There are many components to Suzuki study at AC. Regular attendance and full participation in each of the instructional areas is the key to a rewarding and successful Suzuki experience. Every component enhances an important aspect of each child’s musical growth, and fulfills the high ideals of a true Suzuki method of education.
The individual lesson is the core of Suzuki instruction – the place where basic skills are taught and the (parent teacher child) learning team is developed. You and your private teacher will arrange a mutually convenient time for weekly instruction. The length of your child’s weekly lesson will vary, depending on his/her level and ability (typically 15-30 minutes for beginners). The amount of instruction a student receives is tailored to each child’s rate of growth in the manner of the Suzuki philosophy. The parent observes the teacher’s comments and instruction and uses these guidelines in practice at home. Note taking is encouraged. While the parent is the “teacher at home,” the teacher is the person who leads the studio lesson.
Occurring approximately three times each semester on Saturday mornings, play-ins are family times and provide review for the annual recital. Play-ins feature large group work with a teacher. Family and friends are welcome. Announcements, skits and Wednesday groups are also an important part of play-ins.
Each Suzuki student is assigned to group classes according to the student’s age and level. Typically 30 to 45 minutes in length, group lessons are scheduled on Wednesday afternoons. Groups for beginning students are set up at the discretion of the private teacher. The group class is an integral part of the Suzuki experience. Skills are reinforced through constant and varied repetition, review of “old” pieces and introduction to new pieces through listening. Group classes provide a fun and social atmosphere for musical peers, often providing that extra motivation each student needs. Even activities that appear to be “games” hold an important instructional purpose. Technical, ensemble and listening skills are developed in the group environment.
Held at intervals throughout the year, solo recitals provide a dignified setting to perform individually. The piece selected to perform should be one that the student has polished, thus providing the child with a positive performance experience. The audience includes family and friends of performers.
Based on the work of Carl Orff, these Wednesday afternoon groups feature rhythmic movement. Especially helpful for younger students and those preparing for violin/viola/cello classes, Orff is open to students of all ages. Prospective students and siblings of Suzuki students may enroll in these classes for a small fee.
This yearly event, usually held mid- to late spring features all students performing pieces selected by the faculty. The Annual Recital is an exciting time for students to collaborate and show off the year’s hard work after a weekend of working with guest clinicians.
A requirement for all families new to the AC program, this academic credit class is offered each semester at a time best for all new parents. The Suzuki philosophy, ways to assist in teaching your child and the basics of playing the instrument are covered. The parent must enroll in the course concurrent or previous to starting his/her child in the Suzuki program.
Enforcing note reading skills, ensemble playing and technique, these Wednesday afternoon groups are open to students at the discretion of the private teacher after note reading skills are initiated.
Written by Chip Chandler for the AC Suzuki 30th Anniversary celebration.
Amarillo’s thriving Suzuki program started with one woman’s dream.
Suzanne Grooms, born in New Orleans and reared in Tennessee, first encountered the Suzuki program in the late 1960s.The Suzuki method was developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki in Japan in the 1940s, and Grooms was among the first group of American teachers to travel to Japan and study with Suzuki. The program has since spread worldwide. But before it came to this area, the seeds were sown on the campus of Southern Illinois University.
Grooms and a fellow graduate student, Beverly de la Bretonne, were studying with Suzuki pedagogue John Kendall. Both were great fans of the method, which strives to create high ability and beautiful character in its students through a nurturing environment. “It was Suzanne’s dream that she and I would someday work together,” de la Bretonne said.
Grooms moved to Amarillo in 1972, soon joining the Amarillo Symphony. That’s where she met Helen Gerald, already a well-respected violin performer and teacher. Grooms introduced Gerald to the Suzuki method, and the two began to attract students.
“I am indebted to Suzanne for introducing me to the Suzuki world,” Gerald said. “Her quiet demeanor and genteel manner, as well as her constant striving for the highest possible quality of performance, were an inspiration to students, parents and teachers.”
Soon, recalling their mutual dream, Grooms invited de la Bretonne to come to Amarillo for five years as a clinician for the burgeoning Suzuki program in Amarillo.
As interest further grew, Amarillo College agreed to house the program, which officially opened in 1977 with violin students only. De la Bretonne finally moved to Amarillo in 1979 to become head of AC’s string department and work with the Suzuki program.
AC not only taught students, but it also became a Suzuki Teacher training center for dozens of new string teachers, as well as influencing countless parents.
“Suzanne Grooms changed my life. Through introducing me to the Suzuki philosophy, she added patience and gentleness to the teaching of both my children and my academic students,” said Carol Nicklaus, whose children went through the program. “In addition, she opened up a world of beautiful music for me.”
Now, the Suzuki program offers instruction in violin, viola and cello for kids as young as 3 years old. The lessons include a comprehensive curriculum of early childhood music, beginning theory, orchestra and small ensemble classes along with one-on-one lesson instruction. AC Suzuki teachers are among the most qualified music teachers in the area, with credentials registered through the Suzuki Association of the Americas.
Graduates have distinguished themselves at many leading universities and colleges, including Indiana University, the New England Conservatory of Music, Juilliard School of Music, Harvard University, and many more.
“By encouraging excellence,” de la Bretonne said, “our goal is to enrich students’ lives through music whether they become professional musicians or an appreciative audience.”
Grooms died in 2000, but her dream lives on.
The Music Building of the Washington Street Campus at Amarillo College is located off of 22nd Avenue between South Washington and South Van Buren.