March 30, 2013 at 2:09 PMSuch a busy day today. This morning I went group-class hopping. Violin group classes in Japan are 2+ hours. For the first hour, I observed a Minuet 2 class and, for the second, a Gossec Gavotte class where Joanne Martin was a guest teacher. Each class had at least 30 students and 3 teachers, although only one teacher taught at a time. Halfway through, the class took a 10-minute break.
The joy and exuberance on the faces of the kids was evident.
Two activities really stuck out to me as being unique and fun. The first was a Twinkle rhythm that one of the Japanese sensei made up .. Ti Ti Ta, Ti Ti Ta .. which she called "Yaru yo!" (I will do it in Japanese). Sometimes she'd emphasize the first syllable .. YAru yo .. and sometimes the last .. Yaru YO. She then applied the former to the rhythm of Andantino, and the latter to Allegretto.
Joanne Martin had the kids pair up, and gave a metal bracelet to each pair. One child held the bracelet, while the other moved their bow up and down inside it, trying not to touch the rim. The kids had a blast with this!
In the afternoon I had the unique privilege of watching Brian Lewis lead the large group lesson.
He had the kids playing Fiocco Allegro, and after the first main section would stop and say "Faster!"
The giggles soon turned to groans of agony as the piece exceeded "Presto!" The following Twinkle was a big relief, I'm sure.
The remainder of my afternoon was spent listening to a talk about the valuable aspects of parent education by Helen Brunner, part of a cello master class with Gilda Barston, and a presentation by Bill Starr of a video interview he did with Dr. Suzuki in 1985 about his vision to make the Mother Tongue Method a universal teaching philosophy for elementary children. It was really neat to see him speaking "in person," since I'd never had the opportunity to see him while he was alive.
However, the most touching part of my day happened right after the morning classes ended. I was introduced to a Japanese teacher, who was now teaching a student that I had taught when the girl and I both lived in Los Angeles. This girl's mom had emailed the teacher, asking her to look for me and get a picture together. The teacher conveyed to me the mother's kind words about my work with her daughter years ago that brought tears to my eyes. It made me realize how much we impact our students' lives, as Suzuki teachers, and what an honor it is to have that closeness with the families that come into our studio. I was so touched that this mother made such an effort to reach out, and I'm so glad she did. That was truly the highlight of my day, and I hope one day to see them again.
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Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles is in New York to cover the biennial event at The Juilliard School, including classes by Brian Lewis and Sarah Chang.
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