by Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Brown - Montréal, Quebec
“Beautiful tone, beautiful heart” is one of Dr. Suzuki’s most iconic quotes. The very idea of a resonant and ringing tone is a staple of every Suzuki lesson, but how to we continue to develop this beautiful sound in the time between our final bow and the next week’s meeting?
TALK ABOUT IT!
Choose a time when you are both relaxed and away from your violins to listen together (the car is a great place to start)
Listen to a favourite recording (this could even be one of your Suzuki pieces) Use the talking points below to start a discussion with your son or daughter, keeping in mind that there are no correct answers.
Don’t be afraid to repeat this exercise as your child grows and matures. It’s a joy to see their ears develop, and such discussions can be a good way to build bridges as you discover each other’s ideas.
Through totalization, we focus on the idea of producing a beautiful sound. Before playing, take a few seconds with your child to imagine the sound first. Use the words from your discussion to help cue their memories. Remember: forming sound comes from the inside out and not the other way around. Once you have established an idea of sound, play the exercise all the way through and invite your child to self-assess: did it sound like the tone you imagined? How would you change it? Remember to keep these discussions positive and collaborative in your approach – even if one harsh or judgmental word can cause a child to shy away.
Our review repertoire gives us access to a library of beautiful music that is mastered and played with ease. When we are not worried about surmounting new technical challenges, we are better able to listen, hear, self-assess and make positive changes in our daily pursuit of a beautiful tone.
Working pieces present new challenges that require concentration, but the idea of a beautiful sound should never be far from our minds as parents and teachers. While being attentive to the idea of “flooding,” we must continue to look for opportunities to encourage the beautiful sound. For example, as each preview section has become comfortable, we can propose the added challenge of playing the passage with a beautiful tone.
To all musicians, even to the youngest violinist, tone is closely related to our identity as people. Working on tone therefore requires sensitivity on the part of the participating adult(s) in the room. Through discussion, active listening and self-assessment and constant, gentle encouragement, we can cultivate a beautiful tone the whole week long.
by Mélanie Grenier - La Jacques-Cartier, Québec
In May 2018, 50 violinists and cellists from the Suzuki group, “Jeux d’archets”, experienced their first flash mob. Participants included beginners to very advanced students between the ages of 3 and 20. The idea of giving them such an experience comes from my philosophy of always seeking to provide my students with stimulating, varied and rich learning experiences. Having participated in a group of artists in my region, I realized there was great potential for a flash mob in a variety of locations, and that it would be a great way to integrate with the cultural and economic activities of the region.
I started my efforts by asking my city for support. The regional county municipality of La Jacques-Cartier provided us with funding for two buses. We used the first bus all day for the older ones, and the other one in the morning for the younger ones and their parents.
I spent a lot of time and effort preparing for the event. I had to contact all the schools, take note of the space and time restrictions, make an itinerary, contact everyone again, organize the logistics with the students and families, and choose the repertoire that would need to be played from memory.
And we desperately hoped for a sunny day!
We played at different places: a church square, an environmental fair, a grocery store, a golf course, a bakery, the grounds of an estate, a restaurant famous for brunch, a hotel, a park. At some locations, I separated the larger group into two or three smaller groups. The older students had some flexibility in their repertoire when they played without the younger ones in the afternoon. They were at their most energetic and enthusiastic, and could almost play without me by the end of the day!
The people we surprised were moved, attentive and still wanted more… Almost all the merchants were accommodating and embarked on this wonderful adventure with great interest. The students, especially the older ones, had a blast! They liked it so much that they didn’t bother putting their instruments away between one place and the next. They played non-stop on the bus; somebody would start playing and the others would follow! They played through the entire Suzuki repertoire as well as other repertoire, such as Pachelbel’s Canon, Tzena and their group repertoire. All told about 6 hours of violin playing that day, and they didn’t want to stop!
We broke up the day into two parts, with a stop at a picnic area. The parents had prepared a lunch, and we ate, had a rest, and relaxed by playing a friendly soccer game. What a great musical day for these Suzuki families!
I am going to organize a second flash mob, which will take place on May 25, this time in the old quarter of Quebec City. We will prepare some very nice surprises for the public and for the students who will participate! To be continued!