Beginners as young as three years old are encouraged to consider studying the viola. It is the alto voice of the string family and its strings are tuned five pitches lower than those of the violin. Many children find the rich tones of the viola especially appealing. While full-sized violas are larger than violins, smaller sizes are fitted the same as violins for younger students. Violists provide an essential voice in string quartets and orchestras and often are in great demand.
Individual Lessons: Beginning students enroll for a thirty minute lesson. Very young students may share this time with one or two other children. All new parents and students are encouraged to observe other student's individual lessons, as well as a group lesson, during the first few weeks of the term. During these observations, the Suzuki Triangle can be seen in action: parent, teacher, and child working, sharing, and having fun together. Success in the Suzuki approach depends upon this triangular relationship, rooted in a rich environment.
The parent is expected to be present at all lessons and supervise home practice until the teacher determines that the student is sufficiently mature to work without help. Using a recorder to tape each lesson is recommended whether or not the parent is present at the lesson. Questions which come up mid-week are easily resolved, and reminders of special details result in a better-prepared lesson.
Parents are asked to take pertinent notes in a notebook which is brought to each lesson. The teacher's instructions should be written in this notebook each session, so that a complete record is available for review and reminders. The parent's role as home teacher usually continues for several years, with the student gradually assuming more responsibility. The teacher will guide the student toward working independently at the proper time.
When music reading is introduced (around Book Two or Three), it is advisable to increase the individual lesson time to forty-five minutes, and the daily practice proportionately.
The Amarillo College Suzuki Program welcomes students who transfer from non-Suzuki backgrounds during any stage of advancement. Regardless of the age of such students, it is helpful for their parents to observe lessons at first to gain an understanding of Suzuki learning ideals and any necessary technical adjustments.
Home Practice and Listening: Progress occurs during home practice and listening sessions. At lessons, the teachers take students from where they are and move them to the next step. If growth has not occurred at home during the week, the lesson remains at the same level. Similarly, careful practice and listening habits in preschool and elementary years can result in outstanding musical and academic accomplishments in high school and later life. An open understanding with the teacher about realistic practice and listening expectations is essential. While the discipline of regular practice is not always easy, children are always happiest when they do well. Suzuki challenges parents to "create the desire to learn" in their children.