The windshield wipers are swinging fast and the four of us are sitting in a toasty car, zipping along the highway as the rain falls hard. We’re on the way back to Canada after the 2019 SAA Leadership Retreat at the Deer Creek Conference Center outside of Columbus, Ohio. It’s been both an energizing and exhausting three days of talks, meetings, and breakout sessions, and we’ve spent lots of time reconnecting and building relationships with other members of the Suzuki teaching community.
We are mentally preparing for another week of teaching in our home programs in Oakville and Toronto, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec, and agree that we are coming back with renewed enthusiasm for our mission. The beauty of the woods, lake, and natural surroundings at Deer Creek felt refreshing after a busy spring term. Margot recalls two beautiful sunrises and fireflies at night; Ellen enjoyed chatting with colleagues by the fire the night before. We take turns reflecting on the fresh ideas we are taking away from the retreat.
“There were wonderful sessions by Canadian trainers on positive psychology [Elayne Ras] and wisdom [Alice-Ann O’Neil],” Susan says. She also appreciated cello sessions on using the fingerboard to teach theory and understand harmonic progressions. Susan adds that she enjoyed being reminded to engage the uncooperative three-year-old by talking through a finger puppet! She pops a pre-Twinkle CD called Soy Cellista into the player, from a new colleague, Andrea Espinzo, of Argentina.
Margot shares that she has come away with some wonderful ideas for developing right- and left-hand violin technique. She spent much of her time at Suzuki Early Childhood Education (SECE) sessions and was also deeply touched by sessions on creating space and cultivating mindfulness. “A teacher’s energy can profoundly influence the learning environment,” she says. Ellen is looking forward to trying out new spiccato and sautillé exercises with her students. An outreach presentation on intergenerational learning inspired her, and she gained insight from Winifred Crock’s talk on 21st century translations of Dr. Suzuki’s commonly quoted statements.
This was the first leadership retreat for Myra, who was happy to meet fellow violists from across the United States. She and Carmen Evans represented the Suzuki Association of Ontario in the chapter affiliate meeting and were inspired by the opportunity to share successes with other chapters. “I also enjoyed the viola brainstorming session for the next Conference,” Myra says. She also liked Fabio Dos Santos’ presentation on highlights from the Cancún Convention.
The rain turns to drizzle as we make our way through Pennsylvania, then New York State, and finally Ontario. We are looking forward to another week of teaching and upcoming summer plans, and ultimately reuniting with an even larger group of Suzuki teachers, parents, and students next May at the 2020 SAA Conference in Minneapolis!