We both had the privilege of attending the First Suzuki Convention of the Americas in Cancun, Mexico, from May 1 to 5, 2019. Unlike the biannual Suzuki Conference in Minneapolis, which only accepts students who audition at the highest level, this conference was open to ALL, even the babies and beginners! There were advanced students, too, who had auditioned for placement in the orchestras, but seeing the full range of age and ability come together from 27 different countries really put an emphasis on the basic Suzuki philosophy: Every Child Can!
Kathleen had been asked to teach a recorder group class of students in Suzuki Recorder Books 1 – 3. Here are some pictures of the class in action, student diploma presentations, and the final performance on the last day of the conference.
Thomas was invited to join Suzuki Early Childhood Education Teacher Trainer Wan Tsai Chen to work with the baby class:
The SECE classes and teachers in performance at the SuzukiADA sing Twinkle in English, Portuguese and Spanish.
Kathleen also had a student audition for the orchestra. She was selected to participate from applicants from 27 different countries. She is from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Her stand partner was from Patagonia, Argentina. Student exchanges don’t get any better than this!
There was a wide range of sessions for teachers. They were all given by other teachers from across the Americas. The focus of the sessions was on Suzuki philosophy, and most sessions were not instrument specific.
Session threads included the following:
- building successful studios and programs, Suzuki’s idea of developing character first and ability second, and shaping lessons that create practice assignments that really work to develop both of the above.
- supporting parents, and the importance of making sure that parents coming in to a Suzuki program had enough understanding of how Suzuki method works in order to make the commitment to do it before they start lessons.
- creating lessons and supplementary activities that develop the whole child. The right brain, logical thinking, assessing right from wrong, following clear instructions; and the left brain, creative, exploratory, and experimental.
- developing effective practice and learning strategies in lessons and practice assignments. New research in neurology and psychology was discussed and ideas for creating lessons and practice assignments based on this research were discussed.
All teachers who attended also had the option of taking a 10 hour course in Dalcrose or Caroline Fraser’s class in teaching reading. I chose the reading course, which had many excellent ideas and exercises for developing reading using the early Suzuki repertoire that the students already know. Kathleen chose the Dalcroze course. We both enjoyed the courses and plan to incorporate many of the ideas into our teaching.
In addition to the orchestras for the more advanced students, book 1-3 students were invited to attend the conference to participate in group classes and masterclasses. They also participated in a choral program in which they sang in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
The book 1 violin class, with teacher Koen Rens from Belgium, was another wonderful example of the student experience at the conference.
Through common repertoire and their Suzuki background, Koen brought these children from many different countries, speaking different languages, to a shared experience creating beauty together through music. Along the way there was much laughter and fun.