By Megumi Harada —Etobicoke, Ontario
We are a Suzuki family from the Etobicoke School of Music (EMS), with an 8-year-old boy, Gen, playing violin (Book 3) and a 5-year-old girl, Ai, playing cello (Book 1). We attended the Southwestern Ontario Suzuki Institute in August 2018. It was amazing!
We shared on-campus accommodations with another family: Kasthuri (in the YAP violin program) and 9-year-old Vishwa (violin, Book 3). We knew them through ESM, but we bonded in that special way that only the sharing of living space can deliver. In past years, my children had taken part in SOSI only because “mom makes us”. This time, they had a blast with their friends! Our two families also supported each other throughout the week in both small and large ways — looking after each other’s children, going to each other’s recitals, etc.
For Gen, bonding with Vishwa was an important turning point. Instead of being “what mom makes me do”, violin became something a little bit closer to “what my buddy and I do together”. Vishwa also came to Gen’s fiddling concert and solo recital — providing much-appreciated moral support. The two are now best buddies at ESM, so the benefits of SOSI are extending well into our regular year. In the months since, Gen’s playing has taken off in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined just a few months ago. It was very special when our home teacher said to us recently that his playing has “reached a totally new level of expressiveness’’.
This year my daughter Ai was lucky to attend a master class with only two students. For 5 consecutive days, she had 30 minutes of undivided attention from a master teacher. This concentrated dose of top-quality instruction allowed us to make the kind of progress in a week that usually takes months, or quite possibly, never happens at all. Thankfully, our teacher focused on the fundamentals, which I often feel get forgotten amidst the constant demands of preparing for concerts, recitals, etc. However, during SOSI week, we were concerned only with posture and being in tune. And under the guidance of a master teacher! I was in Suzuki heaven.
Finally, as a Suzuki parent, it is deeply soul-affirming to spend a week immersed in the spirit of Suzuki — in the company of, and supported by, teachers who are musically of the highest quality, and who embody so completely the love that is so central to everything Suzuki. Indeed, the love in the room at the SOSI Faculty Concert was palpable: the love of Dr. Suzuki, of the children, and of course, the love of music. As the SOSI organizers said on the first day: “Even in these troubled times, we believe in music. In making music, we come together. In music, we find humanity at its best.’’
This year’s SOSI was everything a Suzuki family could possibly hope for. We are going back next year.