What is the Suzuki Method?
“More than fifty years ago, Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki realized the implications of the fact that children the world over learn to speak their native language with ease. He began to apply the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music, and called his method the mother-tongue approach. The ideas of parent responsibility, loving encouragement, constant repetition, etc., are some of the special features of the Suzuki approach.” Read more…
You mentioned a “mastery path” — what does this mean?
Families that join Landes String Studio are committing to violin study as a mastery path. That means that violin is not a “music activity” or an “extra” but is part of a child’s education and in that way a serious study. Jessica expects that each student and practice partner will take note of what she covers in the lesson, work daily on those ideas as part of a “violin habit” (min. 5 days), and come to the lesson ready to present what you have worked on. Often times a mastery path sits at something of a plateau, where work shows very little signs of change. That is okay! Your commitment to a long term vision for violin study will help you make it through these “meh” times.
Do Suzuki students learn to read music well?
Absolutely! In Jessica’s studio, students begin learning to read music as soon as they are able to read written letters and words and as soon as their playing technique can operate accurately using muscle memory. Students continue to develop this skill alongside their ability to play by ear.
Why is ear training so important? Dr. Suzuki’s great experiment — that worked and amazed the globe! — was to teach music the same way we learn a language — through listening, imitating and interacting. Practically speaking, most musicians will affirm that training the ear is vital to being a musician and much harder to do than training the eye (a.k.a. learning to read music). So it makes sense on different fronts to begin music training focusing on the ear. A poignant example of this is Jessica’s music theory professor in graduate school that chose to give his daughter Suzuki violin lessons.
What is the right age to start lessons?
Jessica’s Suzuki students are ready at different ages — some ready as young as 4 years old and some ready at age 5 or 6. Of course, it’s never too late to learn to fiddle!
I am not at all a musical person. Will I be able to do this?
Absolutely! The parent that accompanies their child to lessons and practices with their child at home doesn’t need to know anything about music. Jessica carefully crafts lessons that move in slow step-wise fashion so that student and parent can both learn together. Rather, the following qualities are often found in successful Suzuki families: relational skills, observational skills, patience, instruction following skills, the ability to understand and meet a child’s changing needs, and the ability to communicate these needs to the teacher. And you don’t have to be an expert in these things, just willing to keep working at them!
How do I know if my child is ready?
When your child can remain engaged in a single task for 10 minutes or more, when your child is able to follow instructions, and when your child can communicate clearly, these are indicators that he/she may be ready for lessons. A desire to play the instrument or to make music can be important, but if YOU have the desire for your child to play the violin, your enthusiasm can carry over to your child over time. Learning an instrument can be likened to brushing our teeth. If we left it up to our children whether they would brush their teeth each morning and evening, they probably would not do it. As parents, we know the value and the positive long-term effects of brushing teeth, and we insist on it.
Why is my student starting on a box violin?
Young children begin lessons using a box violin and a practice bow. This allows us to break down our violin playing skills into smaller parts, setting the fundamental principles of music learning and proper violin playing technique so that when we add sound, playing is “easy.” The box violin is light and comfortable to hold, which makes setting up proper playing technique a managable task. The box violin is easily made and replacable for pennies which allows us the freedom we need to get used to teaching our muscles a new way of holding a valuable object. The box violin experience teaches concentration and focus, good violin playing technique, and helps awaken the inner rhythmic pulse. The box violin also helps us mark our milestones and gives us our first taste of practicing delayed gratification, a valuable life lesson with innumerable benefits and a friend of anyone who plays a musical instrument. Jessica will be very clear about what skills she is looking for in order to graduate to the real violin. In the end, many students end up loving their box violins, a valuable reminder of just how far they’ve come.
Do you ever start a beginning student on a real violin?
Yes, adult students and older children often begin using a real violin. I consider each situation carefully before deciding which avenue to take. My goal in the end is to make learning the violin as easy as possible for each student, and to minimize violin accidents.
How much do lessons cost?
Tuition covers weekly private lessons, bi-weekly group lessons, make-up lessons, administrative expenses, consultations, select supplies, and select recitals and performances (eleven months total each academic year). Tuition is subject to change from year to year. Need-based scholarships may be available to those receiving government assistance. Ask Jessica for details.
What is your payment policy?
I use a tuition model that covers our work together in order to give me full support to help you along this journey in every way that I can. Tuition payment is due at the first private lesson of each month from September through May. Summer lessons take place for the equivalent of two months with one month break between June and August. A payment plan is possible for those who choose.
Where do I buy a violin? Can I get away with buying a cheap violin on the internet?
Jessica will work with you to find a violin that is right for you in quality, size, and budget. Buying your instrument will be a careful process to ensure that the investment is worth your money and that the violin will be easy to handle and not a frustration to maintain. Do not buy an instrument before discussing violin options with Jessica. You will pay in the long run when you buy a cheap instrument.
Can you be more specific about what I will be required to invest in violin lessons?
I will try! I have dedicated this special page to spelling out as best I can the time and money it will require to be part of Landes String Studio.
Do parents stay for the lessons?
Yes. Participation of the parent or guardian is an integral part of the training. All lessons require a parent to be present in order to take notes so practice can be monitored at home. Beginning students age 10 and younger also need the help of the parent at home to be the practice partner* during their daily practice time.
Why are group lessons so important?
Group lessons are offered every other week. These are highly motivational for students and are required as part of the learning program. They offer a social environment for building skills through games and group interaction. In group class, children have the opportunity to develop a peer group while honing new skills or expanding on skills they have learned in their private lessons. Students learn to play together as a group and to follow cues from a leader; they practice keeping a steady tempo and playing with piano accompaniment. Group classes explore aspects of music such as matching pitches, imitating rhythms, finding the beat, developing critical listening skills, intervals, note-reading, music theory, and developing leadership skills. Students must be accompanied by an adult and in the full responsibility of that adult, either the practice partner or another adult designated by the parents.
Are there performances? Other activities?
Yes! Every child will have the chance to participate in performances that celebrate what each child has to offer and strive to remain positive and fun, giving us a focused goal for polishing pieces. Landes String Studio also encourages fun social activities.
Where do the lessons take place?
Lessons take place in Jessica’s home near the Forest Hills neighborhood of Wilmington, NC. Group lesson and event locations are local to the Wilmington area.
Should I have my child practice with the instrument before the ﬁrst lesson?
Please DO NOT allow your child to attempt playing the violin before lessons begin. Children who handle their instruments prior to receiving instruction face the discouraging process of reversing unhealthy playing habits. Also, children who come to their ﬁrst lesson thinking they already know how to play are not easily receptive to instruction. Please come with them having this expectation. Your child must simply know that he/she is getting ready to play the violin.
I can’t make it to the lesson today. Can I schedule a make-up lesson?
Whether you attend the lesson or not, Jessica has reserved a time slot for you, a time slot which has not been offered to another student. Because of this, Jessica has a very strict make-up lesson plan. If Jessica ever has to cancel a lesson, she will arrange for a make-up lesson or a lesson credit.
*Choosing the “practice partner”: I ask that with each student there is one designated parent/adult that attends the lessons and works as a practice partner with their child daily during the week. For this role it is best to choose a parent/adult that does not travel a lot for work and has time during the week to invest in daily practice. I understand when there are rare cases when the practice partner must find a substitute, but expect that the designated practice partner be involved with the lessons/practicing at least 90% of the time. This connection with one adult not only supports consistency and progress in music education but is a valuable bonding experience which Dr. Suzuki of the Suzuki approach holds just as highly as the technical success of the child.