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Although my educational background certainly helps, most of my best teaching moments are purely reached by spontaneity and luck.  (Note:  This post is duplicated under “Listening Brings Musicality” )

One of my students I acquired purely by being at the right place at the right time.  GG (I’ll call her GG because she is a gorgeous girl!) was in 8th grade ready to give up  taking piano lessons.  Her disheartened mother thought she’d give it one last chance and enrolled her in the Kingston Suzuki Institute for the summer hoping to peak her interest.  GG was placed in  my theory class and, little did I know, she was from my home town.  I had never met the family.  Well, she and I had a lovely week together and by the end of the week I was asked to take her on as a student.

We started working together that summer and 4 years later, she is getting ready to perform her senior recital.  The first couple of years she soared.  She loved the music I chose for her and the new ideas I brought to her playing .  In the next two years she was overcome by the rigor of junior and senior year classes.  Not only this, she excels in skating and running, so needless to say, her practice time dwindled.  We continued lessons with smaller accomplishments.  By October this year, she had chosen a college and I began to think about how we would finish her year. She had started with one of the pieces from Debussy’s Children Corner Suite  and she loved it.  Being a Suzuki teacher, I recommended that she listen as she learned.  She really loved the piece and wanted to learn others from the suite.

GG is a very good player, but, in my eyes, not  extraordinary.  I thought since it was her senior year it would be good to give a private recital, but I was unsure of her ability.  As she learned Doctor Gradus I discussed impressionism and related it to art.  As she played I began seeing painters works in my mind:  Monet, Dega, VanGogh.  So I mentioned that it might be fun to create a power point along with the piece that she could show as she performed.

The idea blossomed.  In two weeks GG will give her senior recital.  She has created visuals for the entire Children’s Corner Suite and perfected the pieces.  Now this is the really interesting part…….

To create the power points for each piece she researched artists,  impressionism, and had to listen to each piece a million times to make sure her frames of art for each piece were aligned perfectly as she played.  She used the CD to create these power points, which meant she was listening to concert pianists perform them.  From doing this her artistry in playing soared.  I am left breathless after she plays each piece.  Her nuances are perfectly executed.  Artistry is not an easy thing to teach.  Listening provides an insight to performance ideas.

She has decided to create invitations for her recital and create her own program with notes on each piece and her approach to her visual presentation.

Although GG is not going majoring in music during college, at her last lesson she said that she is going to continue piano lessons there.  What a surprise from a girl who was ready to quit 4 years ago!   She has loved our project and it has given her new insight to music.  Not only that, it has inspired her to continue her music education experience.

Think of her on May 30th as she performs her senior recital.

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Although my educational background certainly helps, most of my best teaching moments are purely reached by spontaneity and luck.  (Note:  This post is duplicated under “Combining piano lessons with art” )

One of my students I acquired purely by being at the right place at the right time.  GG (I’ll call her GG because she is a gorgeous girl!) was in 8th grade ready to give up  taking piano lessons.  Her disheartened mother thought she’d give it one last chance and enrolled her in the Kingston Suzuki Institute for the summer hoping to peak her interest.  GG was placed in  my theory class and, little did I know, she was from my home town.  I had never met the family.  Well, she and I had a lovely week together and by the end of the week I was asked to take her on as a student.

We started working together that summer and 4 years later, she is getting ready to perform her senior recital.  The first couple of years she soared.  She loved the music I chose for her and the new ideas I brought to her playing .  In the next two years she was overcome by the rigor of junior and senior year classes.  Not only this, she excels in skating and running, so needless to say, her practice time dwindled.  We continued lessons with smaller accomplishments.  By October this year, she had chosen a college and I began to think about how we would finish her year. She had started with one of the pieces from Debussy’s Children Corner Suite  and she loved it.  Being a Suzuki teacher, I recommended that she listen as she learned.  She really loved the piece and wanted to learn others from the suite.

GG is a very good player, but, in my eyes, not  extraordinary.  I thought since it was her senior year it would be good to give a private recital, but I was unsure of her ability.  As she learned Doctor Gradus I discussed impressionism and related it to art.  As she played I began seeing painters works in my mind:  Monet, Dega, VanGogh.  So I mentioned that it might be fun to create a power point along with the piece that she could show as she performed.

The idea blossomed.  In two weeks GG will give her senior recital.  She has created visuals for the entire Children’s Corner Suite and perfected the pieces.  Now this is the really interesting part…….

To create the power points for each piece she researched artists,  impressionism, and had to listen to each piece a million times to make sure her frames of art for each piece were aligned perfectly as she played.  She used the CD to create these power points, which meant she was listening to concert pianists perform them.  From doing this her artistry in playing soared.  I am left breathless after she plays each piece.  Her nuances are perfectly executed.  Artistry is not an easy thing to teach.  Listening provides an insight to performance ideas.

She has decided to create invitations for her recital and create her own program with notes on each piece and her approach to her visual presentation.

Although GG is not going majoring in music during college, at her last lesson she said that she is going to continue piano lessons there.  What a surprise from a girl who was ready to quit 4 years ago!   She has loved our project and it has given her new insight to music.  Not only that, it has inspired her to continue her music education experience.

Think of her on May 30th as she performs her senior recital.

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With great sadness I write that the Suzuki institute in Kingston, Ontario Canada has come to a close.  For over 30 years it has provided children and their families a loving, caring haven where students, teachers and parents shared music and much, much more.

I received a letter and phone call with the news about 3 months ago.  Although I saw it coming, I did not want to believe.  I called one of my colleagues to commiserate but other than that, I could not talk or write about it.  Within the week letters from the other teachers started pouring in.  I even got 2 calls from families I had taught asking if it was really true.  Still, I was in denial .  I really expected a phone call saying that a savior had been found and the institute would continue.  But as hard as it was, I knew it was time.

Thanks to two extraordinary faculty members and many other volunteers, the institute pulled off a successful program last summer following the retirement of Carole Bigler and Valery Lloyd Watts.  Carole and Valery, the founders all those years back created a unique experience for families who attended.  Each teacher, hand picked from all over the U.S. and Canada,  created a diverse, cohesive curriculum bringing each child the best of the best.  We shared a common philosophy of education.  In all the places I have taught  I have never experienced the level of respect nor mastery as I had with this faculty.  I often joked that it was the Brigadoon of education.

In many ways  the institute formed who I am as a teacher and continues to remind me of who I want to be as a human being.  Obviously, our goal was to share music.  But what made the experience unique was that an even larger goal was to share love.  The success was that simple.  Each teacher demonstrated unbridled enthusiasm in and out of class.  Hugs to parents and children were constant.  Each lesson was steeped with creativity and laughter.  And as a faculty, we viewed each other’s talents in awe.  We worked together and played together and loved every minute.  The aura was contagious.  The children and families showed respect to each other, worked hard and applauded each other’s accomplishments.

Many educators and students never have such an opportunity.  I consider myself blessed.  To those who have attended the Kingston institute, I am sure you share my sentiments.  I will cherish the memories all my life.  I will also aim to be the best teacher I can possibly be.  Even more than that, I hope to aim to be the best person I can be in life.  So often when situations arise I think of what my colleagues would do.

All good things must come to and end.  This is a very sad ending.  But the faculty, families and memories will always have a special place in my heart.

What next?  I sincerely hope that the children who attended the institute will find other venues and continue in their musical journey.  As for me, I will continue to work hard for the children in my elementary school and my private piano studio.  I hope that I will be invited as a clinician for other institutes ( I will be in Virginia in March).  As for my colleagues, please know how much I value you.  May our paths cross again…

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TGIF

First week of school.  I’m soooooo glad it’s Friday!

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Flowers

As requested by one of my readers, here is some of my flower photography.                                                                                                                                 P7140021

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Although I had a very rocky start to my week at the Kingston institute, once I arrived I basked in the experience. The “rocky” was in the travel. A trip that should have taken 3 hours took close to 10 and that was with the help of my devoted husband and Kingston colleagues. But only as this institute provides, I was greeted with hugs from the faculty, concern from the families and a beautiful dinner. Like the master card commercial suggests, priceless.

Priceless is the only description of my week at the Kingston institute. Despite my anxiousness in preparing, the week was, as always, one of the best. I say that each year in reflecting, but it all was truly special. The things with which I am always most impressed are:

1. the faculty

2. the families

3. the devotion of both the above

The faculty at the Kingston institute are by far the most inspirational, dedicated teachers with whom I have ever taught. Their creativity and sense of humor set them above and beyond, forming a team that bonds, learns from each other and supports each other professionally and personally. Although I see most of them only once a year, I know I belong, sharing a common goal to be all we can be for the sake of the students. There is an indescribable warmth we share. I can be totally myself with this group. No walls are formed. I don’t have to measure my words or choose my words with caution.

The compliments fly freely among us, recognizing the effort and mastery in each other’s work. We share the common thread of music education, but we each fill a unique niche. Combining our talent we create an experience that, in my view, is of highest quality. A purely positive tone among the teachers is obvious along with teasing, jokes and laughter.

The institute attracts a certain type of family because parents are expected to stay with their children during the week. The parents to go to class with the kids, eat in the dining hall and sleep in the dorms. Education is first among the adults. Mondays lessons are generally a bit quiet among all as they get to know each other. But by the next day friendships have begun and by the end of the week strong bonds are evident among children and adults.

My group classes were lively. Through games the kids absorbed much more in a week than I could believe. In my 5 year old class with 10 students the children were performing complex rhythms and doing rhythmic dictation by the end of the week. The adults were active in participating as well. The adults were comprised of parents and teacher trainees; I often had 20 adults per classes taking notes, playing games with the children and applauding the accomplishments. In such a positive, supportive environment children were happy to learn and took pride in their accomplishments.

The equation for learning: smart  + loving + creative =  a stimulating environment

These qualities were evident all week, thus breeding success.  Our hope as a faculty is that more families will join us in our mission.  We will return next year ready to give all we have to offer , sharing music in a loving, nurturing environment.

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In previous posts I have written about the quality of the Suzuki Institute at Kingston Ontario Canada. It is an honor to work with the prestigious faculty in this picturesque setting. But of equally high quality are the families that attend.

A few years ago I found an adorable little girl wearing home made dresses, her hair in long, blond braids as one of my students for the week. She captured my heart as she smiled and giggled the entire week at the lessons. Her parents were right at her side loving her beyond imagination and cherishing every second with their little girl. The love they shared was quite evident in their every move.

I don’t remember how many years ago that was. But we were reunited at the piano last summer again. The braids are now replaced by shoulder length hair loosely pulled back. The dresses are still home made, but interspersed with shorts and tee shirts. The smile is that of a 13 year old young lady, poised and confident. She converses in a relaxed, easy flowing way using an enormous vocabulary with whomever she encounters. The parents are at her side with the love and pride unceasing.

I now get occasional calls from her. The calls are sporadic jumping from one topic to another endlessly. We are very comfortable with each other as if we see each other daily.

Today I received a gift that was very powerful. It was a DVD of a recital given by this 13 year old girl. So much practice had gone into the final product. For the age, it was a lengthy recital of high quality. Her passion rings out loud and clear. The DVD was done very thoughtfully including photos of her with the extended family, friends and those who attended.  She also had a section of photos of her with Carole Bigler, her piano teacher to whom she dedicated the recital.

Included in the package was the program that she helped to compose. My name was listed as one of her teachers.

All this left me speechless.

I guess one never knows the impact one has on others. It’s hard for me to believe she thought to send me this package and include me in the program. What an honor.

And what timing! I am now packing my supplies to teach at the Institute. I am thinking of my lesson plans, wondering who my students will be, and what I can do to make my lessons ones that will have the highest impact. I always get a little anxious about that. How can I be my best? How can I make these small children walk away motivated and energized?  How can I teach a great amount about music  and make the kids  laugh at the same time?  What a tall order!

That’s what teaching at the Suzuki Institute does for me.  It creates a need for me to produce my highest quality work.  It puts me in the company of highly skilled educators where I learn not only about education but about being a giving human being.  It engages me with parents who place education first.  It brings beautiful children who offer so much love and energy  fueling me to teach yet another year.

Music institutes are a gift that keeps giving.  What will I bring to it this year?  I don’t completely know yet.  But I do know this.  I will aim to provide a gift that keeps giving.

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