Hello Cornerstone Parents and Students,

This was a busy week for us, and Ms. Vachon’s posts will update you on the in-class notes.  This is a more general overview of what we are up to.

Site Visit & Music Help Cards

I did one of 4 planned, full-day site visits to the school this week.  This is to monitor how our planning is going, to offer students and faculty support, and to help with any integration of change that we may have based on observation or parent (and student) feedback.  I spoke with the Grades 7-12 class, who are a strong group, and encouraged them to join the email lists so they may monitor their own assignments.  I also encouraged them to feel free to give me feedback directly, should the feel so inclined.

You will have received an introductory ‘Music Help’ postcard at home.  This may arrive on occasion to inform you of some matter that requires your attention.  Please do your best to fulfil the requests on them at your earliest convenience.  Otherwise, it directly affects the students’ ability to participate in class, advance their skills, and hampers the progress overall.  For example…

Grade 4-6 books missing

5 students were missing books in this class, which represents roughly 50% of the class.  I personally wrote cards to the families of these students.  Please get the books (and any other missing equipment) ordered by the end of this week.

iBooks version of Suzuki books now available

The good news as a follow-up to the missing books is that we have now completed access to purchase Apple’s iBooks Version of the Suzuki books, including the audio tracks!  This means that you have 3 choices for acquiring books, either to be delivered to you homes, or instantly downloaded to your devices (including Kindle, or: iPads, Desktops, iPhones, and laptops if you use iBooks).  Go to our Downloads section to order your books now.

Shoulder Rests and Music Stands

Shoulder Rests are also available for purchase and home delivery.  Use the link above to get them.

Music stands are still not listed for purchase.  We are still looking for a source that will provide a good value for price.  This is currently a bit of a problem given the state of the Canadian dollar, but we are working on it.

Parent Feedback Update


There has been no change in responses since the last note from me.  We are still at roughly 10% response.  Please ask your fellow parents to complete the survey if you are speaking with them, or emailing them.


My posts will tend to be long, and I will apologize for that, but I need and intend to be thorough.  Ms. Vachon’s posts will – going forward – be segmented by class, so you will only receive notes specific to your class.  These will not be short but they will address key areas, some of which are requested by parents:

  • What we did this week
  • What did we listen to or watch, that you can watch at home?
  • What work is to be done this weekend
  • What are we doing next week?
  • How much time should your student be practicing each day?
  • How can you help your child?

This should give you a strong view of what we did, where we are, and where we are looking to go, as well as your role in assisting them Friday through Monday, which is particularly important for Grades 1-3.

Homework will continue to be posted online (which will email to you) only at this time.  Please understand that this part of class was eating up a large amount of time (particularly for younger grades), and that we are also concerned that agendas can be lost.  The internet and your email isn’t going anywhere.  Our primary concern and effort is to get as much work done in-class as possible.


We’ve posted a Friday-Monday homework helper that Ms. Vachon will ask you to download, print, and complete each weekend.  There are instructions on how to use it, on it.  You can use the link, or visit the downloads page of the site.  Parents should help: complete Grades 1-3, monitor Grades 4-6, and seniors should self-administer if recommended by Ms. Vachon.

Why is this important?

This is important because it is intended to be a low-key way to teach and learn self-evaluation and goal setting for students of any age.  By asking very general questions about their own habit of practicing, you and we can begin to teach them to develop critical thought about quality of effort and results.  This is a key principle not only in music, but in all areas of life as we grow, but one that is incredibly easy to implement through music.

This brings us to a point of feedback about kids not knowing:


The short answer is that Music is the perfect learning activity.

The long answer is an article that I have been working on for some time now, which is already 3 pages, and only about 60% done.  This conversation with the Cornerstone parents has gotten me stimulated to try to finish it shortly.  I’ll aim to have it out to you soon, but here are some preview categories that the article deals with in terms of life-long applications of music:

  • Communication skills
  • Physical benefits
  • Mental benefits
  • Social skills, benefits, and equalization
  • Other infrequently mentioned benefits to be considered


This time of year, unfortunately, the wood in violins is extraordinarily at risk.  Low humidity, combined with changing temperatures from indoor to outdoor always causes tuning problems, and occasionally will result in a cracked instrument or broken bow.  We’ve seen a couple of broken bows due to weather this week.  This is not to be mistaken for mis-handling, so if your child does appear with a cracked violin or broken bow, please take the time to make sure what the cause is before going to discipline or disappointment.

Instruments are tuned each day, but it is unlikely that they will arrive home in that condition, much less stay that way.  It is simply the way that this goes with instruments made of wood.  We have added a note to ourselves to make a video on this subject to help you out, and will update you on that as it develops.  In the meantime, please consider the following tips for maintenance:

  1. Remember to always loosen your bow after playing. If the bow stays tight, the hairs stretch and get ruined and the bow stick will warp. Apply fresh rosin before playing. After playing, wipe excess rosin off the bow stick (not the hair), and strings with a soft cloth.
  2. Clean your instrument as soon as there is Rosin build-up on the body, at least once a month.
  3. Strings often get sticky from finger dirt, sweat, and rosin. To keep your fingerboard and strings clean and comfortable, try a recommended string cleaner or use a very slightly moistened cloth (not paper towel). Keep a cloth under the fingerboard while cleaning to protect the varnish!
  4. Your instrument and bow is made of wood. In Canada’s varied climate, the changes in seasons can cause cracks in the seam openings and wooden body of your instrument. Consider using an instrument-specific (Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass) humidifier to protect against and prevent serious damage, especially as the air gets cooler and drier.


There was a very insightful bit of feedback that highlighted the struggles of group dynamics and individual levels of proficiency – basically how some kids are wildly different in their levels than others at their age/grade.

This is an excellent bit of feedback and I am grateful to have an opportunity to address this.

Groups always end up in this situation, to some degree.  I can tell you, however, that it is absolutely best to group them by age (and then, if possible, by how well they play) rather than to to group them simply by level.  At ABC we actually tested this over a period of 1 year in one of our group programs, and the result was clear:  Students do not like to be in groups learning with a wide(-ish) age range.  The younger children are intimidated by the older ones, and the older ones feel babied or embarrassed by the implications of being placed alongside younger ones.  Progress, not to mention desire to be playing, grinds to a halt.  This is a far greater impact than we can imagine as adults…we’ve forgotten these group dynamics!

The other very practical concern is that the school system is organized by age, so you can only imagine what a nightmare it would be to try to schedule students based on level with that in mind!

We will be exploring ways to keep the more advanced students engaged on a go-forward basis, but for now we are laser focused on the general programming.


Thank you, and more again soon!