By Pierre Yves Gagnon - Oakville, Ontario
Earlier this year, Carmen Evans and Susan Beth Barak and I were discussing organizing a Viola Day to gather Ontarian violists in one place where they could enjoy the rich sound of their instrument together. We agreed that this year’s Suzuki Association of Ontario Conference in Etobicoke would be an ideal time to host such an event.
Viola group lessons can be a challenge to organize. Outside of larger programs, there are often only a handful of violists within a school or a studio. As a result, they often have to join a cello or a violin group class, which can be awkward for them. Viola Day offers these isolated violists an opportunity to meet fellow violists and discover what their instrument truly sounds like.
Our first Viola Day took place on Saturday, November 10 at Humber College in Etobicoke as part of the SAO Conference’s Student Day. Fifteen violists, ranging from Twinkles to Viola Book7 and beyond, attended this event. This number allowed the organizers to offer three different groups: a viola play-in, a Book1-3 session and a Book4 and up session. The conference orchestra was very pleased to have such a large influx of violists.
We brought together such a large range of abilities by offering the participants a viola choir repertoire that could cater to the junior students while satisfying the advanced students. I arranged a few pieces that included open strings and easily played accompaniments for the pieces performed. Ensemble for Viola, Volumes1 and 2, provided duet parts to accompany the early Suzuki viola repertoire.
On behalf of the Suzuki Viola community, we would like to thank the organizing committee of the SAO Conference2018, and in particular Margot Jewell, for having accommodated our event. This was an important step in promoting a collaborative community of violists in Ontario. We are planning to host another Viola Day at the next SAO Conference on November 2–3, 2019 in Guelph.
By Karen-Michele Kimmett—Roblin, Ontario
For many years, Sue Irvine has often been the only PEI Suzuki member listed in the Suzuki Association of the Americas directory. She is a violin teacher and Suzuki mother of Adrian, who is now a Suzuki teacher in Toronto.
Sue has worked tirelessly to bring interest and prospective new teachers to the Suzuki method. For example, at the yearly music festival held in Charlottetown, she has encouraged organizers to invite adjudicators who, along with other music credentials, have a Suzuki background. She also currently offers group classes once a month with other local teachers, some of whom took Suzuki training years ago. Other local teachers are interested in learning about the method but have young families or limited resources making the pursuit of training difficult.
In conversation with Sue, it becomes clear that cost and accessibility to teacher training are key issues in further developing the method. It costs more, for example, for a participant to travel to St. Johns, Nfld., than it does to attend the Montreal Institute.
Musing aloud, Sue wondered if it might be possible to partner with Mount Allison University, for example, to offer an ECC course. Or perhaps the Nova Scotia Suzuki Institute could offer progressive teacher training units over a period of several summers to help with the training of future teachers. Recently the University of Prince Edward Island held a Symposium on the Arts and Sue hopes that at a future event, the Suzuki Method could be presented as part of the Symposium.
Sue is currently working with some young enthusiastic teachers, including a cellist, she hopes will one day be able to take over her program. The challenge is finding enough students in this sparse population to make it possible for a new Suzuki teacher to make an actual living. Sue is working hard to find a solution and with her energy and commitment, I’m sure that she will.
By Paule Barsalou — Guelph, Ontario
A new violin Suzuki Pedagogy Program has been launched! After years of efforts in finding a university willing and able to start a long-term teacher training program in Canada, The Suzuki String School of Guelph has made the bold leap to start its own two-year Suzuki pedagogy program. This program will cover the processes of technical and musical development through the first eight volumes of the Suzuki Violin School, as well as discussions of the history and philosophy of the Suzuki Method® and its application in the context of private and group lessons. The second year will also include a practicum of a minimum of two hours of teaching a week under the supervision of a teacher trainer. Participants meet for three hours per week for 26 weeks a year.
Thanks to Prof. Jerzy Kaplanek and Dean Glen Curruthers, who have been wonderful supporters of the program, the Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) in Waterloo, Ontario is providing the teaching space and allowing its students to take the course for credit. I am the teacher for the first cohort, which started this fall. It is hoped that we will start a new cohort next year and start a cello program, as well.
Starting this program was no small feat. Discussions with WLU date back to the ‘90s, when Daphne Hughes, Sally Gross, and Gail Lange made the first approach. It was a challenge to help university administrators, who were not familiar with our Suzukipedagogy courses, to really understand the content, breadth, and value of such a program. The need is certainly there, as until we established this program, the only way for Canadians to participate in long-term Suzuki pedagogy has been to go to the United States! Some of the advantages of long-term Suzuki teacher training are:
The Board of the Suzuki String School of Guelph must be applauded for their visionary work in supporting me in developing this program and including it as part of our school’s curriculum. Let’s hope that this Suzuki Violin Pedagogy Program will continue to grow and become stronger in the years to come!
What SOSI Did for Us
By Megumi Harada —Etobicoke, Ontario
We are a Suzuki family from the Etobicoke School of Music (EMS), with an 8-year-old boy, Gen, playing violin (Book 3) and a 5-year-old girl, Ai, playing cello (Book 1). We attended the Southwestern Ontario Suzuki Institute in August 2018. It was amazing!
We shared on-campus accommodations with another family: Kasthuri (in the YAP violin program) and 9-year-old Vishwa (violin, Book 3). We knew them through ESM, but we bonded in that special way that only the sharing of living space can deliver. In past years, my children had taken part in SOSI only because “mom makes us”. This time, they had a blast with their friends! Our two families also supported each other throughout the week in both small and large ways — looking after each other’s children, going to each other’s recitals, etc.
For Gen, bonding with Vishwa was an important turning point. Instead of being “what mom makes me do”, violin became something a little bit closer to “what my buddy and I do together”. Vishwa also came to Gen’s fiddling concert and solo recital — providing much-appreciated moral support. The two are now best buddies at ESM, so the benefits of SOSI are extending well into our regular year. In the months since, Gen’s playing has taken off in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined just a few months ago. It was very special when our home teacher said to us recently that his playing has “reached a totally new level of expressiveness’’.
This year my daughter Ai was lucky to attend a master class with only two students. For 5 consecutive days, she had 30 minutes of undivided attention from a master teacher. This concentrated dose of top-quality instruction allowed us to make the kind of progress in a week that usually takes months, or quite possibly, never happens at all. Thankfully, our teacher focused on the fundamentals, which I often feel get forgotten amidst the constant demands of preparing for concerts, recitals, etc. However, during SOSI week, we were concerned only with posture and being in tune. And under the guidance of a master teacher! I was in Suzuki heaven.
Finally, as a Suzuki parent, it is deeply soul-affirming to spend a week immersed in the spirit of Suzuki — in the company of, and supported by, teachers who are musically of the highest quality, and who embody so completely the love that is so central to everything Suzuki. Indeed, the love in the room at the SOSI Faculty Concert was palpable: the love of Dr. Suzuki, of the children, and of course, the love of music. As the SOSI organizers said on the first day: “Even in these troubled times, we believe in music. In making music, we come together. In music, we find humanity at its best.’’
This year’s SOSI was everything a Suzuki family could possibly hope for. We are going back next year.