Suzuki violin and cerebral palsy, a work in progress.


A long time ago, Danny wanted to play the violin, just like Emily, Sam and Brian.  They began Suzuki violin at 3.5 or 4 years old, progessed through their twinkles into their minuets, listened to their CD’s and went to lessons and group and institute.  So when Danny turned four, his expectation was that he would do the same.   The first problem was that Suzuki stidents play standing up.  Well, when Danny was four, standing up was a problem, and standing up and holding a violin and a bow all at the same time was just not possible.  But we worked around this obstacle and that problem and all, and Danny learned to play.


With tremendous support from teachers and therapists (and Danny’s own amazing determination) he made progess. Last year, right before he turned nine, he even started standing while he played (sometimes)… I have always been so proud of him, he just worked so hard. Getting his hand right for his bow hold, keeping his violin up in the right position, independently moving each of the fingers on his left hand takes HUGE amounts of effort and concentration for him. Meaanwhile, he’s working on the music.


Finally we realized something a few weeks ago. We were missing the point. A correct bow hold is essential to play well, but no musician says “What a wonderful concert! My bow hold was great the whole time!” What we wanted for Danny was to be able to say, ” I played the Bach Double with my brothers, and it was amazing”


We had gotten stuck conceptually, and meanwhile Danny was stuck musically. You can’t shift or have a good vibrato if you’re supporting the weight of your violin with your left hand. For five years, we had figured if he just kept trying harder, he’d be able to hold his violin up like everybody else. Guess what? Holding up your violin isn’t the point. Making music is the point.

It was amazing how freeing this change in concept was. Just like we use oxygen, and a G-tube, and braces for his legs, why not support his music with WHATEVER we needed to do mechanically, so that Danny could focus on art, not his CP? So we talked to his physical therapist, his occupational therapist, the guy who makes his braces, and came up with a plan. Actually, several plans, in order, to make prototypes and try.


So right now we have a two piece polymer thing on his bow that allows him to use his more functional larger muscles to grip the bow, while maintaining the right position. And we have a work-in-progress contraption under his shoulder rest, made out of Christmas ribbon, duct tape and binder clips to take some of the weight of his violin off his left hand to allow him to shift.


At his lessons, and praticing, it’s obviously a huge improvement.  But we know it’s a work in progess.  So when Elizabeth Foss offered to stay a day longer than Ginny and Ann to help me with whatever projects I needed a little help with, I instantly realized that she’d be the perfect fresh pair of eyes to look at this situation.  So today Danny had the chance to participate in a Suzuki Solo Celebration – a group class with a master teacher and a solo evaluation before an experienced adjudicator.


We noticed lots of things.  See the photo above?  Every other child, when not playing, puts their violin in “rest position” but Danny’s is stuck.  Not optimal.


Meanwhile, his violin kept popping off his shoulder rest, which was stuck to his chest.  See the blue painters tape?  A quick trip to the hardware store fixed the popping off problem, but compounded the stuck problem.

It’s all quite stressful for Danny, I think… all these “try this” and “adjust that” … when he wants to focus on his music.  He wasn’t happy with how he played for the judge.  Thank goodness for chess friends who are also violin friends to take his mind off all this tape for a while….


So why am I boring you with all this after not posting for 5 months?  Because I really, really want you to click on a link and read the article AND watch the video. (at the end of this paragraph)  Right in the middle of all of this, after we had decided that mechanical help would be a blessing, not cheating, Esther sent this to me, and Danny and his teacher and I were amazed.  We have talked to so many people over the years, Suzuki professionals who teach all over, music professors, therapists… and they have all helped Danny.  But after watching this video, I think there really might be the perfect SOMETHING out there for him.  Elizabeth Foss and I brainstormed some ideas to try meanwhile, but after you watch the video, if you know Danny, tell me what you think.  Can’t you just see this guy, in this video, knowing just the right solution for our son?  And isn’t it a miracle that Esther found this video to inspire and encourage Danny right in the middle of this transition?  I am seriously thinking of finding his email and sending him a picture of Danny and our Christmas ribbon/binder clips/painters tape device, and asking him to guide us.

!!!!  here is the link, finally!!!!

Please click, and watch this amazing video.  Maybe we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  I just might track down his email and see what he would suggest for our Danny.

ADDED 6:45 PM – A friend sent me a link to Mr. Anantawan’s website, and submitted an email with a link to this post.  I promise to let you know if he responds.

25 thoughts on “Suzuki violin and cerebral palsy, a work in progress.

  1. I only “know” about your beautiful family from following your blog, but I think you should reach out and see if it can help George. You can probably contact the charter school and connect that way? Good luck!

  2. Ah. Go ahead & make me cry, why doncha. I knew *nothing* about Danny’s journey other than I knew he was learning to play and I thought you’d find it interesting. I also sent it to my neighbor because her daughter is (squeeeeeeeeak) learning to play too. I’d consider it an honor to help you find him. How many charter schools can there be in Maine, any way? Live & hugs to you and EF and Danny.

  3. Elizabeth,together Scott and I are quite clever…If I understand you are looking for something to hold up his violin, correct? It would need to sit on his shoulder and keep the violin in a playing position, right??? I may need you to do some measuring…but I do have a thought…let me know if I am on the right track . Aunt Nan

  4. I don’t even know where to start! This is exactly the reason your “writing” is so important…we see the world as such a special place through you, your friends and those precious children…so many lessons and I am truly grateful!
    I think he would love to help you find answers for Danny…he would probably love to meet Danny…talk about inspiring!
    Don’t worry Esther, I am sure most of us are crying with you! Although we’ve never met I know you’d be a fun friend!
    Love and prayers!

  5. Oh, Elizabeth! First, I am in tears. You are such a loving mommy and you and Dixon have created such a wonderful family. I love, love this new realization you have had. And then the Holy Ghost sends you this amazing one-handed musician who I think WILL be helping Danny very soon. Oh, God is so good! Elizabeth, you will always inspire me to do better as a mother.

  6. YES! YES! YES! Contact him. Danny is just the child he is looking for to assist. How wonderful that would be! I pray you are able to figure out a solution. Keep on keepin on my friend!!

  7. Just beautiful! Absolutely reach out and get all the help you can for your child, always. I am also the mother of a young suzuki musician with CP. We have after 2.5 years given up on the violin mainly due to the fact that her back pain made practice a small daily misery. She was happy to continue with piano and switch to cello without a look back so it was right for her. If violin is right for Danny do all you can mommy. Including asking others to help, especially those who offer.

  8. What a Blessed Day, here is my reply from Adrian and I have forwarded his email to Elizabeth with his email address 🙂
    Hello Doreen,

    Many thanks for this connection, and I’d be happy to help with the family in whatever capacity I can. Please forward this message to this violinist’s mother, and looking forward to connecting!

  9. As this fantastic story develops, I can hardly wait to hear it’s outcome. Miracles are happening here, so I hope, just for Easter time. So much more to write about here, when Adrian A. gets hired in Charlotte. Many happy days ahead for your family and Danny.

  10. So glad you are back to blogging…I check everyday to see if you’ve posted. Love the violin story, I can’t wait to see how things work out.

  11. I found you through E. Foss and A. VosKamp and the Lord gave me a vision for your violin playing lovely. Try a velcro strap around body or sholder-to-underarm, as a sash, with a styrofoam wedge velcroed to the strap. The foam is lightweight enough to hold the instrument yet sturdy enough to hold up. Covering the foam in fabric would keep it from pilling. Making a sling would also keep the foam wedge in place with out the velcro. I hope these help you on your way to finding the right answer. May the LORD bless you always!!

  12. So good to “hear” from you again. You don’t know me but I feel like I know you and your family through Elizabeth’s (Foss) blog. You have been on my mind and in my prayers often. Blessings, Judi


  13. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to click on your blog “for old times sake” and realize that you have posted again. I agree that you have too much to say not to post. In terms of this article, you just have to track this person down and find out what he can do to help Danny. This is not cheating. It is leveling the playing field. Danny has already proven, beyond a doubt, that the passion and determination is present within his soul. I encourage you to find whatever helps him to make music that only he can make.

  14. Hi did you try to copy ns design violins balanced shoulder rest, the one surrounding the player? I don’t think it’s difficult. I used to make my own shoulder rests with aluminum.

  15. Did u check the ns violins shoulder rest, the one surrounding the player? You can do something like that. Or what about the one like in mark wood electric violins?

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