Should parents plan to attend each lesson with their child, or drop off and pick up?
As with many of these questions, it totally depends on the child! The goal is for your child to get the most out of the lesson as possible, and sometimes they’re so occupied with lesson that they don’t even notice a parent is hanging out.
More often than not, however, children behave very differently when a parent stays versus drops off. Shy children will often become more animated once a parent heads out to do errands, and kids that sometimes have difficulty focusing find it easier when a parent heads out. This is one reason some studios make it a rule that parents do not stay for music class. However, we find there’s an exception to be had for every rule, so we don’t strictly adhere to that policy. We’ve seen many different scenarios with parents staying and dropping off to be equally successful, so our only hard and fast rule is that the lesson will be designed to ensure a productive (dare we say, fun?) experience for each individual.
My personal teaching style tends to be very student-oriented, and in addition I do find it helps families in the long run if the student is able to develop as much age-appropriate autonomy as possible with their instrument.
That being said we do have some families who work better if parents or caregivers are highly involved in lesson, or who come from a more traditional Suzuki background of parent involvement in the lesson.
We do recommend that a parent stay for the very first lesson, to check out how lessons go and to get the hang of how the violin is held- as well as to look over the materials from the first class. After the first lesson, I usually have a good idea of how students will do with or without a parent present, so I can give a recommendation at that point.
Additionally, it is always very important to communicate any expectations or hopes you may have regarding participation in lessons or at home so that can be supported.
Parental support at home is one of the biggest factors in successfully learning an instrument. So regardless of staying or dropping off, the last 5-10 minutes of class (depending on the length of class) is dedicated to catching parents up on the work for the week and student progress.
Lessons are once a week, with 46 lessons per year.
We like to keep tuition the same each month regardless of whether there are 4 weeks or 5 weeks, and to make that happen we’ve found that it works well to have a “studio hiatus” at common holiday times (i.e., Thanksgiving or the winter holidays). This way, we can not only keep tuition the same each month, but additionally there’s no need to scramble to find makeup lesson times in busy schedules if families plan to travel for these holidays.
The studio hiatus dates are put in the public calendar for help in planning, and usually there is one of these days dedicated solely to makeup lessons if there are any outstanding (make up lessons can be scheduled any day, however, not just on these “dedicated” days).
For more on practice and how to practice with your violinist, see here
The best help from parents is help with the discipline of practice. It is far better to practice a little bit each day, than in large chunks of time only a few times a week!
Just like anything that requires a bit of discipline (brushing teeth, bedtime!), younger students may not be excited about practicing every single day, or be proactive about suggesting practice. We admit that even professionals aren’t always, either! Supporting regular practice won’t mean that your student will feel “forced” or even have a negative experience playing. In fact, supporting regular practice at home in a positive way usually means the student has a more rewarding experience overall. If you feel that reminders to practice or joint practice efforts are becoming a negative experience, it is important to discuss that right away with your teacher- there are all kinds of ways to create a positive experience and sometimes a little shift in technique is all that is needed!
I usually recommend that beginners practice daily, one minute per year of age, and then as the student advances we continually adjust that time for schedules, focus, etc. Usually, the toughest part is just getting the instrument out and getting started!
Young students should not be expected to practice on their own, nor should they be expected to keep track of how long they are practicing. Egg timers are fantastic practice aids, and parents are fantastic help!
Remember, you’ll get more out of each lesson if the student has done as much as they can at home. Think of lessons as a way to facilitate progress at home: I only get to see your student one hour or half hour for every 167 they’re at home!
All that said, more practice is not necessarily better practice. If your student is at the level of ability that the expectation is to practice several hours a day, we can talk about techniques and strategies for getting the most out of the time (healthfully/without injury)!
If you have any questions about how to practice at home, don’t hesitate to ask! Also, questions during the week are always welcome, so feel free to email or call!
Mini-recitals take place at 547 Pacific and occasionally at other small venues (read: familiar, un-scary environment!) and is an informal way to practice playing with an accompanist and performing in front of a friendly, supportive crowd of peers and parents.
These recitals usually occur many times a year, unlike the recital, which occurs currently once per year, and group classes, (which are in essence preparation for mini and regular recitals as well as a chance for socialization with other violinists) which occur monthly for the beginners.
It is totally acceptable to invite guests to these events (the more the merrier!), but a low key, no pressure (dare I say fun?!) environment is encouraged.
Group classes are included in tuition and are important for developing performance skills, ensemble playing skills, and additionally provide the opportunity for rapport with peer violin and violists. Especially helpful for beginners, group classes are supplemental, monthly events grouped by age and/or ability.
Older and/or more advanced players are often grouped into small ensembles, which follow a different curriculum specialized to the needs of the ages/abilities of the students.
Beginner (generally through Suzuki book 3) students play both as a group and perform individually with the piano accompaniment in a super low-stress environment. Often classes include a group music game or two.
Group classes usually run about 45-60 minutes from in-the-door to out-the door and normally take place later in the afternoon on Sundays. If your normal class time takes place during a group class time, makeup lessons are provided.
*PLEASE NOTE: These are student only events, please plan to drop off your child, even if you normally attend lessons.
These group lessons are intended as a stepping stone to building good performance skills and experience, and many (especially very young or very beginner) students can be very shy. For most beginners, group class is the very first time to try out performing, and it is important to provide the opportunity to experience performances as a fun, relaxed, “sharing” activity as much as possible.
A parent may be quite familiar and obviously a friendly, reassuring presence, for their student; and meanwhile they may be an unintentionally intimidating one for another (especially young or new) student as they take the role of “audience member”.
For some student groups, especially those of school age (and somewhat inexplicably, and occasionally unpredictably), a parent presence changes the dynamic of the entire group in a way that is not always beneficial to the productivity of the class.
Finally, I often encourage students to try out new or not quite polished pieces at group lessons, and it is helpful to have a chance for a “rough draft” performance before presenting to the community at large.
The big recital takes place at a more formal venue than mini-recitals, with a larger audience capacity. This is a really great event to invite friends and relatives to- it’s the “show off” recital for the year!
There is no dress code for the big recital, but dressing up is encouraged. It is more important, however, to be comfortable (in terms of nerves) than to be dressed up- so if a dress or uncomfortable shoes also cue the jitters, go with the familiar.
In general, I require students to have had a chance to perform before the big recital: either a mini-recital or at a minimum a group class. Usually for very young, nervous, or inexperienced players it is best to attend a group class for a performance and then a mini recital, until there’s a level of comfort with smaller audiences. This makes for a more successful big recital experience.