Never Give Up

I remember hearing the story of Winston Churchill giving a speech at his old school. It was in 1941, during World War II.   He said, “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up… The pessimist sees the problems in every opportunity. Whereas the optimist sees the opportunity in every problem.”

One phrase I have never heard come out of an adult’s mouth: “I’m so glad I quit music lessons.” Phrases I hear often from adults: “I wish I had never quit” ; “I wish my parents had not let me quit.” Or “ I never had the opportunity to learn to play.”  Dr. Suzuki was adamant about talking about the real purpose of his method, which is often referred to as “Talent Education”. He felt that the child who was “nurtured by love”, who listened early and often to beautiful music and who learned to play music  through small, achievable steps, would develop a beautiful and noble heart as well as great ability.  

Allison came to study Suzuki violin with me in 5th grade. She had studied one year with another teacher. Allison and her mother were very committed to the Suzuki method. Her mother, Tammy, was an awesome Suzuki parent; she and Allison practiced together until Allison was able to take on more of the responsibility on her own in high school. Even then, Tammy came in for occasional lessons just because she loved to listen to the music.  Allison attended summer Suzuki Institutes at Stevens Point Wisconsin at the University of Wisconsin with her family, where parents and children attend Suzuki camp together for a week. Allison truly loved the instruction and concerts of 900-1000 children playing together and each year she came back more motivated.  She entered competitions; many of them she won, some she did not. I was so grateful for the spirit and wisdom of this child early on: even if she did not win, she always knew it was music she loved. If she didn’t take first place, she tried for next year.   

Once Allison reached high school, as her activities and school work increased, the practicing became less perfect. Senior year was approaching and the summer of her junior year I told her that I expected she would play a senior SOLO recital, reviewing the major pieces she had covered in her years of violin playing.  Recitals, contest, reviewing and perfecting the music for the senior solo recital kept her going. She won the competition for senior solo at her high school. One of my very young students watched Allison play a wonderful solo at a student recital. After Allison played, 5 year old Lexi told me that :it was so beautiful it made her cry!  A new piece was an exciting motivator: the 1st movement of the Kabelevsky concerto, though dissonant and fast paced, caught Allison by surprise. She grew to love the 20th century piece though her tastes had always tended towards the slow pieces from the romantic to the Baroque.  Allison also gave back. Suburban Youth Symphony offered a program to students who did not have a string program in their school and she became one of the best volunteers, often practicing with students individually in groups and even leading them in concerts.  Allison did what many students fail to do: she never never, never gave up. Though every week was not a perfect practice week in high school, she saw her learning experience through: from 5th grade to senior in high school. Though she is not majoring in music, she already has plans to continue playing in her university orchestra.  At her senior recital, held at The Music Connection, Allison’s friends and family were there to cheer her on. At the end of the recital, she was asked to play an encore. Dad said, “How about Twinkle?” Allison did not roll her eyes, but solemnly played a beautiful Twinkle. I think everyone in her family thought back to those many Twinkles during those early years.

In one of our more recent conversations, I asked Allison’s mom if she had any words of wisdom or encouragement for our parents and students.

“Listen”, she said, “We spent lots of time listening to the Suzuki recordings as well as other violin music” “ Go to summer institutes. They were so motivating and fun for her.” “ Make practice a habit.”  

And of course: never, never, never give up!





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