Allie Berger

Group Class Success – Playing with the Suzuki Recordings

Listening to and playing with the recordings is a cornerstone of the Suzuki Method. Once you really get it, everything changes and it’s so much easier for all students to progress rapidly. Some may think it is a bit stilted to play along with the recording, yet I always imagine what it is like for young children, or anyone for that matter, to go home and try to play violin without first hearing and knowing the sound of the music.

Listening to the recording builds the inner music landscape in all its auditory vistas, colours and details – I’m amazed how some parents of violin students don’t take advantage of its extraordinary power. Without it there is little in the child’s mind to make the connection between head, hands and instrument and the only time the student hears the real music is once a week, at the lesson. There’s virtually no hope they can carry home what they’ve heard and hold it usefully through the week without going back to the recordings.

These days, few parents are experienced piano accompanists or accomplished violinists, so without the sounds of the recording, like in Old Mother Hubbard, the music cupboard for the musical mind is relatively bare. The recorded music is the means by which parents can build a strong, healthy music learning environment at home and speed up their child’s learning success.

Learning the Language of Music

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Group Class Success – The Play Through

For a number of years our violin school ran what I can only describe as standard group classes, held a couple of times in the school term. Modelled on classes in Japan and elsewhere, they were well attended and from a teaching perspective, quite productive. The students liked coming and participated conscientiously, but if anything the classes were an addition to private lessons, almost like group practices on particular points and pieces.

When the decision was made to revolutionize the program, putting the group class in the driver’s seat and holding them every week, we chose Saturdays to run them. (It wasn’t the best day on reflection, as Saturday is a general day of relaxation, but I will come back to the schedule and better options in a later topic about scheduling.)

In our planning meetings we spent a lot of time discussing how to bring a real buzz and sense of community into the new classes. Because of the big changes to the program we were unsure how it would turn out, but it didn’t matter. We were just determined to make the sessions fun and very instructive. In some ways the new classes were very experimental partly due to the wide mix of abilities in the small number we started them with.

Eventually the large teaching room was full and really buzzing. Here’s the story of how it happened.

The Six Group Class Sessions

Session 1: The Play Through

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Group Class Success – Introduction

Welcome to the new series on the Group Class, from TSV co-founder Allie Berger.

I love what group class does for students and parents. My wow moment was when we had just come out of a group class at a Suzuki Summer School in Matsumoto, Japan, as I watched a mother with her three or four year old child talking together in detail about what they had noticed and learned in the class.

The level of discussion they had from the class was truly impressive. Both the parent and child were inspired by what they had learned in the group class setting and it was obvious they were developing a close relationship through what they were doing together.

For me, Group Class is the key to learning violin.

It makes the roles and work of teachers, parents and students so much easier, colouring and illuminating the landscape of learning for everyone in the violin programme.

The rise of individualism in the west, despite its important contribution to personal autonomy and self-realization, carries the risk of social isolation and separation. By focusing on the individual, educators miss out on many of the benefits of group dynamics and community, We develop individual learning plans and design our lessons accordingly, limiting the creative energy that comes from working together in the group.

Often it is challenging for parents to understand – and for teachers to explain – why both parents and student should attend regular group class together in addition to an individual lesson. It just seems like one more commitment to fulfill in their busy schedules.

And traditionally, many music teachers run mainly one-on-one lesson programmes, punctuated by occasional get togethers. They work very hard to transfer the spark of enthusiasm to their students, producing a few stars, but miss out on the wealth of motivating influences that come from running regular group classes.

In this new series we will show you how to develop and run group classes so that they support the momentum and inner motivation we are talking about.

Keeping the Spark Alive

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