My Take on “Doing It All”

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Many moms who run a business at home, and even moms who aren’t running a business, but who are doing the hard work of raising their kids everyday, all day, would say they feel pressure to “do it all.” And there is definitely the pressure out there. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook. These all tell us that we need to be the perfect moms, wives, housekeepers, and business women all the time, right?

I would argue, however, that as of late, there’s been a lot of pushback to this idea. I read A LOT of blogs by wonderful women doing the mama thing and a lot of them run businesses at the same time. For some of them, their blog IS their business. These women are protesting against the idea that moms need to do it all. That some days, we just aren’t going to cross everything off our to do list. That some days, the dishes won’t get done. That some days, we won’t be kind and gentle with our children.

You know what? I love hearing other moms say it’s okay to struggle with time management. It’s okay to feel like you’re barely keeping your head above water. It’s okay to leave those dishes in the sink or not fold the laundry for a little bit. Because then I know I’m not the only one.

I’ve got so much on my plate right now. I’m working on documenting my violin curriculum in the name of being more organized. I’m attempting to write more regularly in this space. I lead a group of beautiful Christian mamas where we are able to pray for and encourage each other. I do some work for my church. All of this (and more) while trying to keep a somewhat tidy house and attempting to be a good wife to my husband and mama to my son. Not to mention finding the time to pull out my violin for at least a few minutes most days. It’s a lot to handle. And I’m getting better at it. I’m trying to set up some systems and routines in order to keep things working in the shortest amount of time possible. Right now, I actually feel like I’m making some progress. But even when I don’t feel that way, I know that there’s so many other mamas out there who feel overwhelmed, too. I keep a cache of posts to read just to remind me that I’m not the only one.

How to Fit In All That Listening

Listening is a very important part, if not THE most important part, of learning to play the violin especially in the Suzuki method. In our culture of “busy-ness” it is often the most difficult part if for no other reason than lack of time. It feels like just another thing to add to the to-do list.

My students are expected to do “active listening”, where listening to the music is their main focus. They are also expected to listen to as much background music as possible during the week. As teachers, we are often struggling to help parents understand the importance of listening and not look at it as an optional part of at-home practice.

For parents, I’ve come up with a few ways to make listening easier to fit in to your schedule. And teachers, feel free to share these ideas with your parents if you haven’t already.

Active listening while doing another practice activity – You know those thousands of times a brand new violin student must listen to Twinkles (or any other song, for that matter)? I often pair it with violin holds for those young students. (ex. Stand in playing position, violin on shoulder, looking at scroll while Variation A is playing on the CD.) For older students, I like to give them something specific to listen for in their active listening pieces, such as in the first phrase of Gavotte in G minor, which note is the loudest?

Background music – There is rarely a time in our house that we do not have music playing. In the mornings during breakfast, we listen to Otto’s Suzuki Early Childhood CD. During morning playtime, it’s often the Disney station on Pandora. While Otto’s napping, I listen to all my Suzuki review pieces for the day, which Otto also hears after his nap while I practice them. If we’re at home for dinner, we play a favorite album while cooking and eating and before bed, I like to put on classical music for a calm mood. I won’t say this happens every day in our house. Things get busy and routines change, but the point is that different kinds of music make great background music for almost any daily activity.

Youtube videos – We live in such an amazing time where you can find a performance of almost any piece and any style of music on Youtube. When one of my students seems in need of a little inspiration, I suggest that they go look up something on Youtube, whether it’s their current piece, their favorite song from the radio, or an orchestral performance of a piece they don’t know. I find that it can be wonderful for kids to see people who are really good at what they are working hard every day to learn to do.

Bedtime listening – This one may not work for everybody. Some people need absolute silence and dark when they sleep. I, on the other hand, am one of those people who needs something to listen to or else I can’t shut off my brain. Everyone is different, but I suggest at least listening to something soft and soothing as you get ready for bed.

These are just of the ideas I’ve had. I’m sure other teachers and parents have great suggestions, too! Please comment below and tell us how you fit listening to music into your busy schedule! 🙂

 

 

Why You Should Go to a Suzuki Institute

I just returned from the 2014 Chicago Suzuki Institute and wow, what an inspiration! I learned so much about myself as a teacher, but I also learned a lot about the other legs of the Suzuki triangle. I could probably write a whole book on this subject, but instead, I’ll just share a little bit about why I think you need to go to an institute, as a teacher, a parent, or a student.

Teachers

You know what’s so great about attending an institute? How many amazing teachers you can observe doing their amazing teaching thing. So many different personalities and teaching styles, you can surely find someone similar to you in teaching style to inspire how you do things just the way you are. You can also see teachers with very different personalities than yourself and that may give you some ideas for ways you can stretch your current teaching style. Another great thing about going to an institute as a teacher is the great reminders of things you already know. Sometimes it’s easy to forget why things take “so long” to teach and we start lowering our expectations of our students. Here you are reminded why we take the time to set up and maintain good posture, tone, intonation, and musicianship so that our students can move forward well in the repertoire. You are reminded why you became a teacher and what you aspire to when you see such awesome teachers who are more experienced than yourself. You are reminded that review is important and why, and you get some great ideas for how to make review work for your students. And finally, you are reminded that, in fact, every child CAN play. There are so many different personalities and ability levels in the students here, it’s incredible! But we are all here for the same goal, teaching them to make beautiful music so that they become people with beautiful hearts.

Parents

We could all use a vacation, am I right? Well, consider a Suzuki institute for your next family trip. There are institutes all over the country, so you could definitely pick one in an awesome location, for example, Colorado. You would have the opportunity to meet new friends that are in the same place as you are as a Suzuki parent. Sure you might have these social opportunities in a group class, but you see those other parents in your studio often and sometimes it’s nice to meet new people who understand what you experience as a Suzuki parent. It is also an amazing bonding experience with your child. I have witnessed stronger relationships form just in the time span of one week as I’ve observed lessons and group classes. It’s incredible the way that working toward and accomplishing something together can be so good for the parent/child relationship. And watching your child play in the final concert, well, there’s nothing like it. It brings tears to my eyes, and I am not yet a parent of an instrument-playing child! I so look forward to the day that I can take my son to an institute and share the experience with him!

Student

You may already see the benefits of your child playing music with others in group class. Children are so inspired by seeing other children do the same things they are doing. They can learn a lot from each other. And the friendships they form with their peers are great. The same thing happens at an institute. They meet kids who are doing the same thing as them, going to lessons and group class and practicing their instrument. They have fun playing with each other outside of these activities. And, I don’t personally have experience of this, but with today’s technology, I’m sure these quickly-made friendships can turn into long-term relationships quite easily. I’m still friends with people whom I played music with as a child and it is quite the enviroment for strong bonds. What a great experience for such young kids!

As you can see, there are so many benefits to attending a Suzuki institute, whether you are a teacher, parent, or student. So I guess the question is, what are you waiting for?

 

Just a Few Things I Learned (Or Was Reminded Of) – Conference Recap

It’s been just about a week since the 2014 Suzuki Conference ended last week in Minneapolis and this is the first I’ve written about it. May seem like a long time, but really, I needed that time to decompress and think about all the wonderful information that was dispensed in those sessions. It was truly an amazing experience and I plan on going to as many in the future as I am able. I learned so much about being a violin teacher and a Suzuki parent that it would be impossible to include everything in this post. Here are just a few of the things I learned at conference, and also what I learned about traveling with a little one in tow.

1) Car naps are essential.

I don’t think Otto really took a nap anywhere but his car seat for the six days that we were there. He woke up really early every day because I had to and we were in the same bedroom, but then usually went back to sleep an hour or so later, so I really consider that a continuation of nighttime sleep. What I do know is after that, he just took naps in the car while he and Kyle explored the city. They went to so many parks and spent so much time outside. My kid is way blonder now. 🙂

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(first time on a swing – so not impressed)

2) The passage of time really doesn’t matter much when it comes to great friends (and colleagues.)

I saw many people I hadn’t seen for a really long time. People from college (including my violin professor), colleagues I’ve gotten to know recently, and a couple of old friends. I also met a ton of great new people. What I can say for certain is that it doesn’t matter how long ago I saw any of these people. We pick up right where we left off. And I know that will happen again when I see them in the future (probably at the next conference.) It’s such a wonderful thing knowing that you can get along just as well with people as you used to even if you haven’t been able to see them for a long time!

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3) You need smarter people than you to tell you things you already know.

I can’t tell you how many times I was sitting in a session listening to a teacher (most of the time one who knows way more than I do) say something extremely wise that made me think to myself, “DUH!” As in, “I knew that, but why have I never thought of it that way before?” Like I said before, those no way I could include all of those moments in this post. Just a few of those gems were, “Listening is 10X as important as practicing” and “Anyone who needs the Suzuki Method in a hurry, doesn’t need the Suzuki Method.” Just getting some of these wise words into my brain and remembering to put them into practice will help so much to improve my teaching.

4) It never gets old hearing children play, or even just enjoy, music.

I cannot get over the way I feel when I watch young ones play music. And the feeling is even more intense when I see my own little one enjoy and recognize music. We attempted to take Otto to the benefit concert during the conference and that was pretty much a failure. It was late, he was antsy, and concert halls make your whining child seem 1000X louder than is probably actually being. So we left at intermission. However, the next day we attended the final concert, which was much less formal. Otto could walk around and even dance to the familiar Suzuki tunes he hears so often in our home. It was great! And I am so looking forward to seeing him develop musically in the years to come.

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5) No matter how great a trip is, getting home is better.

I had such a wonderful time at conference, and in Minneapolis in general. I’m really looking forward to the next one in two years. But really, being away makes me appreciate home. Traveling with a little one is hard work and getting back into a normal routine feels amazing. And what good is learning new stuff if you can’t use it? I’ve only taught one day since returning from conference and I already felt myself using the things I learned in my teaching. I’m back my normal summer schedule this week and I am so excited to be back home, using the things I learned to improve my teaching!

 

What I love about music

This video has been floating around the internet for quite some time. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve already shared it on social media at least once. And I’ll be honest, I’m normally not into flash mobs. Sure, the first time I ever saw a video of one, I thought it was neat. But then videos of them were popping up everywhere. And television shows had episodes that featured flash mobs. It became a craze. A craze I was just not really on board with.

But this one gets me. It brings tears to my eyes. There are so many things I love about this video. I love the song selection. I’ve been lucky enough to perform Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Playing it was one of the highlights of my orchestral career. I love the pure joy on the faces of the people witnessing this performance. I love the way the members of the orchestra and choir are smiling at each other, obviously enjoying the whole experience.

But my absolute favorite part of this video is the children. The smiles on their faces. The wonder in their eyes. The way some of them dance around and conduct. It brings joy to my music-teacher heart. And joy to me as a parent. I love that some of the performers are holding children. Bringing little ones into this beautiful world of music is my passion. That’s why I teach. That’s why I already play as much music for my son as I can and why he is already in music class. The kid isn’t even a year old yet, but we sing and have dance parties to as many different types of music as we can. Those parents in the video are an inspiration to me. They’re bringing their children along for the glorious ride that is sharing music with others. I can’t keep my love of music to myself and this video reminds me why every single time.

What do you think of flash mobs? Does this video warm your heart as much as it does mine? Do you have any other great music videos to share?

Music Around Milwaukee – April 2014

It’s that time again… time to share some great opportunities to see live music during the next month. There isn’t a whole lot this month, but I am playing violin and singing in the concerts on April 27th, so that’s kind of special. 😉

FREE EVENT! – 4/1 @ 7pm – MYSO Tuesday Night Jam Sessions (info)

4/6 @ 2pm – MYSO Honor Recital (info)

4/25 @ 7:30pm – I’m Not a Pilot & MYSO (info)

FREE EVENT! – 4/27 @ 3pm & 7pm – The Lutheran Chorale of Milwaukee “How Great are Thy Wonders” (info)

I wouldn’t mind getting some help with next month’s list, so if you have any events you’d like to see added, please let me know by leaving a comment below or sending me an email. Thanks!

My first experience as a Suzuki parent

I have been wanting to get my son, Otto, into a music class since before he was born. If I’m completely honest, I’ve been thinking about my future child(ren)’s music education for as long as I can remember. Even before college, when I was still planning on going into music therapy I figured I’d do my internship after college, get a job, get married, work as a music therapist for awhile and then when I had kids, I would start a violin studio out of my home so that I could be home with them.

Well, I’m already there. Teaching from home so I can be with my child. While I was pregnant, I started looking into my options for a baby music class. There was one through the recreation department and one at a maternity center nearby. I’m sure both of those are great classes. But I’m a Suzuki teacher. I love the method and I truly believe in it. So I went to search on the SAA website for a nearby early childhood class.

I was so excited to see one listed nearby. I pushed it to the back of my mind for safekeeping and awaited the arrival of my little boy. After months of adjusting to being a new parent with all its challenges, when Otto was about 6 months old (in November), I started thinking about music class again. He had started sleeping better so I figured we were just about there. Plus, this kid loves music. Every time I turn on some tunes or pull out my violin, he starts dancing and grinning so big. It warms my mama heart.

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So three weeks ago I went and observed the class to check it out. The class has between 10 and 15 children. It is a good-sized group, though, the teacher mentioned to me if it gets much bigger they’re going to have to split into two classes. Not a bad problem to have, of course. The kids ranged from about 6 months to 3 years old. And they were all so cute. I always love when kiddos get so excited about things that they can’t keep still and this happens a lot in the class. Of course, you also have the shy ones who are more reserved during all of the activities, but they are no less adorable. I was excited to bring Otto back for his first class.

And we did just that this past Saturday. Our ever-observant boy watched everything with intense curiosity. He turned his head toward every noise and just watched as all the other kids and parents danced and sang. Toward the end of the class, he relaxed a bit and started getting excited and moving more to the music. I’m so excited to see him grow and develop as he attends the class.

Just because he is in music class now doesn’t mean we will stop enjoying music in our home. In fact, we will probably do even more listening and dancing now. But I am so happy to be involved in this class. Hopefully, one day, he will be as excited about it as I am.

February Live Music

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(photo credit)

As a parent, it can be difficult to keep a child’s love for music alive. Learning and practicing new things can take a toll on one’s motivation over time. That is way it’s extremely important to find other ways to inspire your child’s musical creativity. One great way to do this is making an effort to see music performed live. We are fortunate here in the Milwaukee area that there are many opportunities to do this that are specifically for kids and/or do not cost a lot of money. (Sometimes they’re even free!) Each month, I am going to put up a post outlining some of these opportunities so that you and your family will hopefully be able to take advantage of them. Here’s what’s coming up during the rest of February.

2/15 @ 1 pm -MYSO Brass, Bows, & Brilliance (info)

2/21 @ 7 pm – MYSO Flutes & Fanfare (info)

2/22 @ 6 pm – MYSO Orchestral Occasion (info)

2/23 @ 3 pm – MYSO Symphonic Spectacular (info)

*Note: None of these concerts are free, but they are quite reasonably priced. $12 for adults, $10 for students (age 5+), and free for children 4 and under. I will make sure to make it totally obvious when concerts are free. 🙂

How do I get my child to practice?

It can be extremely difficult to find a balance between accomplishing practice goals and retaining your child’s love for their instrument and maybe even music in general. I have another great article today for you about helping your child learn how to practice and not get discouraged. There are some really fun ideas in here. I hope you can find something useful!

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/06/18/155282684/getting-kids-to-practice-music-without-tears-or-tantrums