We're grateful to have Lucy Lewis, a trained Suzuki teacher and doctoral student in musical arts at the University of Iowa, share a series of blogs about her experiences at American Suzuki Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Every summer, the Suzuki Institute hosts a teacher training session at Stevens Point and this summer Ms. Lewis is one of the teachers-in-training. In her first entry, a reflection before she begins the training (to be followed by two more blog entries, one during and one after), Ms. Lewis explains her love of Dr. Suzuki's method and her high expectations for the training. Ms. Lewis admires Dr. Suzuki's commitment to every child's musical development and hopes that by observing the master teachers at Stevens Point she'll become a better teacher herself. By the end of the blog, Ms. Lewis confirms that she sees the Suzuki method not only as musical training but as "life training."
As I am writing this blog, I am currently en-route to the American Suzuki Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (with eager anticipation!) to do Suzuki violin teacher training for Volumes 5 & 8 of Dr. Suzuki’s “Mother Tongue” method. This summer will mark the fourth year in a row that I have been attending the American Suzuki Institute to do Suzuki violin teacher training and I have grown to look forward to these two weeks out of my summer more than anything else. “Why?” you might ask.
First, let me share with you a bit of the history of this particular institute. This institute was founded in 1971 by the late Marjery Aber, who was one of the first to study with Dr. Suzuki in Japan. This is the first institute that Dr. Suzuki visited in the United States and under Ms. Aber’s leadership (and currently that of Pat D’Ercole’s), it has since become a flagship model for other institutes that have spread across the nation.
Every summer world-class faculty, along with students, siblings, parents and teacher trainers gather together to play, teach, grow and learn from each other in this little town affectionately known as “The Point.” The atmosphere is charged with positive vibes and I firmly believe that one would have to go a long ways to find a happier group of people than “Suzuki-ers.”
My personal reasons for becoming a Suzuki violin teacher are many, but first and foremost is my firm commitment to Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy that talent is not something that we inherit, but rather something that we develop – therefore “every child can” given the right environment and proper instruction. Our goal as Suzuki teachers is not simply to train competent musicians, but rather to educate the whole child. Character development is the focus, or as Dr. Suzuki would say – “making good citizens of this world with kind hearts.”
Another reason I have chosen to become a Suzuki teacher is because I want to be equipped to teach any student of any ability level that walks through my door. Dr. Suzuki has set up the repertoire in his method such that every piece teaches technique in a systematic manner that builds a firm foundation, and then keeps these skills in continual review as the student continues to grow. I personally feel that it is very rewarding to be able to start a student from scratch and take them through to the point where they are playing Mozart Concertos. When we know all the steps to be able to take a student from A to Z, it makes us competent to be able to handle any student at any playing level. We can immediately diagnose where they are at, know how to go back and fill in gaps if necessary, and we know where to take them next.
During my teacher training courses over the next two weeks I fully expect to be soaked in the art of string pedagogy and Dr. Suzuki’s philosophies, to enjoy stimulating discussions with my trainers and fellow colleagues, and to learn as much as I can by observing master teachers at work. I am certain that I will come away from this experience with stacks of notes and loads of new ideas to try in my own home studio, and through this training I hope to become a better teacher not only for the benefit of my students, but also so that I can hopefully someday share Dr. Suzuki’s philosophies and methodology with other “teachers in training” so that they can also in turn touch the lives of the children and adults that they teach with this method.
Currently I am working on my doctorate in violin performance and pedagogy and so am training to be a college professor. However, I am and always will be a Suzuki teacher because the beauty of this method lies in the philosophies that encompass not just children, but virtually every human being and their life journey. Character development, a teamwork mentality, the ability to stick with a difficult task until the objective has been accomplished, high standards of excellence, and loving, compassionate hearts are all hallmark traits of those who are a true product of the Suzuki Method. More importantly, these traits are relevant not just to the study of music, but to all aspects of our lives, (no matter our age and ability level), which is why I truly affirm the belief that “Suzuki training is life training.”
Stay tuned for more updates!