Beginners…….where are you headed?(or, “The Ten Year Plan”)

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You are starting cello lessons with your young child and perhaps she or he is less than co-operative in the private lesson, or silly, or hyper, or shy and upset at Group Class-all things we have already seen this year and all perfectly normal to your teachers who have seen it all before. I am always asked by incoming parents how they will be able to tell whether their child will succeed with cello, especially in the early days as the child is settling into the routines of lessons, group and home practice. Parents are sometimes frustrated or embarrassed by their child’s behavior in these situations and the younger the child, the more he or she needs a few weeks to settle in. The flip side of a very young start (under say, age six), is that playing cello will become such second nature that stopping, as a teenager, will almost certainly be inconceivable to him or her. You are truly giving your child a precious lifetime gift.

But, as your budding cellist cries in group, or says, “This is boring (or stupid) (or poopy),” in the studio, or flatly refuses to do anything you oh-so-patiently ask for in a home practice, you may wonder just what you have taken on, or why you have written all those big cheques!

I am here to say “Take Heart!”  Our blended family has shepherded two violinists and two cellists from beginner to post Book 10, sent one to a University degree in music and now has another generation playing- a ten-year-old grandson in Book 5 cello and an almost seven-year-old granddaughter in Book 2 violin. Having been on both sides of the teacher/parent fence, I am here to tell you that, yes, sometimes it IS hard, and (an even bigger “YES!”)  it has been, and is, entirely worth it!

It is important to remember this: there are only one or two very strong predictors of success at this endeavor. The first is to take advantage of, and attend, as many of the events as possible offered by your Suzuki program. The mix that a Suzuki program offers, of private lessons, groups, concerts, recitals, chamber music festivals, workshops, summer camps (and LISTENING!) works!  It is foolish, counter productive and a bit disrespectful to your dedicated teachers to try to pick and choose among those aspects of the program that personally appeal to you the most.  We know that what we offer works; otherwise, we would not be offering it! Twelve (or more, and counting) of the cellists I have started have gone on to professional lives as musicians (over 35 years, I have truly lost count: it may be much higher.) Those who did continue on had only one thing in common: They did everything! (Just ask Genevieve!) The ONLY predictor of ultimate success is the extent to which the family is prepared to stick with the program. It really is 99% hard work and commitment.  Remember, our inspired founder, Dr Shinichi Suzuki, said that every child can be educated to a high level and he was right. But for this to optimally succeed you must take full advantage of what we offer. We have set up our program, which is much more than private lessons, for a really good reason. It works!

Later, when your budding musician nears high school age, different choices, such as orchestra, or an arts- emphasis high school may present themselves. Kids’ schedules get very busy. Many people see these other worthwhile activities as substitutes for Group Class rather than ways to further enrich the cello experience. We encourage all students to continue on with Cello Group Class regardless, in addition to these other things. Cello Group offers learning opportunities unique to Suzuki education that can only enhance your cellist’s progress. Every child is not destined to become a professional musician and that is fine! Ideally however, we like to see you stay with the WHOLE program all the way through to the end of high school.

This is the so-called “Ten Year Plan”- it is not hard or complicated: Turn up in the studio with a five or six year old, simply stick with the program and your child at fifteen or sixteen will be set to enjoy playing the cello, as a career or for pleasure, for the rest of his or her life.

By the way, the cutie pictured below is Esmé, currently aged 11 and a Book 5 student of Jo-Anne. If you are wondering what on earth you have gotten yourself into, take heart. These early years pass terribly fast- try to RELAX, as it says in my studio, and enjoy the journey.

[Comments about this (or any) post are welcome and encouraged. Please suggest anything else you may be interested in hearing about and I will try to address it in a subsequent post.]

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2 thoughts on “Beginners…….where are you headed?(or, “The Ten Year Plan”)

  1. As a new cello mom with a child who often has the sillies and can at times be quiet uncooperative, I feel this particular blog was written specifically for me….thanks Jo-Anne for the encouragement and support.

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