by Katie Avery - Whitehorse, Yukon
I had the privilege of growing up in a folk community, where having a party meant making music, eating lots of food, and hanging out with people of at least three generations. I didn’t start to realize until I was a teenager what a rare gift that is in modern Canadian society. Even now, at 32 years old, I am still discovering the unique benefits that upbringing has given me. For example, I have never seen age as a barrier to friendship. What freedom! As a Suzuki teacher, I have found it incredibly gratifying to try and incorporate this multi-generational aspect of my folk upbringing into my studio.
Living in Whitehorse, Yukon has many unique challenges; not the least of which is a constant fluctuation of the number of teachers. Over the last seven years, the number of Suzuki teachers has gone from one to three and back again more than once. As a result, my studio is diverse. I have violin students, and a handful of cello students. I teach kids, teens, and adults ranging in ability from pre-twinkle to Book 4 in all age groups. I have a private studio and an extra-curricular elementary school program, where I give masterclasses to kids during the school day.
When my studio first started to diversify like this, I got some pushback from the community about teaching group classes based primarily on level and not age. “You can’t possibly teach a Book 1 group class that has 6 year olds AND 12 year olds in it!” I was told by certain parents. Not to mention putting 60 year olds in that very same class!
Well, it turns out, I absolutely CAN teach a class that looks like that. Not only does it work, but it has also been incredibly gratifying to watch the friendships develop. Everyone benefits from this arrangement. The public school kids get the benefit of seeing my private students (who are often younger than they are) play with proper technique. This helps them be motivated to play properly as well because they can see the results. The adults are thrilled to see the enthusiasm of the kids and how willing they are to try things, which help them combat their own insecurities that often come with learning an instrument later in life. The younger kids behave better because of the older kids and adults around them. I also think there’s an intrinsic and incredibly valuable message there about learning being a life-long pursuit.
I came to this configuration because of my location. It’s a small town, with limited resources and population. I have to do what I can to keep classes affordable for everyone. For me, that means having group classes with at least 8 people. To achieve that I had no choice but to teach multi-generational classes, but I’m so glad that’s where life has led me.