Twenty-five Years and Four Children: My Life with Suzuki-Strings


We assembled on the second floor of Huntingburg’s historic “Old Town Hall” for the annual “Strings” Spring Recital. Strings is the local Suzuki violin organization that trains young violinists according to the Suzuki method. It was Mothers’ Day, adding to the importance of the event.

These recitals usually began with the earliest students, just beginning their violin careers, completing the Twinkles or, perhaps, Lightly Row from Book One. They progress with increasingly more advanced students, culminating with the final performer. This individual was generally one of the most accomplished of the group, having mastered the more complex pieces of the ten books of the Suzuki canon. Today, that performer would be my daughter, Adina.

She took her position by the stand and faced her audience. The pianist began the introduction, and, momentarily poised in time and stillness, Adina then plunged into Veracini’s Sonata in E Minor. Venturing cautiously at first, she lured us into an ambiance of tranquility as the piece developed. Then moved deftly, eliciting and cajoling the correct sound, carrying the pace and mood. Her fingers adjusted methodically along the steel strings, altering their temper and disposition as she stroked them with her bow, extracting the precise tone she sought, provoking a range of emotions. She became at once flamboyant, seizing our attention, then moved nimbly from the impassioned to the soothing, with flawless, gentle pitches intermingled with grand leaps and turns. She dangled the notes before us, but only momentarily. Pressing forward, gathering momentum, she shifted her moods and sounds flawlessly as she carried us to a resounding finish.

What a perfect blending of form and function, I thought—of wood, metal, and horsehair, guided by trained and impassioned human hands that produced such transporting and evocative sound! The audience rewarded Adina with rich applause. These assembled parents, relatives, friends, and instructors made up an extended Strings musical family. Indeed, we, the Moss household, had come a long way with Strings.

Adina bowed and smiled, and with this gesture ended the recital.

But there was more.

Adina, now 18, was graduating high school and moving on to college. She began her journey with the violin at age five. 

Like most parents, I had dreams for my offspring.  As one of five sons raised by a single Mom in the Bronx, music, lessons, and expensive instruments were not an option.  But I could give them what was not available to me.  The violin seemed the perfect portal to classical music and lofty achievement.  It opened doors to a universe of legendary composers and works, of musical triumph, rapture, and joy.  It was a legacy that spiraled back centuries.  For them to join that lineage, to be accomplished in it, something I could never do, was worthy. 

Why not chess or volleyball?  

The majesty of classical music drew me, its transcendence and elevation, its demands and challenges, of which the violin seemed to be its epicenter.  Classical music, and its chief protagonist, the violin, represented one of the towering summits of Western civilization.  It demanded much time, devotion, and talent to master and unveil its secrets.  Once revealed, however, through trial and determination, it delivered a lifetime of gifts.  

After all those years, Adina’s two Suzuki instructors, Rafaela Schaick and Amber McNair, now awarded her with certificates for completing Books Nine and Ten. I had pushed her to complete them. She had her stops and starts, but in the end, she shouldered through. Adina was the second of my four children to complete all the books. My two sons, Noah and Isaiah, attempted to, but did not finish, each finding their interests lay elsewhere. The violin was not their thing, but they had made a gallant effort.

We had chosen the Suzuki method, and not another more traditional approach, because, firstly, it was available.  Living in a small town there were not many options.  But I also appreciated the intuitive aspects of the Suzuki method.  Learning by listening.  Using the ear to master the theory of music, its notes, rhythms, and tempo.  Like language. Watching my then infant children master speech without formal lessons, I saw the wisdom of attempting the same in music.

Then there was Arielle, my first child, of whom I had written for the Suzuki Journal not once but twice. In the first article, published in 1998, entitled “A Reluctant Child & Her Violin,” I recounted the challenges of getting a then three-year-old to practice. I resolved the matter, as noted in the column, with sage advice by Chee Yun, a violin virtuoso from Korea who provided a one-word answer: “bribery.” That worked out well enough, for, subsequently, I wrote a sequel for the Suzuki Journal entitled “From Bribery to Musical Achievement: My Daughter and Her Violin, Fifteen Years Later,” published in March of 2012.[1] [RM2] 

There was yet another layer though to today’s event. Adina’s current Suzuki instructor, Amber, was retiring as a Suzuki instructor to devote herself more fully to her family and nursing. What was coincidental and poignant here was that Amber was of Arielle’s generation. She began her career as a three-year-old with Arielle, some 25 years ago. Amber had been teaching both my younger two for the last seven years. She had even taken them to Carnegie Hall in New York City to perform with a local youth orchestra in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

My family’s involvement with Strings was rich. I enrolled them all at very tender ages, observing and encouraging them, attending and recording dutifully their many recitals over 25 years. [3] Yes, I remembered the early days when I strategically deployed chocolate bars to coax my first daughter to practice.  Or the half hour of video-games I permitted my first son in exchange for a half hour of music.  Then there were the promises of Oreo blizzards or Brownie Earthquakes for my younger two.  Now, there would be no further recitals. I had run out of children.

Like her older sister Arielle, Adina’s life has been shaped by music, beginning with the violin and Strings. In many ways, it was the center of her life along with her family, faith, reading, study, and other creative pursuits. In addition to the violin, she played the saxophone in jazz and symphonic bands, and the piano. On a volunteer basis, she had performed in nursing homes and at local events and festivals. She had also been involved in teaching younger students in violin and saxophone. Through music, she had strengthened her character, learned patience and compassion, developed discipline and leadership skills. She understood teamwork, helping others, and pursuing excellence. All this, she came to know through music, beginning with the violin, Strings, and the Suzuki method.

Will she become a professional musician? Unlikely. But she will continue to pursue music and enrich her life with it. She will perform in local bands and symphonies and take further courses at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music in combination with Suzuki lessons. She will give lessons and offer the gift of music at nursing homes and other venues where beautiful sound is needed and appreciated. She plans to go into media and possibly pursue law. But music of all kinds, especially the violin, will continue to be central in her life.

The final ribbon in this marvelous bouquet was a visit to the headquarters of the Suzuki Association of the Americas on a recent excursion to Boulder, Colorado. We had the pleasure of meeting the staff who made so much of this possible. I considered it a pilgrimage. 

I will continue to attend the recitals of my children at nursing homes, street fairs, markets, and with local orchestras.  Adina will give lessons to the younger students with Strings when possible.  My wife and I will enjoy the videos I have recorded of their many performances.  When they return home for the holidays and rehearse together, we will gather and enjoy their renditions.  I will miss the concerts, fellowship, and interaction with our local group, but the powerful memories will linger. We will always remember with much fondness the music and relationships that have enriched our lives.  After 25 years and four children, countless hours of practice, lessons, and recitals, I would like to thank the Suzuki organization, internationally, nationally, and then right here in Jasper, Indiana through Strings, Inc., and our excellent teachers Ann Brown, Rafaela, and Amber.   My involvement with Strings through my four children ranks among my greatest memories, experiences, and achievements as a father


1. Moss, Richard. 1998. “A Reluctant Child & Her Violin.” American Suzuki Journal, Summer 1998.

2. Moss, Richard. 2012. “From ‘Bribery’ to Musical Achievement: My Daughter and Her Violin, Fifteen Years Later.” American Suzuki Journal, Winter 2012.




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