Updated: May 16
By Christy | The Practicing Pro
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This summer, I went on an adventure to an incredible place in Nova Scotia called Cape D’Or.
WOW - it was amazing!
A friend of mine was moving to a tiny community in Nova Scotia about 3 ½ hours away from me. I wanted to see them and bring them a housewarming meal. I just so happened to have a few days that I could free up, so I spontaneously decided to just jump in the car one day and go. And just like that, off I went! I decided to choose a place to stay nearby that I knew absolutely nothing about and didn’t even research it online. I wanted to keep it a surprise.
(Like watching a movie without seeing all the best parts in the preview first and walking into a theater knowing nothing about the movie - I love that!)
And wow was it ever a surprise!
I drove along the ocean coast and came to a road in a wooded area with a view that made it look like I was heading straight into the open ocean! Slightly hesitant but with a desire for adventure, I drove through the trees along this long winding dirt road which seemed to have only one possible end in my mind - dark blue water. There were some VERY steep hills, so steep in fact that my car wheels spun in the gravel in an attempt to grip the road. After what seemed like forever driving towards what I was convinced was going to end in a CAA call, I finally came to the end of the cape. (A cape is a projection of land that sticks out from the mainland. This one was all cliffs.)
It was such an amazing feeling to drive out on the cliffs to the end of this peak. It looked and felt like I was in the middle of the ocean, with nothing but blue water over the sides!!!
I parked my car at the end of the point at the top of the cliff and hiked down a narrow dirt road to a lighthouse. There the lighthouse keeper runs a small inn with a few rooms in a house. There is also a second small house that is used as a lodge for meetings and meals. (YUP - all at the end of this cape!)
After settling in and devouring a delicious meal, cooked by the lighthouse keeper himself, I took out my violin, sat out on the edge of the cliffs and played for hours. It seemed like minutes. The sun going down was spectacular and the songs just flowed out of me and my violin - some songs I played I was surprised I even remembered.
On the cliff of a cape at a lighthouse, just me and my violin. As far as therapy goes - no drug or session with a counselor could come close to this experience for my mental health .
I teach a 6-week online course called “Suzuki Practicing Academy” - SPA for short, which is fitting since taking the course teaches parents and teachers how to have easier, more effective, productive, and FUN home music practices. In the very first module of this course everyone chooses their “why” for taking music lessons, bringing their child to lessons, or teaching lessons. One of the reasons that comes up so often in the responses is to have music in your life for emotional support, to make you happy, and to make others happy.
This happens when players “have music inside of them”.
What does this mean and how can this happen?
My father-in-law passed away and the funeral was last week. My Dad died very young and so this wonderful man, Stanley, has been for years, my own father and my children’s only grandpa. At his funeral, I played on my violin a song that represented Stanley. When I played it for him as a tribute, it was such an emotional feeling for me. Music presented as a gift to another to represent their wonderful life in music. Someone who you love so deeply. A gift expressing your love for them that comes from the deepest, most tender and vulnerable place inside of you.
This is also “music inside of you”.
When my daughter was about 10, I brought her to a historical site. It was a sacred place to us and to many. People who walked the grounds spoke in a whisper. Many go there to think and feel inspiration. She was humming a favorite tune while we were walking around. I sat down to think and write in my journal for a while as she explored around on her own near me. I looked up and saw her dancing freely in her own space on a grassy lawn, humming along to this favorite tune. I remember watching her deep expression and feelings flowing out of her. It is a moment I shall never forget. It was a moment that helped solidify my "why" for making music lessons and music in our home a priority, even when it was hard. It also helped me know for sure that teaching others how to have music in their homes was a calling for me in my life.
Music can be “inside of you”
— Shinichi Suzuki
“Music is the language of the heart without words.”
You need to “own it”. There is only one way to own your music. It must be played 1,000 times.
A favorite quote from Dc Suzuki
“Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill.”
But how to practice something so many times? I promise with this method it is very doable.
I love the concept and gift of reviewing and upgrading pieces instead of always learning new things and moving on. This way of teaching and this way of practicing is a GIFT.
As a teacher, instead of learning a new piece, checking it off the list and moving one to the next, year after year with your students, I challenge you to adopt a style of teaching where you never discard old pieces. Instead, use past pieces as a foundation to build a mountain of new pieces on. Teach new skills on old pieces and never stop playing them. Dedicate a few minutes at the start and end of every lesson to play the previous pieces together.
Sometimes I explain to my students that each new song they learn is like having a new child. You wouldn’t have a new child and neglect the first one and stop feeding and loving them! They always laugh and say NO! Or a plant. Would you get a new plant to care for and stop watering the ones you have had for years? NO! Would you plant a beautiful garden and each year plant a new garden bed to water and weed but leave the rest of the garden to be choked out with weeds and dry up in the sun? NO!
It’s the same with the music we learn.
Learn new, more advanced songs, but keep playing and watering and loving the ones you have mastered. I suggest that 6 pieces a day to review and remember is the MAGIC number of songs to play.
This is a letter from one of the graduates of the Suzuki Practicing Academy.
“We always practice a few pieces each day that we are working on with the teacher. We master them and move on. Sometimes, if it’s chosen for a concert it gets memorized, but usually it doesn’t get played again after that and we move on. After learning about the importance of playing your music you learn forever in the Suzuki Practicing Academy course I started doing 6 review pieces a day with my teen son. WOW! He is practicing more now and is really enjoying playing the piano now that part of his practicing is enjoying playing music that he already knows. At first, it was a bit hard to recall the pieces from the past but they came back quickly, and now the results are amazing! He is playing more and more without his music too. After doing this for a few months I also notice now that he is playing for his friends and relatives when they come to visit where he shielded away from doing so before since he could usually only play the songs he was “working on '' and they were not yet performance-ready. Thank you for such a wonderful course. It has changed our music practice in such a positive way.”
This is a perfect example of a teen who is starting to ”have music inside of him”.
This parent’s “why” in the course was to have music bring her son confidence and have a way to express himself when he didn’t have the words.
Well, it looks like it is working! Because he is taking time to “practice remembering songs”, to “practice loving and enjoying music”, to “practice playing songs that you have learned now 1,000 times like Dc Suzuki says so that you can own them and have them inside of you.”
When practicing, I suggest making a repertoire list.
I have provided a fill-in-the-blank template for you to print and use to write your repertoire list on. (A repertoire list is a list of all of the songs that you know or have played before.)
Play your pieces so many times that they belong to you and live inside of you.
When you know them this well, you can then express your emotions with them. This can be both healing and exciting to experience your music in this way. You can also share with others spontaneously (not a concert or formal presentation per se), but just because you are feeling joy or sadness or creativity. Playing music that is “inside of you” can also help you at times when you are solving a problem or making a big decision.
Music is magic, BUT you have to “own it” first.
What an adventure that I had to go through, visiting an incredible lighthouse on a cape to experience “music inside of me”. How healing to play music for my father to represent his life and how I felt about it. How wonderful to feel inspired by my daughter sharing the music inside of her with me and anyone else lucky enough to have seen her in the park that day.
Is your music inside of you? If not...let’s do something about that and start playing 6 pieces (or more) a day that you already know and love. Resist in practicing and in teaching the temptation to try newer and harder pieces. Take the time,through 1,000 repetitions, to make what you have already mastered a part of you. Let the music magic begin.
Shinichi Suzuki said:
“Perhaps it is music that will save the world.”
I would like to change this a bit and say:
“Perhaps it is music that will save us each, one person at a time.”
INVITATION from Christy Hodder:
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Checklist for an Amazing Music Practice
Your easy checklist to have successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.
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