Violin, viola and cello lessons for children age 3 - 18

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Suzuki philosophy?

The Suzuki philosophy is an approach to musical instruction that was developed by Japanese violinist Shin’ichi Suzuki.  Suzuki believed that a positive musical learning environment helps foster character in young students. The method encourages collaboration among students, and discourages competitive attitudes. Each child learns at his or her own pace, and students are taught to support each other’s efforts, creating a warm and accepting environment for learning.

Suzuki based his method on the idea that all children are born with the ability to play a musical instrument – just as they are born with the ability to acquire language.

What is expected of parents?

Parents, while not required to play an instrument when they enter the program, are expected to play a big part in the development of their children’s musical ability. By attending lessons along with their children, parents can serve as “home teachers” during the week, working with their child’s instructor to create an enjoyable learning environment. 

As a cooperative school, we also depend on parents to help out on a volunteer basis by serving on the Board of Directors, acting as class coordinators, or pitching in at fundraisers throughout the year.  

How often should my child practice?

According to Suzuki, you should practice only on days that you eat -- in other words, often! You should discuss the length of time that you practice with your individual teacher who will also point you toward specific practice techniques and games that your child can use.

How can parents prepare for lessons?

It is important to be organized at your lesson.

  • Have a dedicated “Suzuki bag” in which you keep all the essentials: music, notebook, rosin, shoulder pad, and anything else your teacher suggests.
  • Observe and understand what your child should be practicing for the week.
  • Keep a journal of what you did that day and plan your practice for the week accordingly.
  • Some parents find it helpful to record their child’s lesson on a portable device.

What are group classes for?

Group classes are an important part of the Suzuki experience. An ideal class has 10 - 15 children – a size that produces a solid sound and enables stronger students to help weaker students along.

The group provides an opportunity to work on playing together (much like an orchestra does):  following the conductor, working on a common sound, achieving accurate pitch, and perfecting dynamics, phrasing and style.

Pieces stay in a child’s mind and fingers if they are played often. The group gives children another chance to keep review pieces fresh.

Through group experiences and musical games, students develop their concentration and memory. Because knowing the notes is only the first step to playing a piece well, these games ask children to focus on other aspects of playing. Besides developing concentration and memory, these games might help achieve a specific musical result like an improved sense of phrasing or reinforce a bowing or left hand technique.

The intention of the class is not for the child to play his or her most advanced piece. The concepts that the teachers wish to reinforce are best done with earlier pieces. Of course, since there is a range of levels in every class, there may at times be a child playing his/her most advanced piece. Students should feel comfortable and competent in the group class so that they can have an enjoyable experience.

What do students do during the summer?

In addition to offering summer lessons, HRSM sponsors the Westchester Suzuki Institute, which provides students, parents and teachers with a week of concentrated study in the philosophy and methods of Dr. Shin’ichi Suzuki. The Institute consists of daily master classes, repertoire classes, play-ins, solo recitals and concerts. In addition, younger students participate in Eurhythmics classes, while more advanced students take reading classes and play in an orchestra. Participants may also take enrichment classes such as Fiddling, Chamber Ensemble, and Handbell Choir.

Why does my teacher want my child to play an old piece for their solo at a recital?

At HRSM, we believe that solo performances make up an important part of the curriculum for the following reasons:

  • Performing gives children a goal to work toward.
  • In a solo performance children have the opportunity to express themselves and share that expression with an audience.
  • Performances challenge a child to play a piece at a higher musical level.
  • Through performances, children experience the joy of making music.

Quality is the most important factor in a solo performance. In a quality performance, the notes and bowings are correct, and the piece is played in tune, with a good tone and some musical expression. When choosing a piece for performance, a child should be encouraged to go back to an earlier piece. Since the notes and bowings are already established, the child can concentrate on musical effects like dynamics, phrasing, style or different bowing techniques. The result will be a performance that the child will be proud of.

As parents and teachers, we should encourage our children to see that a fine performance has to do with the quality of the piece played and not the book level of the piece.

When do children learn to read music and why?

When children first learn the violin, it is important for them to become comfortable with the instrument and playing posture as well as developing the ear/finger connection and intonation. Learning to read music at this critical time could actually interfere with learning to play the instrument. At the second grade level most children are physically ready, comfortable with the instrument and advanced enough in the reading of their own language to be able to learn to read music with ease.

What is the point of chamber ensembles?

Chamber music is a very satisfying activity for musicians. Unlike playing in an orchestra where there are many string players on the same part, a string quartet requires each player to carry her or his part alone. This demands a great deal of precision:

  • Rhythmically:  All of the players in the quartet have to listen and cooperate on the rhythmic characteristics and tempo of the piece.
  • Tonally:  Pitch is even more crucial in a group of four players -- not only the tuning but the intervals as well.
  • Musically:  All of the players get to contribute to the musical shape of the work.

What is the point of chamber ensembles?

Chamber music is a very satisfying activity for musicians. Unlike playing in an orchestra where there are many string players on the same part, a string quartet requires each player to carry her or his part alone. This demands a great deal of precision:

  • Rhythmically:  All of the players in the quartet have to listen and cooperate on the rhythmic characteristics and tempo of the piece.
  • Tonally:  Pitch is even more crucial in a group of four players -- not only the tuning but the intervals as well.
  • Musically:  All of the players get to contribute to the musical shape of the work.

How long has HRSM been around?

Founded in 1968 by Hastings residents Ikuku Okaya and Pearl Bloom, HRSM was one of the first schools in the Northeast to provide instruction by teachers trained by Dr. Shin’ichi Suzuki in his method of musical education. 

What external organizations do you support?

HRSM supports students who wish to participate in local orchestras and performing groups. The school works with organizations such as the Greater Westchester Youth Orchestra Association (which includes the Elementary String Orchestra, Junior String Orchestra and Youth Symphony Orchestra); the Westchester County School Music Association (which organizes the All County Orchestra); and the New York State School Music Association (which sponsors Solo Festival Auditions).  HRSM is a member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas.

Where can I rent an instrument or buy supplies?

For purchases, please visit our store, or buy through our Amazon link, which allows us to receive a commission on every sale. 

For rentals and specialty purchases, we recommend:

 Ardsley Musical Instrument Service

Johnson String Instrument Company (Rob Walsh, 800-359-9351 x120)

Mamaroneck Music & Arts Center

Ginès Cano Music Corporation (Eastchester)

Southwest Strings

Shar Music

How can I learn more about Dr. Suzuki and his method?

We recommend these books: