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Monday, February 17, 2020

Free Book Giveaway Celebration!

Little Things for Little Strings
by Eva Belvelin
The Teach Suzuki Podcast has recently published its 200th episode. To celebrate this 4-year milestone, Teach Suzuki wants to hold a giveaway of a fantastic book for teaching young beginners – Little Things for Little Strings by Eva Belvelin. Eva published the Swedish version years ago, and the book was so popular that Eva republished and rerecorded an English version.

To enter the giveaway event, here is what to do:

·      Go to iTunes and give the Teach Suzuki podcast a rating and a review.

·      Take a screenshot of the review you submitted and email it to me along with your contact information (name, mailing address, and email address) to paula@teachsuzuki.com.

·      You will then be entered into the pool to be randomly chosen to receive the book.

·      This opportunity is open to listeners in the United States (sorry I have to limit it this way).

·      I ask that you follow up with me later and offer a review of the book.

If you need further instructions about how to leave a review, click here.

Monday, August 19, 2019

How to Start a New Student and Parent | Resources for New Parents or Teachers

Recently the Teach Suzuki Podcast broadcast an episode about how I start a new student and parent. In this episode, I explore the idea of parent education and how that might fit within the studio program. I also discussed my 5-point lesson plan for Pretwinkle students and some basic types of activities that I might teach and games that I might include.

Here is the link to listen to that episode: Episode 176: How to Start a New Student and Parent.

To celebrate the start of a new season of music studio teaching, I am a list of resources to guide parents and teachers on the Suzuki journey, which include episodes related to Suzuki parent education and two short films that describe my book, The Twinkle Project.

The following two short films thoughtfully describe my book The Twinkle Project and explain why I wrote the book and what the book is about. The films include delightful pictures of students and parents to illustrate the importance of the material contained within the book.

The book is being offered at a 20% discounted price through September 2 (Labor Day). To claim the 20% discount, enter the code fall2019 at the final checkout.

In addition to the book, here is a list of Suzuki parent education resources on the podcast:

Helping Parents

Teach Suzuki Podcast

The 6 Suzuki Philosophy Points

Listen to This! (importance of a daily listening program)

Top 10 Things a Suzuki Parent Should Know

How Parents Can Help at Lessons

How to Take Notes at Lessons

How to Help at Group Classes

If you would like to know more about the podcast, visit the podcast website.

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2019 by Paula E. Bird

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

How to Survive the Summer Months

Similar articles about the summer challenges have appeared in previous years. The following article accompanies the recent podcast episode about surviving the summer.

Summer has arrived. Our temperatures have reached the high nineties, and schools in the US have been on hiatus for over a month. The studio feels the summer heat as well. I have noticed a trend among my studio families: the Summer Daze. Even my most regular families have been hit with this affliction.
Sleeping Dog
Dog Days of Summer

There was a flurry of activity in the studio during May as my students and their families prepared for the studio recital that marked the end of the school year. Then students came to their lessons about two weeks later all fired up with new material learned. Now a few weeks later, my students are dragging themselves into their lessons looking listless and unengaged. Sometimes the parents even forget that they had scheduled a lesson. Practice routines have fallen by the wayside, and practice goals have evaporated.

The Summer Daze is a slow down in commitment, routine, and action. The schedule is lighter than the school year and there are fewer demands on everyone's time. Unfortunately, if families spend the entire summer in the Daze, then the entire summer will pass by very quickly with little to show for it.

I am all for enjoying the free time and loose schedule. However, let us be very honest. Free time and a loose schedule do not mean that we will benefit from sitting around on the couch and doing nothing. Nor does it mean we will improve our lives by mostly lolling around a swimming pool and soaking up the sunshine. All of these activities are wonderful but not all of the time and not if you want to have something to tell others about how you spent your summer vacation.

I have written previous articles about this subject with ideas about how to survive this time with a modicum of self-respect. I have also published a podcast episode about 100 Things to do in Summer (click here), to help families and teachers find ways to stave off the summer doldrums. Today I will focus on commitment, routine, and action.


The summer is an excellent time to refocus our efforts. There are fewer competing interests for our time and attention. Why not use this time to think about the direction your next goal path will take? Recommit to your purpose to take music lessons in order to rear children with fine abilities and noble hearts. Reread some blog articles in the archives. I have probably written about every subject involved in music lessons. Search for a subject in the search box above and read an article a day to renew your enthusiasm and commitment.


Although I stress that routine is important in the summer, we do not have to be rigid about this. A summer routine does not have to be as jam-packed as the schedule that families maintain during the school year. Rather than schedule every hour as parents and schools typically do during the school year, why not schedule chunks of time that are designated for certain activities? For example, schedule a two-hour period first thing in the morning for breakfast, practice, and general cleaning chores (making beds, dusting, wiping counters). Then designate another two-hour block for major chores or errands (one major chore, such as vacuuming or laundry, or going to the library, bank, grocery store, or music lesson). Then schedule a lunch period, and the afternoon could include longer periods devoted to sports activities or swimming at the local community pool. Evening time blocks could be devoted to family activities, visits with other families, making craft projects, or special events.

If families maintained a schedule of time period blocks, families might take advantage of the loose feel of summer scheduling and yet have some structure to feel a sense of purpose and routine. Children thrive on routine and with this type of schedule would have a better ability to predict what happens next. Lessons and practice would be more productive and more predictable. Practicing is so much easier in general if it is a daily habit. My studio families will assure you that any deviation from the daily practice schedule often leads to practice problems: behavior issues, reluctance, and arguments. My studio families will also agree that it is so much easier to maintain a regular and consistent practice schedule and routine.


When we take action, something wonderful occurs. We overcome static inertia (the body's state of being at rest) and begin to build a new momentum (body in motion). Sometimes a small action, a baby step, will be enough to urge us forward through the doldrums. Like magic, even the smallest of gestures or activities may be enough to wake up our motion sensors and generate energy for further activity and accomplishment. So here is a list of a few tiny activities that you might add to  your morning time blocks:
  • Clean out the music bag. You have probably accumulated a lot of things that no longer need to be kept. Throw away the trash and broken pencils and rosin pieces. If you have loose papers, visit the local office supply store in your errand time block and buy a notebook or two to store your loose papers. The process of cleaning out the music bag will energize your enthusiasm for making music again. Invite your child to assist you. Watch how distracted your child will be about each discovered treasure in the bag. As these items spark memories, your child will likely want to play the instrument shortly after your cleaning chore.
  • Clean out your child's instrument case. Vacuum out all the rosin dust and other debris inside the case. Repair latches. Replace rubber bands and other worn-out teaching aids. If your child plays the piano, have the child assist you in really cleaning the piano. Dust all the legs and the underside and back. Your child will not mind climbing underneath the piano, which will make the cleaning chore so much easier for the parent. You might consider polishing and cleaning the instrument too. Be sure to use the special polish that is made for this purpose; do not use regular furniture polish. This might also be a good time to change the strings on your child's instrument or to have the piano tuned. Enlist the help of your teacher in replacing the strings.
  • Schedule a lesson. Nothing helps momentum and activity grow as having a lesson deadline. Call your child's teacher and set up a lesson. Even if you do not feel that you are ready for a good lesson, your child's teacher will help you to get back in touch with your momentum and enthusiasm for practice.
  • Plan an event. Schedule a music sleepover, a special house concert, or a pool party. There are many music-related possibilities for summer events:
    sleeping dog
  • Ice Cream Sunday: combine a music performance with an ice cream party.
  • Practice Picnic: combine practice with a picnic party, even if it is in the backyard. Keep the instruments out of the sun though!
  • Summer Talent Show: invite your child's friends and their families to participate in a summer talent show.
  • Pool Party Play Down: schedule a pool party that includes a group activity of playing the music lesson and group class repertoire from the most advanced pieces to least advanced songs. The child's teacher may also enjoy being invited!
  • Fiddle Friday: invite your child's music friends to join together for a fiddling afternoon or evening. Parents or other friends who play guitar, mandolin, or banjo will enjoy making music together. Students could plan to learn a new fiddle song a week.
  • Backyard Bar-B-Q: tie in a special performance or friendly gathering along with a Bar-B-Q potluck event.
  • Summer Camp. enroll your child in a university string or orchestra camp or attend a Suzuki Institute in the summer. If you are unable to travel, consider hosting your own music camp and invite your child's teacher to provide music theory, music reading, or other music-related activities.
These are a few ideas to get you going. Please write and let me know your special ideas to help you through the Summer Daze.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2019 by Paula E. Bird

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Making Excuses is a Bad Habit

The following article was originally published on June 11, 2012. Here is an updated version.

I find it fascinating that we humans spend an inordinate amount of time inventing creative excuses to avoid something, like work. I am amazed at how creative our excuses can be and how much of a habit excuse-making can be for many people.

What is an excuse? An excuse is something we put forward as a way to justify, explain, or excuse something we feel guilty or responsible for. An excuse is not only a reason to justify or explain away something we may have done wrong, but it is also a reason we put forth to justify why we should not do something that we know we should do.

Excuses may be part of the natural human condition: we tend to avoid work. There may be a few of us out there who thrive on working hard at all times, but for most of us, work is something we have to do and we try to find ways to avoid it or make it easier. I understand this. Really, I truly do, because I myself do the same thing. There are aspects to my life where I try to avoid the work associated with it, such as housecleaning, filing my tax returns on time, or cleaning out the refrigerator. We will have moments such as these in our lives. As long as I have determined that the excuses I allow relate to activities that do not claim a high priority for me, I can live with that.

What really astonishes me is the number of parents who have made excuse-making a general habit in terms of lessons, practicing, or learning and ability development. I am disturbed as a teacher to recognize that the young students copy (and therefore perpetuate in the future) these same excuse-making behaviors. When parents make excuses for their children to avoid work to learn an important skill or develop a high level of ability, I wish that parents would not be in such a close or easy relationship with excuse-making.

I study Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit 1 of the 7 habits is to be proactive. This first habit refers to our ability to choose how we react to something. Originating from a quotation by Victor Frankl (a WWII prisoner of war), Stephen Covey writes: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our happiness."

We have the ability to choose our response. We have the ability to decide what our reaction shall be. We can build the habit of widening the space between stimulus and response so that we have the time to choose wisely what our response shall be. We can choose to be happy. We can choose to avoid other behaviors or responses that do not lead us to happy and productive results.

There are many things in today's world that compete for our time and attention, and there are some things we have little or no control over. One subset of things that compete for our attention contains those activities that we can exercise some control over. We need to focus on this subset. If we waste our efforts and work in areas in which we have no control, we will beat our heads against the wall, feel frustrated and defeated, and generally waste a lot of our time and energy. Instead, if we focus our efforts over areas that we can exercise control, we will generate feelings of satisfaction, success, and self-confidence.

When we waste our time and energy to create excuses, we do not strengthen any productive character traits. Instead, we build reasons why we do not have to try, succeed, or work at something. I do not want to go through life giving reasons why I cannot succeed at something. Instead, I want to hold my head up high because I have actually accomplished something. If I make excuses, I am not accomplishing anything other than to add more empty words to the atmosphere around me.

Here are some typical excuses I might hear from parents during the week [along with my personal observations]:
  • We forgot our books. [again!]
  • How come we are taking so long to get through the theory book? [You have forgotten it every week for a month because your child misplaced it under his bed].
  • We had a busy week. We just couldn't find any time to practice. [not even 5 minutes, but you found time every day to watch television or play video games].
  • My child gave me a hard time when it came to practicing, so we didn't practice. [The child runs your house].
  • My work schedule changed and we could not have successful practices. [You cannot figure out how to fit practice into your new schedule].
  • My child's schedule is too busy to find adequate time to practice. [or you don't feel like taking control of your child's schedule].
  • I didn't understand the assignment. [and apparently do not understand how to use the phone, write an email, or send a text message to ask for clarification].
  • The child's instrument was out of tune. [and you could not find time to telephone the teacher so she could help you tune it over the phone.]
  • I am tired of listening to my child's practice. Does she have to keep playing the same song? [in other words, do I really have to listen to my child repeat things until she learns them? Yes, you do. I would expect parents to enjoy watching their children learn and grow.]
  • Do I have to listen to my child's daily practice? [Yes. Why would you not want to spend time with your child?].
  • I can't get my child to practice or repeat things for me like he does for the teacher. [You have not taken the time to reflect on why this is so].
  • I can't be on time to lessons [again]. I seem to run into things that hold me up. [time and again]. [In this case, I fear that even if I were to set their lesson 15 minutes later, they would still show up 15 minutes late. Maybe I should tell them that their lesson starts 15 minutes earlier and then expect the lesson to actually begin 15 minutes later? It would be a problem though if one day they actually did show up on time to discover that I would then be "late"].
  • I forgot __________. [Forgot what, you ask? Just fill in the blank.].
  • My other children had something that interfered with my child's schedule. [If this is a frequent excuse, then the student's activities seem to rank lower in priority than the other children. There may be occasional unforeseen circumstances, but I refer here to family situations where this has become a routine or habit].
  • We had out-of-town company [and we couldn't figure out how to turn this visit into a performance opportunity or a chance to encourage the out-of-town company to join the Suzuki community].
A while ago I wrote a post about whether we are a W, C or E. (click here to read). The W stands for Whining, the C for Complaining, and the E for Excuse Makers. There are some helpful tips in that post about how to transform a W, C, or E personality into something that is more productive and less excuse-ful.

Let us commit to stop making excuses. Let us each choose to say "I'm sorry," and then address the problem personality trait and behavior. When we refuse to acknowledge a mistake or a failure on our part to do something we ought to do — when we make excuses — we also refuse the possible gift and opportunity to perfect our mistakes. If instead we refuse to give excuses and choose instead to acknowledge and correct our behaviors and bad habits, we can then focus on actually accomplishing something.

Parents (and teachers), be careful that you empower your children (and students). Examine carefully the excuses you make. Here is a powerful example of the negative impact that excuses can have on our ability to develop talent and on our belief that we have the control to make this ability happen:

"I was not born with enough talent to be great."

"Talent is not inborn."

Dr. Suzuki actually made both of these statements in his book, Ability Development From Age Zero. Fortunately, Dr. Suzuki recognized the debilitating falseness of the first statement, which limited his efforts to develop talent and foster a belief in the results of his efforts. The second statement sets up the basis for success because it reminds us that the power to develop ability lies within us.

As long as we do not make excuses.

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else. — Benjamin Franklin

The Teach Suzuki Podcast recently published an episode that looks at the issue of excuses in a different way: Episode 168: So What? 

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2019 by Paula E. Bird

Friday, May 3, 2019

TEACH SUZUKI: I Have a Rooster (Maybe You do Too)

TEACH SUZUKI: I Have a Rooster (Maybe You do Too): The Teach Suzuki Podcast broadcast an episode by this title last week. I Have a Rooster I have raised chicken hens for some time now an...

I Have a Rooster (Maybe You do Too)

The Teach Suzuki Podcast broadcast an episode by this title last week.

I Have a Rooster

I have raised chicken hens for some time now and we enjoy the nutrient-filled eggs produced by our tended flock. Recently I raised another flock of baby chicks to add a second coop. I anticipated that my first flock was aging and might not lay as many eggs in the coming years. I tended my young flock in the back room of our outdoor shop aided by heat lamps until the hens were strong enough to endure the outdoor spring temperatures in their new chicken coop area.

Imagine my surprise at 5:00 a.m. one morning to hear the burblings of one of the hens. This seemed a little earlier than usual to hear the hens stirring for the day. The 5:00 a.m. gurgle greeting continued for several more days.

"Honey, I think we have a rooster," I told my husband. I explained about the continuous 5:00 a.m. wakeup calls. We inspected our new coop to see if we could distinguish the culprit, and that is when we recognized that one of our birds was larger than the others.

Fast forward to the end of the following week. Now the noisy morning greeting assumed more form to resemble the familiar cartoon rooster crow. Uh oh, I thought, what do I do now?

The more I thought about my dilemma -- a rooster among the laying hens -- the more I recognized that we all have roosters in our studios too, and I do not mean the feathered kind.

How do we handle roosters in our studios? What can and should we do about our roosters if anything?

I hope you enjoy this episode about handling the roosters in your studio.

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2019 by Paula E. Bird