Let’s zoom out, and take a look at the overarching journey of your students.
Where Book 4 teaches virtuosity, Book 3 teaches musicality, Book 2 teaches resonance, and Book 1 teaches bow and finger dexterity, the pre-twinkle lessons lay the foundation for everything.
The development from novice to twinkler is the most significant progress your students will make in two years as a violinist, and arguably the most difficult. Development requires a practice routine, a healthy parent/student relationship, perfect bow posture, perfect violin posture, quality tone production, the conceptual understanding of a piece, and performance skills. The amount of hard work required to graduate from the Twinkles is disproportionate to every other phase of violin development.
If I were to illustrate the relationship of skill to time for the beginning Suzuki violinist, it would look something like this.
Some students spend years moving from novice to Twinkle Graduation. Each student is unique and will travel at their own pace, but in parent education I explain that moving through the Twinkles will take us at least one year.
That year is jam packed with instruction and new material. For me it involves…
- Lesson procedures, home practice procedures, group class procedures
- Building bow holds
- Bow games (Traveling Bow, Up Like A Rocket, Ring of Fire, Pass the Cup)
- Arm Scrubbing
- Bow Scrubbing
- The Numbers Game
- Tone builders
- Ant Song
- Open E
- Chicken on a Fence Post
- Left Hand development
- strengthening (Popcorn Song, Pass the Magic Stone, finger pops, finger folding)
- relaxation (arm hanging on marker, arm hanging on violin, finger tone testers)
- LH position (touch the magic spot, first finger Y, thumb)
- Flower song (parent bow, independent bow)
- Monkey song (parent bow, independent bow)
- Mississippi Stop Stop
- My Friend and Your Friend
- Down Pony Up Pony
- Mississippi Mississippi
- Strawberry Blueberry
- Long bow (theme)
Once your student has mastered all of these skills, I believe a HUGE celebration is in order.
Two weeks ago one of my students had her Twinkle Graduation. You can watch the stellar performance we captured on video here.
In order to make the day special, her family and I organized the following. I would recommend including a few of these special elements, and more if you can, in your next Twinkle Graduation.
- Plan ahead. At the beginning of the semester we planned for her to
have her Twinkle Graduation at the end of the semester in combination with another student who was ready to graduate. We planned the venue and time (used our own performance hall at Monarch Suzuki Academy) well in advance. But most importantly, by planning ahead we were able to schedule many rehearsals and several performances before the big day.
- Hire a pianist. We arranged for my student to play with an accompanist. Not only did this fill out her sound and make the performance a more professional one, but in some cases the piano helped my student stay on track. If you can’t hire a pianist, I would recommend learning to play the accompaniment yourself.
- Pack the house. The families of the student performers sent out many invitations and the house was packed. First and foremost, we made sure all other families in the studio were aware of the performance and were invited to come. But beyond that, we welcomed many family members, friends, and other teachers (school, sports, other instruments) from our students’ lives.
- Document the day. I videotaped the whole performance using my
standard video setup. The videos are now available online for my student to send to distant relatives and friends.
- Present certificates.We presented our two graduates with Twinkle Graduation Certificates. This really set the occasion apart as a graduation and not just another performance. You make your own certificate, or order both, like we did, from the Suzuki Association of the Americas (here).
- Eat cake! A reception followed the performance and presentation
of certificates. Family and friends stuck around to congratulation each of the performers on an amazing job well done.
By hosting a graduation you celebrate not just the performance, but all of the hard work required to perform Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Variations. Many times it is the moment taken to recognize the hard work well done that propels student and parent into the next stage of violin mastery.