Thursday, July 23, 2009
A Week at the Ithaca Suzuki Institute
Kate has now finished Day 4 of the Suzuki Summer Institute at Ithaca College, and there is one final day to go. This is Kate's third Summer Institute. Two years ago, she attended the Southwestern Ontario Suzuki Institute and last year, the Suzuki Kingston Musicfest, which I wrote about here. These week-long camps are held every summer, in various places across North America, and they all follow similar formats.
Kate has four classes each day. The first is an hour-long lesson, shared with two other students who are playing at a similar level. The instructor works with each student on his/her particular strengths and weaknesses for 20 minutes. Then, there is a group class with 10-15 other students, in which the kids work on songs from the Suzuki Repertoire. After lunch, Kate has an orchestra class, and finally, there is an hour-long play-in. The play-in is an informal, lively session in which the kids get together with an instructor and go through pieces from the Suzuki Repertoire, often with fun variations.
When you follow a Suzuki program, you're expected to be able to play all the repertoire from the early books from memory. Kate's private and group violin teachers at home expect her to review all the pieces regularly, and she gets the opportunity to play them at group classes and concerts. The consequence is that you can throw a bunch of Suzuki-trained violinists together at any time, and they'll be able to play a large selection of songs together.
In addition to the classes, there are recitals and concerts every afternoon and evening, as well as lectures about the Suzuki method for parents. To avoid burning out, Kate and I pick and choose carefully just a few events to attend. Earlier in the week, we saw a concert given by the Preludio group, consisting of the most advanced students. The concert included the entire Four Seasons by Vivaldi, which Kate knows well, having had to learn parts of it for her orchestra group at home. The soloist, Allegra Wermuth, is a teacher at the institute. Just as impressive (to me, anyhow) is the fact that she is also a knitting designer and publishes an on-line knitting magazine, Petite Purls. (OK, I had to get some mention of knitting in here, and yes, I've been taking my knitting along to some of Kate's classes.)
Then, there is practice to be done. At the end of each day, or in between classes in the practice rooms available at the music building, Kate reviews the instructions given by her teachers. It's not all work, though, as you can tell by the previous blog posts. We've had time to tour Ithaca and the surrounding areas. Tomorrow will be a busy day, though, as the week ends with the final concert. Kate will be playing in the orchestra and also doing a selection of the Suzuki repertoire with all the other violinists, and then she gets to enjoy a big party at the end of it all!