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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Visit to the Practice Shoppe with Leslie Thackeray

As I have been focusing on the topic of review and how important it is, I recently spoke to Leslie Thackeray from thepracticeshoppe.com about her website. I love to explore the items that Leslie has listed, because they spark a creative idea or two in my head about practicing and teaching my students better. I especially appreciate all the free downloadable charts that Leslie offers for review and repetition purposes. There is a review chart for everyone of every level.

Because I enjoy browsing Leslie’s website, I thought I would find out more about her and how she came to create her site.

Leslie: I started playing Suzuki violin when I was 4 and don't have many memories of practicing as a young child, except that I hated it. My mom never let me quit. She knew I liked playing, because when I'd perform, I'd be happy with myself. I sure dreaded practicing each day though, to the point that I would do all sorts of things to try to get out of it (taking long baths is one thing I remember in particular).

Paula: You are jogging my memory of my own childhood. My mother set a kitchen timer for 30 minutes, and the hard and fast rule in my house was that practicing got done first thing after school. If a friend came knocking at the door to ask if I could come out and play, my mother politely told them to come back when my 30 minutes were up. How did you handle the practicing issue with your own children?

Leslie: As a mother practicing with my own children, I kept thinking of fun ways to practice so it wouldn't be such drudgery for my children. I saw a cute bead counter at my daughter's violin teacher's house and wanted one for myself. When I looked online, I found they were too expensive for me to afford at the time. My husband is always up for a project, so I told him what I wanted, and we went out to find the right materials. I remember we had all this extra time because it was Thanksgiving break 2009.

After playing around a bit with some different ideas we finally came up with our bead counter. I emailed a bunch of my teacher friends and asked if they wanted to buy some for their kids or students for Christmas (to recoup the cost of the materials). The response was extraordinary and I was overwhelmed with orders all Christmas season. I've improved the quality of the product so it would last longer and withstand the wrath of children.

Since then I’ve used the bead counters nearly every day in my practicing with my children and my teaching with my students. It's incredible to watch the concentration of the student to finish a task 10 times when I pull out the bead counter.

Paula: You have many colorful bead counters, and the themes are terrific. You also sell other things besides the bead counters. Tell us how you started doing that.

Leslie: We have an amazing Suzuki Institute here in Utah, and we decided to sell the bead counters at the Institute. Again, the response was great, so I decided to see what else I could sell to the parents and teachers at institute. Every time I wanted something for practicing with my kids or for my studio, I would search and search for the best price and buy it in bulk so I could sell it to other teachers and parents around.

As teachers, we use so many different doodads and gadgets from lots of different places. My goal is to provide some of these fun practicing supplies all in one place for a good price.

Paula: My favorite part of your website – and the pages that I visit the most – are your links to downloadable review and practice charts. There are so many charts and such clever themes. How did these charts come about?

Leslie: I was always searching online for fun practice charts for my own kids. I never could find very many creative ideas, but I figured I could come up with some. I feel that I can put these practice charts online really quickly and share them with everyone for free. I always love finding free printables online.

I love when I get emails from people who love my practice charts, because it makes me feel like I'm helping someone for very little of my time. These free printables are the biggest draw to The Practice Shoppe. I love when people give me their practice chart ideas to add to the website. I would love to be a major source of practice chart printables among Suzuki teachers and any music teacher.

Paula: I see that you have added dice, some jewelry items, puppets, and other specialty items. I have a huge collection of dice in my own studio. There are dice for all sorts of purposes.

Leslie: I also love using dice in my teaching and have searched high and low for all sorts of dice. The kids love to roll dice to see how many times they have to practice. I have some more dice in production that will be coming out soon. I'm so excited to launch these new products.

Paula: Thanks, Leslie, for taking the time to talk about your website. For anyone who is interested in seeing these products on Leslie’s website, visit: www.thepracticeshoppe.com.

If you would also like to read my interview of Sue Hunt about the importance of review and Sue's new book Review -- Making it Fun, Gets the Job Done, you can find the article here and the book on Sue's Music in Practice website here.

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