Last night, I was all set to get to bed early, my New Year’s resolution, and there on the coffee table was a partially completed 500 piece Ravensburger jigsaw puzzle of a steam train in a winter landscape. I don’t even like puzzles, but I found myself getting drawn in. Yawn. . . yes one more piece. It is beautiful. Addictive. Thanks goodness, tonight, as of 9:05 p.m. it is done. I can still hope to get to bed at a decent hour.
At first this puzzle seemed a hopeless heap of pieces. As we filled in more and more pieces, it actually got easier, until the last pieces were extremely obvious. I have always thought the successful study of an instrument is exactly like working on a puzzle. The more pieces you get in place the more satisfying and beautiful it becomes. When pieces get lost–it is frustrating and hardly seems worth finishing.
What are the pieces of the music lesson puzzle? Number one: showing up for the lesson. With your music. And your parent. The famous pedagogue Amanda Vick Lethco, from the great state of Texas, co-author of the Alfred Basic piano course used to tell us that kids could still make progress even if showing up for the lesson was all they did. I hope to set my expectations higher. . . but showing up is a critical piece.
The next most important piece is the practice at home. Every day is a chance to put another piece in the puzzle. If you practice three days, three pieces, seven days, seven pieces. You get the picture. And the more pieces, the better the picture. Listening to the recording. Everyday. Listening to other beautiful music. Going to see real live music. Attending group lessons. Having a beautiful sounding instrument. Playing for kids at school. Playing for grandparents. Playing for stuffed animals. Working with masterclass teachers. Playing chamber music with other musicians. Composing. Learning theory. Scales and arpeggios. Sight reading. Going to summer camp. We can count up to 500 pieces pretty quickly.
Yes—in the beginning the puzzle seems overwhelming. There are so many pieces. Remember, we can only place one piece at a time. As we all work together we realize, the more pieces that are placed, the easier it gets. Soon we are motivated to finish. Success leads to success. We are hooked. We stay up too late just to make it beautiful.
In the puzzle of music lessons—piece by piece—with every piece placed lovingly by the parent, student, teacher and community— the young artist in the picture becomes clearer and clearer—until at last we see Dr. Suzuki’s vision—the completed picture of the beautiful child, making beautiful music, with a beautiful heart.