This month’s issue features our new violin/viola teacher, Molly, who began studying privately at age 4 with her mother, Lisa, who is a violinist. Molly interviews Lisa and her father, Mort, about growing up in a Suzuki household.
What was the reason I started lessons?
Mort: Your mom made all of you (you and your brothers) start lessons at a very early age
Lisa: You started lessons because we had a house rule that all three kids would begin in a Suzuki program when they were about 4 years old and had to continue with their instrument of choice through the end of High School.
What were your thoughts about starting lessons? Were you excited? Anxious? Confused?
Lisa: You were pretty excited. Always looking to perform anywhere and anytime including the living room.
Mort: Since you were the second child, you playing a string instrument was just part of the construction of our household…. That did not keep me from saying – oy, how many hours is this going to take out of my life, how much more is it going to cost me… oy…
What was the most helpful thing my teacher ever told you? Least helpful?
Mort: You were taking violin lessons from Steve – and your mom had you playing some music on viola at the high school… You brought your viola in to Steve to have him hear you – and he immediately without hesitation told you to switch to viola.
I don’t remember any least helpful…
Were there times I wanted to quit? Were there times YOU wanted me to quit?
Mort:I really don’t remember a time that this ever even came up in conversation or attitude. (Nor would it likely have been a choice!!) But, you played french horn so beautifully in the high school band that I thought for a moment that you should switch to horn.
Lisa:You never asked to quit but there were some times it was quite difficult to get you to practice, especially around 7th grade.
Did I always like to practice? If not, did you have any tricks that made practice easier?
Lisa: Practicing is not fun for anyone and you were no exception. When you were little, M&Ms helped. Setting small goals and playing duets etc. helped a lot.
Was there a point when it became clear to you that it was all worth it?
Lisa: It was always worth it! I loved it when you were little and just as much as you got older! I remember being especially proud when you first performed your Twinkle Variations at the Blue Lake Suzuki Institute.
Mort: Many – when you won the concerto competition at Eastman, When you graduated from Juilliard, when I found out you were subbing in the pit for a Broadway musical. I am reminded on a daily basis that this is your destiny.
What’s the worst fight you remember having with me about music?
Mort: I don’t think we ever had any fights about… your mother on the other hand, that is a different story.
Lisa: I don’t remember any big milestone fights but I DO remember that because you were so difficult around 14 you had a year with no lessons as long as you continued to participate in an orchestra and occasionally work with me at home. My goal was just to keep you engaged and not go backwards until you grew out of whatever your adolescent attitude issues were. Seems to have worked. ☺
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Mort: In general, life is so short. I tried not to miss very many (if any) recitals, concerts, etc., when the kids were growing up. But you know, when they are 5 years old, you blink and they are in graduate school. I think I payed reasonable attention to what was going on… there is never enough time to spend with your children when they are young – but every minute needs to be cherished… I am very grateful.
Lisa: Considering our finances at that time, both parents working and you had siblings to share time and expenses with, I think we all did what we could do at that time. If I had to do things differently I would have preferred a better quality instrument for you and more time to spend engaged in all arts.
What’s the best time you remember having with me surrounding music?
Lisa: One of THE MOST FUN things I loved and still love doing with you is performing in the living room. Trading parts, sight-reading, laughing at (mostly my) mistakes and having a great time. Music with my own kid is pretty spectacular.
Mort: I think that every time we have attended a concert or musical or opera, I love love love watching the look on your face when something is done so beautifully. You have a very real appreciation for art and talent and it is so cool to watch you react… even to this very day!