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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Institutes, Workshops etc.

January in Chicago is a time of blustery wind chills and heavy snowfall, and so it's hard to imagine thinking about the upcoming Summer. Nonetheless, it is the appropriate time to begin making plans for summer camps and activities.

As we all know, learning an instrument is a long, complex endeavor. We need support from a variety of sources, the perspective of a variety of different teachers, and so it behooves us to take advantage of as many opportunities as we can to participate in workshops and summer institutes and the like. The adage "it takes a village to raise a child" is no less true when we are talking specifically about nurturing the growth of talent. Summer Suzuki institutes provide an invaluable chance to interact with other teachers, students and parents, and to keep the musical muscles moving during those months when there often aren't group classes and recitals to help keep us motivated. An institute is a week-long camp-like experience for students and parents. The typical day includes:

  1. A mini-lesson (or full hour lesson for advanced students) in which the teacher pics one aspect of the students technique on which to focus intensively over the course of the week. This is a great way to make a lot of progress in a specific area.  In addition, families can observe and learn from the other students' mini-lessons.
  2. A small group class which focuses on developing and refining technical skills appropriate to that child's ability level. This is often both very challenging and a lot of fun.
  3. A large group class which focuses on repertoire in preparation for a concert at the end of the week.
  4. A supplemental enrichment class (e.g. Music and Movement) for appropriate ages and levels.
  5. Orchestra, chamber music and cello choir for appropriate ages and levels.
  6. A student solo recital every day, which features a variety of instruments, and students of every ability level playing pieces they've worked up to a very high degree of polish. Not every student plays on these recitals, but every student has the opportunity to audition. The real value, however, is as an audience member getting to hear excellent student performances.
  7. Faculty recitals, guest artist recitals etc.
Teachers can and do attend institutes to take training and professional development courses, to share ideas with colleagues, and to see what other students from around the country can do. This means that many of the gifted teachers on institute faculties are SAA teacher trainers with vast experience and expertise.

Students of all levels can participate, from pre-twinkle to pre-collegiate.

The SAA lists all of the Summer institutes in the Americas, along with their dates in its quarterly journal, as well as online (link below).

For Chicago area students, the Chicago Suzuki Institute has an outstanding cello faculty, and is conveniently located in the North suburbs.

The American Suzuki Institute, Ithaca College Suzuki Institute, Southwestern Ontario Suzuki Institute, and National Cello Institute are also great options.

 The benefits of participating in institutes are innumerable, but they include:
  • New friendships with other students, families and teachers from around the world
  • Intensive focus on certain technical and musical skills
  • 3-5 hours a day of playing in lessons, group classes, rehearsals and practice. Imagine getting a month's worth of practice done in one week!
  • Lots of opportunities to listen in live performance settings
  • Intensive review
(A Suzuki workshop is when a guest teacher [or teachers] comes for a weekend to work with students in their home programs, but it provides a taste of what the institute experience looks like).

I hope you'll all make a Suzuki Institute part of your Summer! You won't regret it.

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