Tag Archives: Shinichi Suzuki

Meet the Maloleys

June 6, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A variety of sounds greet one at the front door of the Maloleys’ home. The sounds of a piano, at least one violin, and a cello come from different areas of their 1950s home. Something else sounds like a complete symphony.

l-r, Caroline, Jacob, Meredith, Zachary, Clara, and Sam Maloley

l-r, Caroline, Jacob, Meredith, Zachary, Clara, and Sam Maloley

“Oh, that’s a CD,” Julie Maloley says with a slight wave of her hand like it’s no big deal.

It’s a bit of a cacophony…but only a little bit. It is, however, everyday life for Maloley and her children. They all play the violin and the piano.  Sons Sam, 14, and Jacob, 8, play the cello.

Caroline, 13, practices the piano daily for approximately 30 minutes after breakfast, then moves to her violin. Sam practices cello after breakfast, then moves to the piano. Meredith, 17, practices the violin after she attends a math class at Millard North first thing in the morning.

For now, she’s the only one attending class in a traditional school building. Sam wants to play baseball in high school, so along with violin, piano, and cello, he plays on a select baseball team. And yes, he also studies.

Julie home-schools her kids using a curriculum called Mother of Divine Grace. The Catholic-based curriculum emphasizes liberal arts. Youngest daughter Clara comes in from the main room to the library, with its built-in bookcases packed with tomes on subjects ranging from literature to music theory to biblical studies, and plunks down at the table with a handwriting book and a pencil.

“It’s distracting out there,” she announces, proceeding to perfectly copy pages of cursive letters—mimicking skills learned in earlier decades.

Indeed. Youngest son Zachary, who turns 7 on June 2, practices piano with Caroline’s aid. Jacob stands around anxiously waiting with his cello.

“Jacob! Just wait!” Julie calls out as she hears a low note from the string instrument combined with the sounds of the piano. “Sam will be done soon.”

As Sam comes up from the basement, Zachary heads down.


The chaos actually benefits the kids. They study under the Suzuki method, a theory of musical study started in the 20th Cenutry by Shin’ichi Suzuki. Central in this philosophy is that all people can (and will) learn from their environment.

The family’s affair with music began when oldest Madeline, 20, was 3. Julie’s nieces and nephews played instruments, so Julie and husband

Skip began violin lessons for their daughter.  The next year Madeline began playing piano.

“It kind of snowballed one right after the other,” Julie claims.

Madeline now studies at the University of Nebraska at Kearney on a violin scholarship.

They aren’t always this anxious to practice. Today (April 13) is Clara’s 11th birthday, and they are all practicing willingly, because they are going to the zoo for her special day. Mom told them they need to finish practicing and schoolwork before they can leave.

Besides, a big event is about to happen. The beautiful, yet disjointed sounds of cello and violin heard in the Maloleys’ home are brought together along with violas and a stand-up bass that Friday night at the Omaha Conservatory of Music’s opening night gala. Guests sit in the new concert hall that once housed the sanctuary of Temple Israel, listening to the sounds of the Beatles performed by 30 young strings players. Five of those players hold the last name Maloley.

The group performing such well-known pop tunes as “Let it Be” is Frontier Strings, an ensemble at the Omaha Conservatory of Music.


Aside from performing with the strings group, Meredith takes violin lessons from executive director Ruth Meints. She plays at Hospice House on Wednesday nights, (per mom’s orders) and teaches music to 16 students, who troop through the house one right after another each weekend. Her ultimate goal is to become a music teacher.

Sitting in the audience, often, is their father. Skip is the lead database administrator for Green Plains and owns Pacific Solutions Inc.

“Dad enjoys watching the kids. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” Julie says of both homeschooling and allowing the kids to participate in multiple music lessons.

Julie herself doesn’t claim to be a musician, but is able to play piano and violin. She often practices with the kids, and sits in on lessons. One of the cores of the Suzuki method is that the parent be able to supervise instrument practice, and take notes at lessons in order to coach the children effectively.

She has coached them well. The perfect sounds of Bach’s Gavat come from Clara and Caroline’s violins, along with several other youngsters, as guests stroll through the executive suite at the conservatory’s gala. The Maloleys, along with all the children, are poised, eager, and happy to perform.

“It’s not that I think they will be Juilliard musicians, but it’s something they can do for the rest of their lives.”

Create Myelin with Music

January 23, 2014 by
Photography by Omaha Conservatory of Music

Martin Fischer, a famous physician, said, “I find four great classes of students: The dumb who stay dumb. The dumb who become wise. The wise who go dumb. The wise who remain wise.”

As each new year begins, it’s always a time of self-examination. We are more willing to ask that difficult question, “Which class of student am I?” We often resolve to start that “new” activity, either for ourselves or with our children. Understanding the learning process and its impact on neural connections can be just the spark we need to really begin that new adventure.

Repetition enforces knowledge

Myelin, a brain connection insulator, directly affects our ability to develop any new skill.

Imagine a cloudburst shape representing a neuron. When you learn something, a dendrite grows out of this cloudburst, creating a new pathway to other neurons. As you repeat a new activity, myelin begins to wrap that connection. Each correct repetition creates another layer of covering. Just like a well-insulated electrical cord, this myelin coating provides better speed and implementation to whatever skill is deeply practiced.

Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, a well-known Japanese violin pedagogue, defined skill with the following equation: Skill = knowledge + 10,000 times. In other words, having skill (doing something well) occurs when you have the knowledge (that’s the learning part!) and then repeat it many times. Once the knowledge is taught, a student can begin the 10,000 repetitions required to achieve high levels of ability and create strong myelin coverings. During the initial spread of Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy, the world was shocked to see a child in diapers playing a very complicated violin piece. How was this possible? Knowledge wrapped with heavy myelin.

It’s a great plan to learn something new and then repeat it enough times to form a skill, but we need the motivation to do it!

Well, here’s some motivation for potential learners (which includes everyone!):

  • Up to the age of 30, naturally occurring waves of oligodendrocytes (or oligos, for short) create myelin.
  • From 30-50, we can still create strong myelin, but we no longer have naturally occurring waves of oligos.
  • After 50, our existing myelin begins to deteriorate, but at least 5 percent of our oligos stay immature and ready for use throughout life. As the old myelin is deteriorating, you can create new myelin, which keeps your brain alive and well.
  • Incidentally, when Einstein’s brain was examined, they found no greater number of neurons or bigger network of dendrites than any other brain. What they did find was massive amounts of myelin. Einstein himself stated, “I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent. Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.”

Master teachers provide motivation

So how can we take advantage of all those oligos waiting to transform into myelin? As a musician and parent, I would be remiss not to mention the advantages of choosing a music education. Playing an instrument is one of the few skills that requires the correct “answer” (playing the right note) within a specific time frame (in the correct rhythmic structure), while also engaging the amygdala—the brain’s emotional center—as well as integrating the right and left hemispheres.

Developing a new skill always requires dedication, and finding a master teacher is essential to this process. Input from an expert fuels motivation, encourages repetition, and facilitates learning. Being a part of a music studio connects a student to a community of peers, all working to develop expertise on their instruments. A great teacher brings targeted knowledge to each student’s specific needs, as well as innumerable ways of approaching the same concept if it isn’t grasped the first time. Experienced teachers have developed sturdy myelin wrappings on their “how to teach” connections.

Each day is an opportunity to challenge ourselves and our children with something new. It takes courage and energy, but the result will most certainly be a higher quality of life with quicker neural responses and connections. This is our mission, should we choose to accept it. However, this message will self-destruct in 30 seconds, unless repeated through deep-practice to create 

The Omaha Conservatory of Music has an outstanding Artist-Faculty who are highly qualified music instructors, as well as active performers in the community, offering private and group instruction in strings, piano, guitar, voice, winds, brass, and percussion. Join our musical community today by calling 402.932.4978 or through our website at www.omahacm.org.