Welcome to Art's Articles for the Month of:
This month I wanted to talk about attitude.

The attitude with which a violin student approaches practice is critical.  The better the attitude, the more productive the practice.  I can remember many practices where I started the practice not wanting to pick up my violin.  Throughout the practice session I did not want to be there.  And when I put down the violin at the end of the practice session there had been absolutely no progress made.  It was essential for me to go into practice with a feeling that I REALLY WANTED TO PLAY.

We all know that.  It's nothing new.  It's old hat. 

What I would like to discuss this month is the attitude of those around the student.  I am especially concerned about parents of young students, but many of the same points can be made about older students.

I have two points to make here

1.  If your attitude is not good, the student's attitude will not be good.  You need to approach practice with a positive attitude, because almost inevitably the student's attitude will mimic your own.  If you go into the practice believing that you will have fun, you probably will.  If you go into practice believing that there will be some progress made, there will probably be some improvement.  If you go into practice just because it's something you have to do to please the teacher, the student will develop the same attitude.  I was reading an article the other day about Sarah Chang as I was writing an article about her for the Music History section.  She said that her parents never MADE her practice.  She said she wanted to practice, and that as such her attitude has always remained positive.  She emphasized that her practice times had always been appropriate for her age, and that at times she broke practice into several shorter sessions once she got into more extensive practice requirements; but she said her parents were always supportive.

2.  If the attitude you display is not genuine you will be found out.  I have heard several Suzuki teachers talk about the necessity of reinforcing positive feelings in students.  They instructed parents to applaud when children finished a piece, even at lessons or practice at home.  What my wife and I found funny in the process is that we were told that we should SPONTANEOUSLY APPLAUD after each piece.  I have not yet figured out how to spontaneously applaud when the teacher is motioning for all the adults in the room to clap.  My daughter knew when a piece was played well and when it was not.  There was no way that she was going to improve if I indicated approval of mediocre performance, and we both knew that.  She responded much more positively to genuine, heartfelt praise over a job well done than she did to "spontaneous" clapping. 
    At the same time, there is almost always something that you can praise in a practice session.  I can only think of a few times that a practice went so abysmally that about the only thing that I could have praised was the fact that she hadn't fallen asleep.  You can almost always find something to praise, whether it be a bow grip, posture, tone, a good job tuning the instrument, rhythm or some other teaching point from this week or some time in the past.  And if you can combine honest praise for something with a request that the student repeat what he had just done so well it is doubly reinforcing.