I took my first Suzuki violin teacher training course over 20 years ago, traveling to the Western Springs School of Talent Education every other week for two years to learn the nuts and bolts of teaching from the esteemed Suzuki teacher trainer Edward Kreitman. I began my training before I even taught a single student and was joined in my classes by other teachers much more experienced (and older) than me. Sometime during my second year of training, Mr. Kreitman put me in contact with a family in his own studio who wanted extra lessons on the weekend. The mother charged me with just one purpose as I taught each of her three children: make playing the violin fun. What a lovely way to begin my adventures in teaching! I spent many hours creating stories for the Suzuki pieces, exploring all the shades of nuance and tone that could be created from pretending to sound like everything from a foggy day to the bubbly happiness of a child going to the ice cream store to the shade of sadness that comes from losing a favorite toy. We closed our eyes and sent our sound above or behind or below us. I had none of the usual responsibilities that come with teaching technique and got to experience all of the joy that comes with helping the students make music as interesting as possible.
This experience continued to shape my teaching as I took further Suzuki training courses and began teaching my own students. I spent five summers teaching for another well-regarded Suzuki teacher at Western Springs, the wonderful Nancy Jackson. Ms. Jackson kept careful notes in a great white binder of every lesson of every student. I learned a great deal about lesson planning, long term goals, and teaching technique from that binder. While I had more responsibilities during these summers to work on repertoire and technique than I had had in my first teaching experience, I also had a great deal of freedom to push her students to use their imaginations and think about how to use their bodies in ways that were new to them as they played their instruments. I was gaining new perspectives from forays into Alexander technique, body mapping, and modern dance classes and used my knowledge to help the students look at their technique and playing differently.
After Oberlin, I moved to Evanston and began teaching in the area. I initially taught at the Christopher Laughlin School of Music but in 2006 I began my own Suzuki studio, teaching private lessons out of my home studio and weekly group classes out of my church. I continued to take Suzuki training courses (I have since taken over a dozen courses) from some of the most respected violin teachers in the country. I also took some Mark O'Connor courses and attended several national Suzuki conferences.
In March of 2015, I received a flyer for a Dalcroze workshop at DePaul University with Jeremy Dittus. I had never heard of Dalcroze, but, as you have probably gathered by now, I am always open and interested in taking teacher training and learning new things. It is no exaggeration to say that the workshop changed my life. I found Jeremy to be an astounding teacher - enthusiastic, full of boundless energy and high expectations, and utterly brilliant. The Dalcroze method itself seemed to be exactly what I had always been looking for but never knew existed. The Dalcroze method is about experiencing music through the body: the body itself is the instrument as the student learns to demonstrate both expressivity and analyzation of the music in real time. The music itself (improvised by the teacher) is the motivator, stimulator, and regulator in the classroom as the students discover themselves the purpose of the lesson while experiencing it in their bodies first (verbal analyzation comes last).
The road to becoming a certified and then licensed Dalcroze teacher is long and extremely difficult but I began applying what I had learned from that first workshop right away in my violin teaching and have continued to use Dalcroze in my lessons every since. Learning musicality and expressivity through the body and then putting it in the instrument has been a joyful and revelatory experience for myself and my students. I am entering my fourth year of Dalcroze training and am very close to receiving my Certificate (having passed three levels/six exams for Solfege, three levels/three exams for Eurythmics, and two levels/four exams for Improvisation (on piano!)). Very little about my training has been easy (including having to learn how to play a whole new instrument!) but it has been very exciting and satisfying to continue to push myself to grow and learn as a musician far beyond anything I had imagined under the guidance of some amazing teachers. My goal is to start to teach Dalcroze classes in the community this year while continuing to expand my private violin studio.
The Suzuki method (which has the core tenets of nurturing the whole child, teaching at first by ear (just as one learns to speak a language by ear) through recordings and demonstrations, involving the parents in the learning process, breaking learning into small steps, learning from peers and daily practice) fits beautifully with the Dalcroze method. I was invited to present how Suzuki and Dalcroze can be successfully combined at the last two national Suzuki conferences in Minneapolis. Both methods fit into my philosophy of teaching: create a joyful and imaginative environment that inspires and nurtures the individual child while setting high expectations to fully develop each child's ability.