Looking Back and Staying Present

Lately, I’ve had a whole lot to work on in my practice sessions – in addition to my new pieces being quite complicated and just longer than past pieces, I’m trying to work on vibrato, shifting positions, and to do daily work on scales.  Consequently, I spend less and less time on my older Book One and Two, and even earlier Book 3 songs.  About a year ago, with Teacher’s guidance, I changed my practice strategy, which formerly had included playing through all past songs.  Even at that time such a strategy was simply no longer possible, and Teacher told me to focus on my most recent three.  I can’t help but do a bit more than that because I just love some of them, but indeed I have let a great many of them go.

But playing with the accompaniment track on the Suzuki CDs is fun, and it does help my ear and it helps my rhythm, and I think it just helps me up my overall game too.  I haven’t talked to Teacher about that – I’ll try to remember to do so tomorrow.  At any rate, it had been a couple of months since I’ve done that work at all, so yesterday I tried to trot out the whole repertoire I’ve learned to date – starting with Lightly Row and going all the way up to the Dvorak Humoresque in Book Three, the last song, I learned yesterday, that I can play well enough to keep up with on the accompaniment track.

While it was great fun, I struggled quite a bit with many of the songs.  My main issue was memory – of course it’s the Suzuki Way to memorize the songs versus using music – many people learning the Suzuki method would only now be engaging with the music in any real way – I’ve personally been deeply dependent on it for a long time, having learned to read music as a child, I’m really unable to not read it – and what would be the point anyway!  I’m certainly not saying I’m great at sight reading at all, but reading has definitely come back to me mostly naturally; I’ve been doing it intently since early in Book Two – and, again, I’m aware that’s just not Suzuki normal.

But as I do these play-throughs I’ve never pulled out the music – I learned yesterday, and have known for a while, that many of the songs, especially some of the ones from Book Two, are just not there for me anymore.  I could quite quickly work them back up, but it was my intention just to play through once, the way I used to – it turns out I just can’t really do that anymore.  I feel it’s a bit of a loss, but I’m so excited about the newest songs in my repertoire that going back to maintain some of those would feel like a step backward.

I’ve mentioned before an analogy to my karate training – we learn new kata, or sequences that simulate battles, as we move along.  Twelve years in now, I still train the first one I learned as a very beginner white belt – of course as a teacher of students of all levels I don’t personally have a choice but to maintain them, but it’s also just a part of the martial way, in all arts, as I understand it.  Our kata are the heart and soul of the art, and we never let any of them go after learning them.  The Suzuki Way is different.  It’s just not too important that I maintain the ability to play through that old Gavotte from Mignon. And, indeed, I can’t!

Thanks for reading.

Ryan

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