Suzuki Camp Day 1

Today was the first day of O7’s Suzuki Violin camp in Columbus, OH. I have high hopes for this experience. Since S9 switched to piano, she did not join us for the week (this particular camp is strings only, no piano). So it is a chance for O7 to strike out on her own.  I’m hoping it will bolster her self-esteem to have undivided maternal attention and to get out from Big Sister’s shadow for a few days. I’m also hoping to improve her violin skills, but that’s a pretty secondary goal. 😉

We arrived at Otterbein University this morning, right at the beginning of registration. By 10AM we had checked in to our dorm room and were getting ready to go to the Review Quest game.

Review Quest is a series of stations, manned by Suzuki teachers and teacher trainees, that the kids can visit during the game. For each station that they complete successfully, they receive a ticket. The tickets can be redeemed for prizes after the game ends.  Most of the stations are for the kids to play a particular Suzuki song, typically done in a group.  There is an area for Pre-Twinkle students that includes stations like “bow hold” and “sing the rocket song”. O7’s favorite was “strong eyes”. The student must stand in play position while one teacher plays Twinkle. Another teacher attempts to distract the student, either with words, gestures or even light taps on the arm. If the student maintains her composure for the entire song, she gets a ticket. We did “strong eyes” several times.

One of the teachers, Mrs. Steig, recognized that O7 was a little reticent and took her under her wing. She helped O7 earn several tickets just by observing another student. That helped to break the ice a bit, although the only playing she would do was the rhythms on an open E string. I had hoped she’d try playing some of the Suzuki songs, but she was overwhelmed and not interested in doing that. So we just stayed in her comfort zone for the duration.

Here is one of our many attempts at “strong eyes”. The blurry woman is trying to distract her by dancing in front of her scroll.

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After lunch, we attended the invitational welcome recital. Then we began our classes. Our schedule is afternoon-heavy, so the first day has been full.

We had Mr. Lavine again for Technique. He was our teacher last year, and O7 was excited to be in his class again. She remembered that he was from Buffalo.

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Next, we went to Repertoire with Mr. Farrar. While they were in the class, another parent and I went to a parent class about making practice sessions more successful.

Our final class was Masterclass. Happily, it turned out that Mrs. Steig is our teacher. The Masterclass is basically a private lesson with two other students. It is very intense and the kids get some great one-on-one time. Our class was observed by a number of teacher-trainees, as Mrs. Steig is a veteran Suzuki instructor. She helped O7 work on holding up her violin by moving it back further along her jaw-bone, to the point where it connects by the ear. It was amazing how much that helped.  To reinforce this, Mrs. Steig asked me to write a coupon for something fun (a treat, toy, etc), with the understanding that the coupon would be validated if O7 could play with it stuck between her instrument and cheek/jaw. During practice that evening, I was to try to pull the coupon out while she was playing (gently, of course, but with some effort). If she held on to the coupon the entire time, she could keep it and redeem it whenever she wanted.

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Happily, she was successful- and she has decided to save it for when we are back home so that S9 can join in.

For homework, Mrs. Steig also assigned us to play Allegro twice… in the bathroom. O7 was a little whiny about having to do this after having done the coupon exercise, so I decided to try some of the techniques we discussed in our parent session earlier that day. We happened to have a tub of Trader Joe’s Alphabet Cookies, so I spelled out the name of her piece and told her she could have the cookies once she finished practicing.

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Worked like a charm.

We went outside for a little bit after that and rode our bikes around, then came back to the dorm to get ready for an early day tomorrow.

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