October 16, 2006 at 1:37 AMThis week I met my 52 new students.
I'm already extremely proud of every single one of them; look what they did...
They made their very own violins. A group of fellow parents at McKinley School in Pasadena had taped 55 rulers onto 55 egg cartons; I drew the violin [PDF for 8.5x14 page], and they provided the color.
As you can see, they are going to provide me with quite a lot of color!
Here's the plan I came up with, for those of you who are curious about what a person does when presented with the task of starting a Suzuki-based violin program for 52 first graders, "next week!":
They'll have two 45-minute-long classes a week: a "lesson class" with about 15 kids in each one, and a "group class" with about 30 kids. (So I'm teaching four lesson classes and two group classes.)
Even though I had only a week to come up with a plan, I had some good brains to pick, particularly that of the extraordinary teacher, Cheryl Scheidemantle, who has run a similar program for slightly older children at Polytechnic School in Pasadena for some 18 years. She's the one who told me that one class a week is not enough, it only works if you do two. So two, I'll do.
She also reminded me to go slow, and build a reverence for the delicacy and care of a violin. And have rules, lots and lots of rules, for kids!
So each day last week, I gathered my small charges and we walked to the room. But we did not enter. I first numbered them off and told them that their numbers were their rows. Then, we walked in and made rows. We practiced how to bow to each other and say "good morning!" I ran them through how to stand while playing, then played them Twinkle. My lovely assistant, Robert, helped me distribute the violins to color and crayons. (He gets parent volunteer credit!) As the kids colored and listened to the Suzuki Book 1 tape, I called them up individually to be measured for their "real" violins.
I sent them home with lots of info: What size real violin to get, where, when class will be and a page on the Suzuki philosophy [PDF], boiled down to its essence.
There are certainly challenges ahead, like how to distribute 16 violins to the more-than-16 kids who aren't able to go rent a violin. But I'm so excited, this is such an amazing opportunity, to teach this rainbow assortment of children.
When they finished their violins, we had a little art show. I hadn't planned this, but I always like to have one activity that brings out the individual in every group class. So we showed them, one by one, commenting on each violin's special qualities. Then I had each row take their violins to the cabinet, slowly and carefully, slowly and carefully... And they did; they walked slowly, handling their new violins like they were made of thin glass, laying them carefully in the cabinet.
All those little violins are sleeping in that cabinet now, waiting for the new week.
Laurie-- I know you're some kind of dual-major music / journalism writing genius, so I'm curious whether you could say a few words about how you write briefly (!) about something you care about; and who's reading that (target audience), and how that affects the writing...
[[Of course I'm projecting-- as I recently now have larger groups of younger students than usual, and I was just pressured into writing for them, which I had so far resisted.... (Ludwig Wittgentstein would be proud of me!)-- though, it was good... ]]
Buri, I love the bus idea!
PS. I admire your energy. Keep it up!
interesting to see that while adults are busy emulating the varnish of the cremonese, the kids have their own ideas..hmm. thank you for not giving them each a brown pen!
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