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.