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Do you remember making this little fortune game when you were a child? Read on to hear my practice brainstorm!

I was teaching at the Suzuki Kingston Institute in Canada last summer. I was assigned a very bright little 7 year old girl who was not only creative, but hyper and her own boss! After our first lesson, I knew I had to come up with an idea that would spike her interest as well as let her know I was in charge!

At the next lesson I asked her to play a piece that she had at the first lesson that I knew she could play well. Then I asked her if she could play it with her tongue sticking out. That really got her attention! She liked that idea very much and did it. Then I asked her if she could play the piece standing on one foot, kneeling on the floor, while whistling, etc. (I think you’ve go the idea) To my delight, I captured her attention for the entire lesson and she, her dad, the audience and I were laughing the whole time.

For her assignment, I told her that she had to come up with at least 3 bizarre things to do while she played the piece at the next lesson. During these lessons, little did I realize the creativity of her dad.What I didn’t know was this little girl loved making fortunes (the paper game in the photo) and spent much time playing with them. Her dad came up with the idea of having her create one for the next lesson of things she had to do while playing her piece for me.

The creative juices flowed and the little girl went to work, not only making the fortune, but also practicing with it to impress me! Needless to say, when she presented it to me at her next lesson she had mastered her piece and was able to perform it doing really crazy things. All the kids in the room wanted to try it! We laughed and had so much fun!

The next day, all the kids started making them. I still haven’t figured out how to fold the paper into a fortune, but I pass the good fortune of the game onto teachers and parents. To think, piano practice tips from a 7 year old and a very creative dad!

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Last week I had the most delightful invitation; I was invited to a baby shower for a former student. The to- be- mom was around 35 years old and I had been her music teacher in fourth grade. The invitation was extended to me by another pregnant student, the same age, to whom I had given piano lessons. The guests were their close knit group of friends, all of whom I had taught. Needless to say, I was honored to be included.

How much fun it was to hear about their success in the work world, about their families and to see their interaction. Although I felt like a grandma amongst them, they were gracious enough to inquire about my children and career.

In attending I was genuinely interested in hearing about their lives. I had no intention of conversing about, “remember when….” . However, this young, intelligent group of women did! They were the ones to talk about the musical play I did with them, and other times shared.

I have a particularly special relationship with the girl who hosted the party because she was my piano student for many years and also my children’s babysitter. At the shower, she talked not just about the music we shared, but also the advice I had given her through the years. I remember those lessons fondly. Whenever she had something important on her mind, or hadn’t practice we would chat during the lesson. We would cover every topic under the sun! How wonderful it has been watching her grow!

The weekend after the shower, my husband and I visited our son at his university for parent’s weekend. I was a bit late in getting a dinner reservation. Just so happens, a former student (age 41) was the proprietor of the local inn. Not only did he make sure we got in for dinner, but he also paid for it.

A teacher, especially a music teacher because we see students for multiple years, wears many hats. We are another adult, other than the child’s parents, in whom the child can confide, ask advice, get another opinion, or share some fun. I often think that we should be paid the same salary as a psychologist!

I am so fortunate to have taught so many wonderful students. I am especially grateful to the ones who cared enough to continue to share their lives with me. How amazing it is to see a student grow from a small, innocent child, find a successful job, get married, have children of their own.

I am truly blessed.

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I just returned home from Kingston, Ontario Canada where I teach at the More Than Music Institute. I have been going to the Queen’s campus the first week in July for many years. Each year the experience validates the value of music education and the richness of attending this summer institute.

I began attending the institute for the teacher training classes. Although I have a masters degree in music with a concentration in piano pedagogy, I lacked the Suzuki training I was so curious about. What I discovered was a method of education that involved family commitment, aural skills, and a fun way to learn. Since I learned piano the traditional method, I often felt frustrated by reading music, played simple pieces for years beyond my age, and most of all, felt isolated from family and fun because I had to practice. Needless to say, I found the Suzuki method to be tremendously attractive.

In years following I began bringing my piano students and children to the institute. Because the Suzuki method is a family concept, parents and siblings come with their child who is enrolled. Parents attend lessons during the week, go to enrichment classes, sleep in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and attend daily concerts with their children. The faculty and families come from all over the U.S. and Canada. There have been groups from Brazil and France and music becomes the international language.

In bringing my children, I observed real master teachers in action. I was stimulated by their creativity, their love of children and music. The classes were, and continue to be non competitive; every child is applauded for their accomplishments regardless of their age or abilities. That encouragement develops success. I saw the children and parents walk away with a sense of pride and were thus motivated to achieve higher levels. I saw friendships develop amongst children, parents and teachers. I often brought my children home in tears, sad that the week was over.

I have just completed my ninth year as a member of this prestigious faculty. Although I have been attending for nineteen years, first as a trainer, then a parent and now a teacher, I continue to leave believing that I have been part of a miracle. I cherish the faculty with whom I share teaching ideas, friendship and laughter. I value the parents who place parenting above all in their lives and come each summer with their children creating a special bond. I love the children who come who look at me with loving eyes and an eagerness to learn.

Being a part of the Suzuki summer institute in Kingston is exactly what the title implies- more that music. It’s magic.

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