Monthly Archives: October 2005

Cookie Time

Notes from my studies with Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Every day after group class and before our individual lessons, Suzuki Sensei gave us Cookie Time. Suzuki Sensei once said that he would like to change the name of his school from the “ Talent Education Research Institute? to “The Cookie and Music Conservatory?. He added that “Cookie? needed to precede “Music?.

First cookie, then wonderful tone.

I have to admit that I did get pretty plump in Matsumoto. As the trays of cookies were brought in by the students, the gaijin1 would refer to it as “feeding time at the Kaikan2.? At first I would simply look at the cookies and try to find the ones that I would like to eat. There were so many kinds with so many unusual tastes. Salty combined with sweet was one taste sensation I could do without. Also the “anko? or bean paste centered ones were not my favorite. There was a particular type called Mrs. Gallaudet cookies that I really liked. Pocky sticks were always a sure thing, and Koala chocolate biscuits were also good. Often the Japanese cookies were individually wrapped and it was hard to tell if you would like that type without opening it up and giving it a try. When I found one that tasted particularly good, I would memorize the wrapper for future reference. Soon I had my favorites all picked out.

But really there had to be more to Cookie Time than just sorting out one’s favorite cookies. Just as soon as I had decided which kinds of cookies I liked the best, I began to find extra cookies in unusual places. These extra cookies were always my favorites and they showed up on my music shelf or in the secret pocket of my violin case. Sometimes they would be readily available on the coffee table in Suzuki Sensei’s studio after a particularly difficult lesson. At first I thought it was merely a coincidence. Then one day I found a Mrs. Gallaudet cookie right in the pocket of my dress! All right now, something was up! Who was playing this trick of reverse pick-pocket?

Suzuki Sensei would laugh. People were always laughing and enjoying themselves at Cookie Time. Suzuki Sensei would toss the cookies to students across the room in classic baseball pitcher fashion. After all, he was a great baseball champion in Jr. High School! Suzuki Sensei would often mention that service was important, and once he said that the reason he was such a great baseball champion was that he was actually a miserable pitcher. “Service for the other team!? he laughed. If we caught the cookie that he pitched our way, we would receive the A-OKAY sign. But then he would turn around and wave his hand at us as if to say, “So you are great at catching cookies. Is this some great accomplishment?? Apparently it was not.

I began to realize that the point was not to simply catch the cookies and eat them. Gaining a few extra kilos brought that point to me quite clearly. I obviously needed to figure out a way to escape from Cookie Time without being a fuddy-duddy. I began to cut back on my Cookie Time treats. Finding a way to participate in and enjoy Cookie Time while keeping my cookie intake below five cookies per day became my new objective. I began to notice which types of cookies my friends liked. Then I would stock up on those types and hide them in my friends’ things. Often I would end up with an even bigger stock of favorite cookies on my shelf! The game was afoot. I began to understand a deeper purpose to Cookie Time.

Sometimes late into the evening, I would study 100,000 bow circles or some other delicate point we had explored during group lesson that morning. As I practiced I would find myself getting hungry. Eating was never a simple thing to do in Matsumoto. It was expensive, time consuming and a bit exasperating to try to find foods that one liked. I would think of going to see if the obento shop was still open and wonder about spending my money there. As I finally would decide to put away my violin, Suzuki Sensei would walk into the kenkyusei room with a plate of cookies and smile and put them down on the table. I could continue to study “tone-tone-tone?.

Sitting next to Suzuki Sensei during a Tea Party 3, I became engaged in an endless game of “look the other way and I’ll sneak something delicious on your plate?. Of course, with Suzuki Sensei, I felt like the elephant trying to outwit the fox. Finally he turned around to talk to someone for several moments with his back completely turned to me. It was a very obvious a comical gesture. This was my chance! I daringly put a piece of cake onto his plate. He kept turning his back and facing farther away from me. I waited with anticipation for him to turn back around and find the cake! Suddenly he turned back, looked at his plate and seemed to be pleasantly surprised! I was so smug and happy about my strawberry success as I finally looked back at my plate to find a huge bright red strawberry on my own previously empty plate. I could have sworn there had been no more strawberries left at that Tea Party! I had noticed that because I really liked the strawberries…

As the realization of this magic dawned on me, Suzuki Sensei took the sweet cake I had placed on his plate, gently broke it into two equal pieces, and gave one half of it back to me. Before he popped the other half into his mouth he looked at me and said:

SO teach.

1) Foreigner

2) Meeting Hall

3) The huge Graduation party held in the afternoon in honor of a T.E.R.I. Graduate after his or her Graduation Recital. The entire Graduation event usually took all day. The Tea Party involved lots of tea, flowers, fruit, cakes and cookies



Filed under Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, Stories about Dr. Suzuki, Suzuki Method, Suzuki Sensei, Teaching

It’s not what you play, it’s how you play it…

I was teaching my new refugee transfer student (TM Allen Lieb via Ed Sprunger) and helping her with some basics. It is so difficult to be a transfer student; surroundings and semantics are all different, approval need is high but connections with non-verbal cues are skewed and everything is skeewompus. It’s a wonder we were able to have a lesson at all!

But the lesson was fabulous! She’s learning to use her independent fingers (a crucial skill for a Book Two student, I like them to have it by Book One Lightly Row). She was playing Book One pieces with independent fingers in her second lesson!

Today, we spent the whole lesson on Book One pieces. Mostly we just worked on tone. I helped her with Panda. She liked being able to produce so much more sound with such little effort. She could do it quite well. At the end of her lesson, I mentioned that “It’s not what you play, it’s how you play it”. While she was packing up, I answered the phone and it was my Book Ten student (affectionately known as Freckles). I immediately asked Freckles if it wasn’t true:

“It’s not what you play, it’s how you play it.”

She agreed whole heartedly. “YES!” she said. You see, I remember when Freckles was playing Book One pieces, so I see the whole connection here. My refugee transfer student just thought it was crazy that I would ask Freckles this question on the phone. I sensed that she still felt a bit silly to have spent the whole lesson on Book One pieces…

I know she’ll get it one day.


Filed under Suzuki Method, Teaching

taxi, pumpkins and flock

taxi and pumpkins I saw this when I went to the marketplace to get the materials to make my new three year old student’s box violin. It looked interesting to me; I liked the colors.

Students were great today – once again! Way to go guys!

In other news, Sarahintampa is reminding me that flock is here, (right when I get firefox to where I want it) so maybe it’s time for me to download a new browser and give it a whirl.


Filed under Teaching

My students…

…are absolutely gorgeous. I am so blessed!!! One of them is getting ready for a graduation recital and she is so prepared! She raced through two of the most difficult pieces today at a breakneck pace, so there is just that little problem, but she is really ready for this! The recital is on the 30th, so now she can just polish and polish everything for the next 11 days.

Another one who is a new student is just advancing like crazy. I have very high standards and he just keeps upping his game. Plus, this is what I love; he has an ability to feel the music as he plays and he moves and enjoys it so much. He smiles about music and he really means it. We’re both music geeks that way so it’s cool to teach a student who feels the way I do about music…

(I should qualify that and say that I have been becoming a bit of a curmudgeon in my old”er” age. The upcoming performances of the Nutcracker for literally the 500th time have been wearing away at my enthusiasm. Seeing this student’s shining face and radiant attitude about the beauty of music keeps me in touch with that reason I began to play in the first place.)

I love to teach.


Filed under Suzuki Method, Teaching


GENUINE is talking about winning the 350 million dollar lottery. He asked about 5 things people would do with the money (after donating to charities etc.).

Here was my answer:

5 things to do with 350 million dollars

  1. Pay off our house, my parent’s house, my in-laws’ houses and buy my sister a house in Paris (where she lives) and set them all up for life.
  2. Buy a house out in the middle of the Uinita Mountains with lots of gorgeous land for us (my husband would be soooo happy!)
  3. Get a plane and learn to fly it so I could commute to the city to teach Suzuki violin lessons (Or just pay others to fly it – but it would be fun to fly it myself too).
  4. Help develop my sister’s website project la passerelle. And buy art from her site…
  5. Buy a Stradivarius Violin and play chamber music with my friends (buy them their choice of instruments too)…Buy chamber music scores.

So what would you do? 5 things you would do with 350 million dollars assuming you have already donated a lot of the money to your favorite charities and you’ve invested well so it won’t go away…


Filed under Art, diary, Family, Suzuki Method, Teaching, violin

Blogging blogging everywhere and not a thought to link.

I’ve redone the layout of another site of mine but daresn’t link yet until I get the OK from the site I “borrowed” the design from… It isn’t an elaborate design, but she might have qualms. I’ve written her email.  And I did change it quite a bit.

My students come in 30 minutes. I’m prepared.

Mr. Bear has gone fishing and will be back a bit before my show starts.

I’ve added an entry to the Art Bridge.

I’m not feeling very in tune today.


Filed under Art, blogging, Teaching, TV Shows


I have Schradiek on the brain this morning. It won’t stop. Schradiek is a repetitive form of left hand Pilates that two of my students are doing (Thursdays and Fridays). It’s great for forming the frame of the hand and controlling fast notes. Also intonation. Maybe I should ask my Monday star student to do it too.

tree I’ve just taken Lucy for a walk. We saw this gorgeous tree. She’s having a hard time today, whining and complaining because Bear isn’t home. She was sitting in her chair earlier, but now she’s hiding under the computer desk. This is just what she does when she feels unsafe. She’s been like this ever since we lost Victor. She has severe separation anxiety. I once took her to the Vet because it was so bad. She shakes and whines. It’s horrible. I try to spoil her a bit when she gets this way. I take her for walks and rides and give her treats. Has anyone else had this kind of experience with a dog? What did you do?


Filed under Lucy, Suzuki Method, Teaching, violin