One of the major concepts in Suzuki philosophy is taking the long term view. Especially since the very young students do not have the long term experience yet to look beyond the moment, the parents and teachers have to help establish this. So let’s look at this in the long term. When you are in high school, the homework will take more time, and the extra curricular activities will also demand more time. Juggling homework and practice at this stage, when both activities only take a few minutes, is training for time management for high school and college.
When my daughter was small we juggled homework, practice , and the freelance schedules of both parents. If we knew the day was going to pose challenges for getting things done, we would discuss how we were going to schedule everything over breakfast (or in the car), come up with a few possibilities, and our daughter would help decide which one we would use. Then we would have to stick to it no matter what (which was sometimes very difficult) but we got it done (sometimes less than we wanted but enough to at least touch on everything). But now we have a kid in Grade 12 who has the next two years planned out in terms of what courses she will take at school, which ones she will do independently on line, and the timeline for which RCM exams she has to prepare in order to get her high school graduation, her ARCT diploma in recorder, go on tour to Europe with her choir and take a gap year before college.
That ability to plan ahead was developed in the car on the way to elementary school.
As I was practicing this morning, I realized that as I was warming up I was doing the same, or very similar things, to what I have my junior and intermediate students do. It made me stop and think.
Why was I doing these things that I have been practicing for years if I can do them already? Is this a waste of time? Am I bored? I don’t feel bored.
As I thought about it, my answer is: I do those things very well and very easily because I do them every day. If I didn’t spend a few minutes going over all the basics of violin playing every day they would all be much more difficult and I would be unable to successfully perform complex music with the necessary ease to communicate with an audience.
So when we practice we apply knowledge to develop skill. The easier it gets the more precisely we are able to apply the knowledge and the more finely tuned our skills can become.
To quote Shinichi Suzuki “Knowledge is not ability. Knowledge X 10,000 times is ability.
The urge to procrastinate is a good thing! I never thought I would say this, but I have been introduced to a radical new idea thanks to Seth Godin.
In his new book The Icarus Deception (which I highly recommend) he refers to the urge to procrastinate as a sign that you are about to make some really good art. Since creating really good art also makes you vulnerable, it also activates your sense of self-preservation. Your sense of self-preservation then activates your “fight or flight” response, which manifests as an urge to put off making the art. Therefore, the urge to procrastinate is a sign that you are about to create something really good.
That is the best explanation I have ever heard for the common experience of artists, writers, and musicians – that it is a joy to practice your art, but so very difficult to get started. So the next time I feel like procrastinating instead of practicing, I should paradoxically feel a stronger urge to practice because I know I will accomplish something really good.