Saturday, August 18, 2007

Violin Camp

This past week, Kate attended the Southern Ontario Suzuki Institute summer camp. Todd and I took turns taking days off work, as they expect the parents to accompany the younger children. Kate's violin teacher encouraged her to attend the camp, and we had heard very good things about it. We'd also heard that it can be overwhelming and exhausting, and one can feel out of place if one is not passionate about the Suzuki philosophy, which we're not.

Because of these concerns, we decided to limit our participation. Kate attended three hour-long classes each day: a music reading class for orchestra preparation, a group class, and an individual instruction class shared with three other students. She also played her solo piece ("Witches' Dance" by Paganini from Suzuki Book 2) in a recital and played with her group class in the final string concert. There were lots of optional classes (fiddling, opera, percussion, etc.), as well as parent discussions, but we decided to pass on all of these. If Kate returns in following years, we may sign up for more, but these classes turned out to be enough for the week.

The instructor for the music reading class was positively frightening, shouting out orders like a drill sergeant and demanding total attention from the kids. Once Kate got over the initial shock, she did enjoy the class. Actually, I thought the instructor was terrific and wish I could have taught like her during my teaching days. She was intimidating, but boy, did she cover ground and get results! The group class was less intense, and the kids had a lot of fun with this instructor. It was interesting to see all the subtle ways of getting the kids to learn how to follow a leader.

The individual class was terrific, and coincidentally, the instructor happened to be the sister of an old friend from my undergrad days. Each of the four kids got individual instruction, but the students not called upon were still expected to watch and listen carefully and were asked to critique. Kate's usual violin teacher is wonderful, and Kate has made incredible progress with her, but it's always helpful to get another perspective.

We ended the week with the final string concert. It started off badly, as we arrived and realized that no one had remembered to bring Kate's violin! So we went back home for it, and Kate got on-stage just as the concert was starting, without having had time to tune up and without her shoulder rest, which I'd forgotten to give her in my haste. Nevertheless, she managed to play the pieces with her group and the concert was a success. Todd and I enjoyed the concert, and Julia tolerated it. It was quite exciting to see 100 young violinists and violists, with another 30 cellists, all playing (mostly) in unison. We hope Kate is willing to go back to the camp next year.

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