Viola Method

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Wendy Osborne said: Feb 24, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
North Las Vegas, NV
4 posts

Hello all, I often peruse the forums here, but this is my first time contributing. I am looking for someone who can give me an over-arching description of the viola method. I am originally a violinist, and played up through book 6 of the violin method before converting to viola my first year of high school. So I never used the viola method personally—I just studied standard repertoire in high school and college. I use and have been trained in the early violin/viola books, and I feel I have a good grasp of the rationale behind most of what is in the viola books up to book 4. However, I’m struggling to understand the reasoning behind books 5 and beyond. Why the reliance on so many violin transcriptions? The cello transcriptions make a little more sense to me, but why the lack of pieces written for viola? One day I plan to take the training courses all the way through, but until that time, can someone give me a little bit of guidance—like the focus and direction of each book? I find myself drawn away from the upper books and wanting to use more “standard” viola literature, but I’m sure part of that is because I lack understanding. However, I do feel that at a certain point (especially by high school), violists need to be playing more music written for our instrument (as opposed to transcriptions), so I’m trying to determine what part books 5-9 should play in my studio.

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Feb 24, 2015
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

The questions you are asking are all things that would probably all be covered in-depth at unit training. Why not just take viola books 5 or 6 training as a starting point?

I can’t help but feel that you’re really just wondering about the rationale behind the Suzuki Method itself? Being a Suzuki student is not the same thing as being a teacher. Students often don’t think about all the strategies employed by a teacher in order to teach something. They just know they can play.

Wendy Osborne said: Feb 25, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
North Las Vegas, NV
4 posts

I’m sure my questions would be covered in training. And I do plan to take the training for those books. But I have high school viola students right now, and I don’t want to do either them or the method a disservice by making a judgement without seeking understanding first.

I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “wondering about the rationale behind the Suzuki Method itself.” I think I have a good understanding about the overall method. I’ve read all of Dr. Suzuki’s books, taken violin training, and my own children play Suzuki flute and harp. I’m very well versed in the method. But I simply don’t understand why there are so many violin transcriptions in the upper viola books, as the two instruments (and the literature written for them) are very different. I’m willing to accept that there is a plan and a reason behind that decision, but I would like some education on that plan.

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Feb 25, 2015
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

I’m really not trying to be argumentative. My entire point was that this question right here:

but I would like some education on that plan.

is exactly what the unit training is designed around.

There’s a reason why all the units beyond book 1 are 15 hours long and not done in one day. Every piece is worked through and the teaching points of each piece are covered thoroughly. And then you do lots of observing the teacher trainer work and you can witness firsthand the things you talked about in class.

The Suzuki books are laid out pedagogically in that they are designed to build off each other in order to build technique. So, yes, there are hundreds of other viola pieces out there, many of which could have also been chosen. In fact, Suzuki himself resisted making an established list of repertoire because he was worried people would take the list far too seriously (he was right).

Regardless, the pieces that are included build off of the techniques established in the earlier books. Technique is the bottom line, not notes.

To exactly answer your question about why violin transcriptions are in there instead of viola music: because it works.

But that’s not to say a Suzuki teacher shouldn’t explore other music with his/her students.

Jennifer Visick said: Feb 25, 2015
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

You might be interested an article William Preucil wrote for the Journal of the American Viola Society just before the publication of Suzuki Viola Method Vol. 5. It doesn’t answer all your questions but it may be a start. (Note that the book 5 we have now is revised from the one spoken about in this article). It begins on page 21 of this pdf:

https://www.americanviolasociety.org/PDFs/Journal/JAVS-1_2.pdf

I’ve taken training for Viola books 5, 6, 8 & 9, and I do recall that there were significant discussions about appropriate repertoire outside the Suzuki books for Suzuki viola students at these levels.

Julia Hardie said: Feb 25, 2015
Julia HardieTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
9 posts

Although the details of teaching the repertoire in the late viola books are complex and belong in the contest of a training courses, there are some general explanations that might help in understanding why certain pieces were selected.

Though the viola has beautiful solo repertoire, that repertoire is not large. In my opinion, we especially lack intermediate level repertoire and etudes (besides transcriptions) that thoughtfully prepare the advanced techniques needed to play Bartok Concerto or “Don Juan”. As Suzuki teachers, we know that the foundations of advanced techniques, such as high position work and double-stops, need to be laid early. Some of these techniques are more difficult on the viola, so the need to prepare them early is critical.

I enjoy teaching technique in the context of “real music” and because of the similarities in our technique, I do not have a problem with violin transcriptions, especially of less well-known works.

From my perspective as an experienced Suzuki viola teacher and teacher-trainer, the materials in Suzuki Viola Books 5-9 have significant pedagogical importance and can enable Suzuki viola teachers to develop their students’ viola playing to a very high level. I am deeply grateful to Doris and Bill Preucil for the thought and care that went into selecting the pieces in these books.

Wendy Osborne said: Feb 25, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
North Las Vegas, NV
4 posts

Thank you so much Jennifer, for that enlightening article, and Julia, for your thoughtful response. That is exactly the information I was looking for. I know I can’t replace weeks worth of training by asking a question on a forum. That was not my intention—I respect and value the training process. But I appreciate your help in understanding the overarching objectives of the later books. I know much thought went into their compilation, so I am grateful to have a better understanding.

Merietta Oviatt said: Feb 26, 2015
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

I am just completing my lecture-document for my doctorate. I spent a week with both Doris and Bill and my entire document covers the hows and whys of the viola Suzuki books. I would be more than happy to send a copy of it it to you. Please message your e-mail to me and I will send it to you. As soon as I am done I plan to publish this for this exact reason. Doing this research REALLY explained so much to me—and I must say it is just sooo interesting and educational!! I simply cannot wait to get my research out there for everyone to see—the interviews I conducted are simply priceless!

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

Charles Krigbaum said: Feb 26, 2015
Charles KrigbaumTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

That is wonderful news, Merietta! I can’t wait to read your work!

This message has been brought to you by:

Charles Krigbaum, Director
North Texas School of Talent Education
www.ntste.com
www.facebook.com/NorthTexasSchoolofTalentEducation

Charles Krigbaum said: Feb 26, 2015
Charles KrigbaumTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

Also thank you to Jenny for sharing this treasure of an article and to Julia for her thoughtful words and response!

This message has been brought to you by:

Charles Krigbaum, Director
North Texas School of Talent Education
www.ntste.com
www.facebook.com/NorthTexasSchoolofTalentEducation

Wendy Osborne said: Feb 26, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
North Las Vegas, NV
4 posts

Thank you so much for offering to share your work Merietta! I’ve sent you a message with my email address. As I mentioned there, the idea reminds me of the interviews David Dalton did with William Primrose. Getting insight into the minds of the people who shape the study of our instrument is absolutely priceless. Thank you so very much!

Sue Hunt said: Feb 27, 2015
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Thanks so much for making your research available I’d love to read it Merietta. I do enjoy teaching my tiny viola beginners.

Joanna Binford said: Feb 27, 2015
Joanna Binford
Suzuki Association Member
Viola
Virginia Beach, VA
2 posts

Wow! Looking forward to reading your document, Merietta!! I sent you a message with my request and email address. Cheers :)

Joanna Binford
Norfolk Academy of Music, Suzuki Viola
Norfolk Collegiate School
Suzuki Teachers Association of Hampton Roads
Endless Road Strings, Violist

Merietta Oviatt said: Feb 27, 2015
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

Wow! I cannot believe the response I have received! I will be doing my defense very soon and as soon as it is complete I can then release my research. I hope you will all be patient. As soon as I can get everything published (there is quite a bit that I could not include in my document that will hopefully be published) I will let you all know! I am so excited to get this all out to you—this is exactly why I did this incredible research!

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

Wendy said: Mar 1, 2015
Wendy Seravalle-Smith
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Cello, Violin
Thornhill, ON
119 posts

This sounds wonderful! I too would love to read your research. I will send a message with my email and look forward to hearing from you.

Laura said: Mar 6, 2015
Laura Appert SpringhamViolin, Viola
33 posts

Hi Merietta, I would also love to read your document when you are able to send it.

Thank you for the article, Jennifer!

Joanna—you are in Virginia now? (don’t know if you remember me from Lexington Phil…it’s been a few years!)

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