What is Suzuki?
The Suzuki method was created in the 1940s by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, a violinist and educator in Japan. Dr. Suzuki realized that all typical children learn to speak their native language effortlessly. He was inspired to discover whether typical children could learn to play the violin at a very high level, provided the same environmental factors: immersion, good modeling and instruction, and positive reinforcement.
Just as we learn to speak our language before we learn to read and write it, within the Suzuki framework, children learn to play before they learn to read and write musical notation.
This allows the child to focus on developing the ear, which leads to greater awareness of musical nuance and expression, and also attention to proper physical comfort and ease with the instrument.
The Suzuki approach is modeled after language acquisition, and also referred to as “mother tongue method” and “talent education”.
What is parental involvement?
Because it is geared primarily for young students (aged 4-8 years old, in our program), parental involvement is required.
One of the parents attends every weekly lesson, observing and taking notes, then implementing the notes into the daily practice sessions at home.
Learning to play an instrument well requires diligent work. Young children cannot be expected to remember exactly what the teacher asks them to practice, nor can they be expected to willingly maintain a daily practice routine.
In the way that a parent guides his/her children to develop good habits such as brushing teeth, eating vegetables and doing homework, parents also guide their children in how to establish a daily practice routine and how to practice efficiently.
Additionally, working with a young child requires an appreciation for the mindset of youngsters. Children learn through play. The more we incorporate games and play into the hard work of learning an instrument, the more success a parent and teacher will have with young students.
What is Prep to Twinkle?
Prep to Twinkle is a two-part series that prepares families for private instrumental Suzuki lessons:
- Suzuki based music & movement for the child and parent together
- Parents only classes that educate parents about the Suzuki philosophy and prepare them for their crucial role in their child’s private lessons.
What is the schedule?
Prep to Twinkle is offered four times per year for new families (September, November, January, April). Families take one series before starting private Suzuki lessons.
- Class 1: A Saturday morning from 10:30-12 noon: Parents only for an overview of the Suzuki philosophy and how HNU Preparatory Music works. This is a wonderful opportunity to determine whether Suzuki lessons are a good fit for you, your child, and your family.
- Classes 2 and 3: Two consecutive Wednesday evenings from 5:00-5:45: Suzuki based music & movement for the child and parent together
Same consecutive Wednesday evenings: from 6:00-7:00 Parents only discussion.
- Class 4, can be repeated as often as parents wish: On a given weekday evening, Suzuki parents with all levels of experience gather to discuss how practicing is going, any challenges, difficulties with motivation, seeking ideas for practicing games for children.
Why Is Prep to Twinkle required?
Because the parents’ role is so important in a child’s Suzuki journey, we have found that the better prepared a parent is the greater likelihood of success for the child. We want each child to stick with their instrument and for every parent and child to feel successful. Since implementing the Prep to Twinkle series, we have seen less attrition and more successful outcomes.
What happens in the Music and Movement Class?
The music & movement classes teach through play.
From a musical standpoint, children (and parents) become familiar with the Suzuki pieces they will learn in the private lessons. They will learn the rhythms of the “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” variations, develop and internalize concepts such as pulse and rhythm, high/low, fast/slow, dynamics (soft, loud, crescendo/decrescendo), musical expression, and music appreciation.
From a social standpoint, the families in the class are embarking on their Suzuki journey together, starting a new small fraternity of Suzuki families within our community music school program.
Students also learn to follow the teacher, as well as take a leadership role when asked. The very tasks their private teacher will require of them are being learned in these classes.
What happens in the parent classes?
Preparatory Music Director Katherine Baird and Music & Movement instructor Allegra Yellin lead discussions on:
Parents’ role at lessons
Parents’ role as “home teacher”
How to establish and maintain a daily practice routine
How to make practicing engaging and fun
How to motivate your child
How to respond when your child doesn’t want to practice or says he/she wants to quit
The purpose is to help parents feel educated about the Suzuki philosophy, their place in their child’s musical journey, and confident about taking on the role of daily “home teacher” between the private lessons.
Do both parents participate?
Having both parents attend is wonderful, but the parent who will be practicing with the child and attending the weekly private lesson must attend all classes, as he/she is the one for whom the information and learning will be most pertinent.
Do my child and I have to attend all classes?
Attendance at all classes is required and there are no make-ups.
We have scheduled this course to be brief so that families can begin lessons as soon as possible. We don’t want parents and children to miss any part of the classes, so if you are unable to commit to the entire series then we advise you to wait until the next one.
What happens if we miss?
Because there are no make-ups, we ask you to complete the following series. For example, if you were able to attend the first Saturday and first Wednesday but miss the second, then you can join the second Wednesday of the next series offered. It does, except in rare circumstances, mean postponing starting private lessons until the series is completed.
What does my child do during the parent classes?
There is a fifteen minute break between Music & Movement and Parent classes. If another caregiver can take care of the child while the primary parent participates in class, that is ideal. We understand that parents may not be able to arrange childcare for the children. We do allow children to remain in the room, playing quietly or eating a snack, as long as the parents’ attention can be focused on the discussions.
How much does Prep to Twinkle cost?
Prep to Twinkle tuition is $175; families register and pay online.
How do we choose and instrument?
If you or your child has not decided which instrument to learn, we recommend taking your child to concerts and showing him/her YouTube videos of guitar, cello, violin, viola and piano performances. Most of us gravitate toward certain instruments. Often children will prefer one instrument they see and hear over another.
Is it better to start with piano, then later switch to a different instrument?
Many children start their instrumental studies with guitar, cello, or violin. We suggest following your child’s lead. If you already own a good acoustic piano then that is an argument for starting with piano.
How do we find a teacher?
The Director refers families to a prospective teacher within our program. Parents and child are strongly encouraged to arrange an observation lesson with the teacher. This enables the child to see what a lesson is like and what to expect, and for the parent to see whether that particular teacher is a good fit for the child and parent. We want the teacher-parent-child relationship to be long-lived.
When do we begin lessons?
Private weekly lessons can begin as soon as the Prep to Twinkle series is completed.
How do we acquire an instrument?
In the first class meeting we provide resources for instrument rental and purchase, music, accessories and reading materials.
How much do lessons cost?
Private lessons cost between $30-$45 per half hour.
Preparatory Music charges families per semester. After the Prep to Twinkle you will likely be starting after the semester has already begun and lessons will be prorated to reflect the number of lessons going forward.
A full semester of lessons (approximately sixteen lessons) costs between $600-$700, with a three installment payment option available.
Allegra Yellin grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. in a family full of musicians, sometimes on tour with her father, a jazz saxophonist and also singing three-part harmonies with her bluegrass-pickin’ uncles.
She studied music formally beginning in high school, and later at the Jazz School in Berkeley, and she is currently working towards a Master’s degree in Kodály Music Education at Holy Names University. Allegra has been teaching music and movement classes for young children and families for the past fifteen years with East Bay Music Together®. She also teaches various types of classes and private lessons for all ages on guitar, banjo, and voice.
Outside of the classroom Allegra has performed and collaborated with many local talents and can be seen performing old time string band music every first Friday of the month with the Squirrelly String Band, at the North Oakland Square Dance.
Allegra has been a Suzuki parent to two children for the past six years, and brings her insights as a musicians, music educator and Suzuki mother to the Prep to Twinkle series.
Katherine Baird oversees the Preparatory Music program, which serves 300 families with private lessons, group classes, orchestras, chamber music, an early childhood/pre-instrumental program, and adult musicianship.
She created the Prep to Twinkle series, has been key in starting the process of linking Preparatory Music with the Kodály graduate music program, and has launched an endowment campaign to, among other things, support an outreach program to provide music to underserved communities.
She is a passionate cello teacher with a studio of students aged 7 years old to adult. Katherine received a Bachelor’s degree in Cello Performance from Holy Names College, where she studied with Jennifer Culp, former cellist with the Kronos Quartet (1999-2005). Other teachers have included Margaret Tait, Millie Rosner, Peter Shelton, and most recently, Andrew Luchansky. She is certified in Orff-Schulwerk Training from Mills College (under the tutelage of Doug Goodkin, James Harding and Sofia Lopez-Ibor), and also Levels 1-10 of Suzuki Cello Teacher-Training.
Katherine is currently working on her Master’s degree in Kodály Music Education at Holy Names University.