How do you balance family life and the Suzuki method, from the busy life and extra activities, to the time spent, to the growth of the child and parent?
from:Ask the Experts, part 11: Balance – by Carol Ourada
from the Suzuki Association of the Americas Expert’s Column
Embrace the philosophy: “When love is deep, much can be accomplished.” Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy of love, step-by-step accomplishment, character building, and striving for excellence leads parents, children, and families to bond together on a journey that positively impacts the family as a whole.
Prioritize: With so many choices available, families will need to prioritize what is important. Practicing, listening, lessons, group class, concerts, and workshops/institutes need to be high on the list. This means a lifestyle change, with the benefit of time together scheduled regularly!
Reality: A daily commitment to practicing and listening is what will keep things going. Certain weeks, however, another activity or obligation might take more time than usual. If practice is still daily, even though shortened, the student will be able to at least maintain their level and motivation. Goals can be adjusted, then readjusted.
Limit how many extra activities the student is involved in. Most families can tell when the calendar is too full. Plan; rotate when those extra classes and activities will occur. Realize that there will be conflicts and recognize the commitments that need priority. Many families find that along with Suzuki lessons, one other activity per child is realistic.
Teamwork: Parents can work as a team and even friends and extended family can help too. In my studio, there is a mother who is the sole caregiver for the child. Certain times of the year, her work schedule causes her to be unable to get the child to group class on time. Another family picks up the child and brings her to group, and then the mom arrives a little later. For the youngest students, however, the primary practicing parent is the one needed at both lesson and group.
Support: Invite grandparents, friends, and schoolteachers to concerts, recitals, and lessons. Their enthusiasm and amazement at the process will give a boost to parent, child, and the Suzuki teacher. There are also wonderful resources to help support parents and teachers: Winning Ways, available from the SAA, Helping Parents Practice by Ed Sprunger, American Suzuki Journal articles such as Jeanne Luetke’s viewpoint for parents in Volume 35 #4 and To Learn with Love by Constance and William Starr. Visit the SAA website for more suggestions.
Island experience: Give yourself and your family the gift of an “island experience” at a workshop and especially at a Suzuki Institute. In Journey Down the Kriesler Highway Craig Timmerman relates how special events and trips heighten our awareness and memories for learning. Institute is a special time for new perspective, renewed spirits, and time together for the parent and child. The motivational benefits last a long time, as parents exclaim year after year!
A journey together: Being on both sides of the process, as a Suzuki teacher and a Suzuki parent, I have seen firsthand how the Suzuki philosophy of learning an instrument blends into our lifestyle, our parenting style and our family as a whole. It is a journey that bonds together families, well worth the time, effort, and especially the love that envelops it all.
Happy New Year and Welcome Back! We hope you had a wonderful holiday.
Studio Reminders (please mark your calendar)
Voice lessons resume on Monday, January 4 at your regularly scheduled time.
Very important: As always, please contact me as soon as possible, if you are unable to attend your regularly scheduled lesson, so I may adjust my schedule accordingly.
There will be no voice lessons on Tuesday, January 26, my birthday 🙂
Spring break will be from March 22-March 26; no lessons will be given during that week.
Violin lessons resume on Monday, January 4 at your regularly scheduled time.
Spring break will be from March 22-March 26; no lessons will be given during that week.
Lesson for the week of Feb 15-Feb 19 will be rescheduled, as I am attending the American String Teachers Conference.
We look forward to seeing you soon,
–Melanie and Bill Alpert
Alpert Studio recital participants (photo: Deb Tracey Photography)
Colds, flu and busy performance schedules notwithstanding, it was standing room only at the Alpert Studio Winter Recital, held on December 5.
Bill and Melanie wish to congratulate each and every performer on a job well done. Also, a heartfelt thanks our extended studio family for all the support and the incredible turnout. This recital witnessed tremendous musical and personal growth throughout the studio!
Best wishes to all for a wonderful and safe holiday season!
Brandon Alpert performs If I Didn’t Believe in You from The Last Five Years, by Jason Robert Brown
All of the countless hours of dedication and solitary devotion to our instruments bring us personal growth, enjoyment and fulfillment. Still, we bring the greatest value to the world only by sharing our gifts.
I once read that performing is the hardest job that there is. It’s a statement that rings true for many of us. Sometimes it brings us pure elation, yet at other times it can be utter terror. It humbles us, and makes us appreciate what great performers do.
Most recently, I was privileged to attend a live performance of Jason Robert Brown’s groundbreaking musical Parade at the Mark Taper Forum. Beyond the heartbreaking story, I felt great appreciation for what each and every one of the performers (as well as the creators) shared so generously. It was an unforgettable experience.
Last summer a large part of our studio family devoted months of rehearsal to a weekend of live performance of Jason Robert Brown’s music. While it was my joy to perform this incredible music with students, friends and family, it was also my honor to be able to share it with all who attended.
When our work as performers reaches beyond our own aspirations and touches the hearts and minds of those around us, we’re each creating a more beautiful world. What greater gift of love could you give?
Yehudi Menuhin plays Bach Chaconne
Studio students Jessica and Mike Ciao recently took the challenge and contributed their selected recordings. Will you take the challenge too?
Just a few quick reminders for violin students of the Alpert Studio:
Violin lessons are scheduled all summer long, with the exception of August 3 – August 14. Additionally, some lessons between August 17-19 may be impacted, however I plan to reschedule those lessons later that week, or during a mutually convenient time. As always, your regular monthly tuition will apply during the summer, as it is based on a total of 40-45 lessons during the year, payable in 12 installments.
If you plan to travel during summer months, please let me know at your earliest convenience, so that I can help you schedule make-up lesson time.
A Musical Summer
Summer often affords students more time to focus on musical activities. I’ll be talking to you about some possible summer projects, if you’d like to put some extra energy into your violin. Let’s talk!
Can you name a famous violinist that performed in each of the following time periods?
Extra Credit: Share an audio/video link to a performance by each of these violinists. I’ll post your selections on the studio website!
Free Outdoor Concerts
Come see the fabulous fiddle group Barrage perform at the Redlands Bowl on Tuesday, July 14. Cody Bryant and the Riders of the Purple Sage perform on Friday, July 10. And I’ll be performing with the Redlands Symphony on Tuesday, July 28. Info: http://www.redlandsbowl.org/programs.htm
Have a wonderful, safe and musical summer!
Mark your calendars!
The Alpert Studio Spring ’09 Recital will be held on Saturday, May 16th at 4:00 p.m. All voice and violin students are required to participate.
Recital Rehearsal (with piano) will be held on Friday, May 15, between 4:30 and 7:00 p.m. You will be assigned an approximate arrival time at your lesson prior to the event.
Let’s all prepare for a wonderful and enjoyable event, in a fun and supportive environment. So polish up your songs!
Years ago, Melanie and I attended a stunning performance that included our dear friend and peerless cellist John Walz of the Messian masterpiece “A Quartet for the End of Time.” Then just today Melanie’s close friend and internationally acclaimed opera singer Carol Vaness sent us the following story about the same musical work. It arrived on the heels of the death of a person whose life embodied the meaning of the story. We share it with you in Memory of Linda Mattier Corwin. Read this story and you’ll believe that there are no coincidences in the universe.
The story is taken from the welcome address to parents of the freshman class at Boston Conservatory given by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of the music division at Boston Conservatory. It’s a rather long post; please, please read every word. You’ll be glad you did.
“One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician.
I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school-she said, “You’re WASTING your SAT scores.” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function.
So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.
The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you; the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationship between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.
One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the “Quartet for the End of Time” written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940.
Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.
He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.
Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture-why would anyone bother with music? And yet-from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why?
Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning.”
On September 12, 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan . That morning I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn’t this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.
And then I, along with the rest of New York , went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day. At least in my neighborhood, we didn’t shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn’t play cards to pass the time, we didn’t watch TV, we didn’t shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York , that same day, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang “We Shall Overcome”. Lots of people sang “America the Beautiful.” The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.
From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.
Some of you may know Samuel Barber’s heartwrenchingly beautiful piece “Adagio for Strings.” If you don’t know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie PLATOON, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn’t know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.
I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings-people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it.
Can you imagine watching INDIANA JONES or SUPERMAN or STAR WARS with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.
I’ll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris ; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg . I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in Fargo, ND, about 4 years ago.
I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland’s Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland’s, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.
Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier-even in his 70’s, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.
When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned it was a dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.
What he told us was this: “During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team’s planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute chords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?
Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. This concert in Fargo was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.
What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:
“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.
You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.
Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do.
As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”
The Alpert Studio, in association with Frish and Denig of Fairfax, Virginia, is proud to offer custom chin rest fitting.
A historical first in the string world, this unique fitting process is designed to enhance physical comfort and therefore, technique and sound. The Alpert Studio is proud to serve the Central Coast California area.
In most cases, a custom fitted chin rest will eliminate or minimize the need for a shoulder rest, and will create a healthier, more intimate and more comfortable playing experience. Fitting is currently available for 4/4 and 3/4 size violins, as well as fractional instruments for kids.
For additional information, visit our chin rest page.