Can Do Spirit
By Flory Godinez - Creston, British Columbia
“We’re Canadians—we can do this”
This idea of rising to the challenge is what I’ve seen first-hand in my Suzuki string students.
When we moved to the Creston Valley three years ago for my husband’s retirement, this American Suzuki teacher had no idea what awaited us, musically.
The local string teachers invited me to coffee and I learned that one violin teacher was retiring, one was moving to the Maritimes, and the other two were cutting back their studios.
Suddenly I had a studio ranging from beginners through Suzuki book 8. As I worked with the parents and children on tone, technique and interpretation, the opportunity to further develop their music reading skills became apparent.
We progressed from sequential sight reading to small ensembles. Then with the addition of viola and cello, we moved to graded orchestra music. I have a library of U.S. graded school orchestra music which is graded differently than the Royal Conservatory system.
In August of last year I was approached by Anita Stushnoff, conductor of the 82-voice Blossom Valley Singers, to accompany the community choir on their weekend of three concerts entitled “A Celtic Christmas.”
One piece was very easy and below the level of the students. The other orchestration was unidiomatic for strings and required re-writing. Again that Canadian “can do” spirit prevailed and they played beautifully. The Creston Valley Youth Orchestra was born!
What is the value of a youth orchestra to a Suzuki program? In my two years study with Dr. Suzuki in Japan I also observed Mr. Yamashita’s massive student orchestra in Suwa city. So I learned of the precedent for an orchestra in a Suzuki program right in Japan.
As students reach the crucial early teen years when many drop out of music, a student orchestra is a powerful music team that can capture the love and desire to make music together with life-long friends.
by Alexandra Lee - Nanaimo, British Columbia
I had the enormous pleasure of doing my teacher training at the Chicago Suzuki Institute. There, the Suzuki community is thriving and constantly expanding. The number of Suzuki families at the CSI was staggering. It was an amazing experience to be able to see firsthand how successful a Suzuki community can be.
After my training, I moved to British Columbia and I now teach cello at the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music. Here, as in many communities outside of larger urban centres, the Suzuki programme is still quite modest. I often find myself acting as an “ambassador” for the Suzuki method—educating and advocating for the method and, in some cases, debunking myths.
Many people in our community are still unfamiliar with the Suzuki method, so it’s no surprise that they are often unaware of the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music’s Suzuki programme. One of my goals since joining the faculty has been to give the Suzuki programme more visibility. I have started with an initiative I call “Suzuki Music at the Library”. (Since the other famous Dr. Suzuki—Dr. David Suzuki, famous for his work as an environmental conservationist—hails from British Columbia, I deliberately put “Suzuki Music at the Library” to avoid confusing local environmentalists!)
Our event is a mixture of part-recital, part-lecture, and part-group class. Our students (violin, viola, cello, flute, and piano) have the opportunity to perform solos or ensemble pieces. In between performances, the Suzuki faculty give short talks about different aspects of the Suzuki method—philosophy, benefits, and practice. Most of all, “Suzuki Music At The Library” shows examples of group class games.
The group class element to Suzuki is one of my favourites. It’s such a joyful way of learning together. The classic group class games such as “Pass The Note” or “Follow The Leader” are illuminating to the non-Suzuki audience members. I feel that by witnessing these children having fun with sophisticated musicianship skills, the public will have greater appreciation of the benefits of the Suzuki method.
The response from existing Suzuki families about the new library programme has been lovely; they appreciate their child having new experiences and new opportunities to perform. The library staff rave about the public’s feedback and appreciation of live music in this communal space; seeing children enjoy and create music adds so much to the spirit of a community.
I’m sure that every teacher has their own way of incorporating community visibility in their hometowns. My partnership with the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library has certainly been a huge success and I encourage you all to make music wherever you can.