talent show or informal concert? Can they contribute to the music at your place of worship? Do you have loved ones in an assisted living community? Ask if you can bring your child to play during their dinner service. There are many ways to get creative about finding other opportunities to perform.
Do a practice challenge
Commit to practicing every day for a certain length of time. Start with 30 days. Often, 30 days can easily turn into 100 days. If this is working for your child, keep going! It’s possible to keep going for a year or many years once you make the commitment. Don’t assume that this will not work for your family! Keep in mind that while we want to have a focused and productive session most of the time, sometimes we only have 10 minutes. That still counts as practicing! The point is to maintain the habit. Don’t aim for perfection–just do something every day.
While we are all dreaming of warmer days it is time to start thinking of summer Suzuki Institutes!
Many families and teachers look forward to Summer Suzuki Institutes every year! Institutes are events held all around the country (one in almost every state!) where teachers, children, and parents get together to learn and play music together. Held for 1-2 weeks throughout the summer, you and your child will attend master classes with highly experienced and skilled teachers, participate in group classes, and get to hear and participate in concerts and other fun activities such as talent shows or improvisation classes. Each institute has its own unique specialty and flair.
As there are many institute options all over the country (and the world!), some families even plan vacations around institutes in order to travel and get to know new places.
Whether this is your first experience or you are going back every to see old friends, summer institutes are a great way to immerse your child in a week of music, learning, and laughter. The connection and motivation provided by attending a week at a Suzuki institute are worth the time required. Memories, as well as new friends, are made sparking new energy to sustain a family’s practice throughout the school year.
Check out the links below for more about institutes in Illinois and surrounding states. Click here for a full list of Suzuki Institutes. Be sure to let your teacher know as they can help offer lots of useful guidance on selecting, preparing for, and thriving at an institute that’s right for your family.
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. 😉
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” achievedin 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.
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.