June 3, 2012 Recital at Overture Center
by Joseph Pecoraro, Suzuki guitar teacher:
"I want to play!"
For whatever reason, some children are attracted to the sound and spectacle of a specific instrument--they find the image of playing utterly compelling. For many families these initial requests from the child are what prompt them to seek out and enter the fold of the Suzuki method. They are rarely, however, what keep them there.
The picture in the child's mind is of standing up, perhaps in from of a crowd, and playing the beautiful music they heard. It rarely includes the image of daily practice, careful attention to detail, and the gradual development of skills and the ability to concentrate. This kind of long-term thinking and investment is not part of the child's mindset.
But it is for the Suzuki parent.
Before we ask the child, "Do you want to play?" we ask the parent, "Do you want this experience for yourself, your child, and your family? Are you ready to give them this amazing gift? To teach them to learn, to feel, to share in this way? Are you willing to commit to this process, teaching your child over time the nature of commitment, dedication, and love?"
The young child's interests come and go. Suzuki tells us that desire, and even genius, are nurtured by one's environment. Children are not born either 'natural musicians' or not. Skill and desire are nurtured over time. And when desire runs low it is the mature experience and commitment of the home-teacher [the parent] that carries the child through. Suzuki says, "Where love is deep, much can be accomplished."
Eventually the time will come when, after the child has been helped along on this journey, she herself will take ownership of her instrument, her playing, and her development. This may be in early adolescence when the flowers of consistent commitment and effort have long since blossomed and shown their color.
The mustard seed of great ability is small but lives within every human child. The power to release its potential begins in the hands that till the soil and dispense the water.
I think everyone knows by now that there is a studio-wide challenge to practice every day for 100 consecutive days. This may sound like a lot at first, but I think it's a completely manageable amount of time. My main goal in issuing this challenge is to get all of the students in the habit of picking up the guitar every day. Some days this may just be to play one review song while other days will be more productive practice sessions. In any case, getting the guitars in hand is the big goal. I've handed out guidelines for making this work and charts for keeping track. Make it fun with stickers, coloring, and maybe some extra rewards throughout the process. Let me know how it's going and if you need extra tips. At the end of the 100 days, we'll have a party (pizza party and bowling party were mentioned). Hope to see everyone there!
PS: Leave comments below if you come up with a great way to make this even more successful. So far I've heard of quite a few students who have made it past 10 days!
A great source of motivation is to listen to the playing of other guitarists. Hearing a concert in person is a special listening experience, but recordings and videos are also great ways to hear good performances. We have a great (free) resource in YouTube, where many videos are posted. You may even find videos of music that you are working on. I'll post some of my favorite players; feel free to share your own favorites.
First video is my teacher William Kanengiser from USC in a video of him playing his arrangement of a Mozart piano piece. Incredibly difficult, but he does it well.
Next is the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (four guitars), including a couple of my previous teachers, Kanengiser and Scott Tenant. They're playing an arrangement of music from the Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky.
The third video is the great Scottish guitarist David Russell. He recently won a Grammy for a recording of Latin American music so I've selected a piece by the Paraguayan composer Augustin Barrios.
The English guitarist Julian Bream is one of my top personal favorites. He has retired from public performance but he is still around. He was a very important figure in building the repertoire for guitar through the mid to late 20th century. This is a study by a famous guitarist from the late 19th century, Francisco Tarrega. The video is a from a little documentary about Bream so you get to see some cricket playing at his home. And he really is recording outside so you get to hear birds singing along!
Finally, the very important Spanish guitarist Andres Segovia. He is considered the most influential of all guitarists because of his work with recording, his endless touring (he toured the U.S. every year from the 1920s until just before his death in 1987--at the age of 94!). Here he is playing a piece written for him by the Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba.
Enjoy and explore many more guitarists--this is just scratching the surface. I didn't include videos of me on this article (but you can find them on my Media page).
This topic is being addressed, in some way, at every lesson meeting. There are ideas for how to practice, new pieces to practice, and games for repetition. We also REVIEW many of our old pieces and make time to learn something new or focus on a specific element of one of the newer pieces. This is how home lessons should be run: review old pieces, play new ones and focus on a specific thing to work on. I'll often assign a number of repetitions to do for a certain passage in home lessons. We'll often use games in class to make this seem less like a chore and more of a game. You should use games at home too. Here are some suggestions; please post other games that work at your home.
Most importantly, establish what the goal is (ex: eliminate buzz tone on A in "Going Home", or keep i and m fingers resting gently on 1st string through the whole piece). Then do the repetitions:
-Silly Cards: Fast becoming a studio favorite. Make your own "Silly Cards". Have a silly thing to do while playing the passage. Draw a new card for each repetition (stick out your tongue, close your eyes, make a fish face, make a monkey face).
-Spell a name: after every repetition, the child earns another letter toward spelling his or her name. Put the letters on index cards and give them in order or out of order for an extra challenge.
-Pennies/marbles/beans in a jar: for every repetition, put another one in the jar. Try to get to a certain number or place on the jar.
-Review Notebook: Write down the names of all of the review songs, put a tally mark next to every successful repetition of the song. Have a reward after a certain number of repetitions (100, 1000).
-Dominoes: every repetition gets new domino lined up (parent lines up the dominoes so students is up and down too much). After the number of repetitions, student gets to start the chain reaction of knocking down dominoes.
-Practice Candle: Burn a candle every time you practice. Once the candle has reached its end, have a reward for the student (pick out a book from the bookstore).
These are just a few suggestions. Let me know any ideas you have that work at home and I'll add them to the list.