Sue Baer and Sarah Wilson

I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow, that cute little girl who began taking lessons with me at the age of three has become my friend and my colleague.

Mind you, this is twenty-five years later, but in my sweetest memories, it seems like just yesterday: I can still imagine her bounding in the door, chattering non-stop, only to drop everything in a heap so she could give me a hug. Her eyes were bright with curiosity and enthusiasm. She loved her cello with the intensity of the summer sun. Actually, come to think of it, not much of this has changed!

Some things have given over to the passing of time. Sarah scoffed as she passed the six feet tall mark years ago, and her confident demeanor is a match to her elegant stature. She has earned a master’s degree in cello performance and has spent the last several years playing in a professional string quartet. Bravo, Sarah! But, as you might imagine, the thing that pleases me most is that Sarah loves to teach. At my urging, Sarah applied for and received a scholarship from the SAA to enroll in Suzuki teacher development. She was thrilled with all that she learned and went back for more the following year. Now the exuberance evident in Sarah’s voice when she regales me with tales of her own students harks back to the little pixie who came for lessons long ago.

Prior to the SAA Conference in 2010, Sarah heard my plea to veteran conference attendees to extend an invitation to someone who had never attended before. Imagine my delight when Sarah said, “I want to be the one you invite to the next conference!” I wanted to dance a jig, do a cartwheel, throw a party!

Sarah’s eager voice makes me wonder how many other young teachers out there are lusting after the opportunity to attend the conference and would go but for a personal invitation. So, once again, I would like to encourage everyone who has attended a past conference or has a desire to attend a conference to seize the opportunity to orchestrate your own destiny as Sarah did. Be bold. Extend an invitation to a friend or colleague. Solicit an invitation from a mentor. If your mentor can’t honor your request, perhaps he or she can hook you up with some other eager participant.

Here’s what Sarah has to say about our Minneapolis adventure:

When I heard Sue’s suggestion about inviting a novice to the conference, I immediately thought, “I want to be that person!” I know that I need periodic “teacher rejuvenation” in order to continue running a successful private studio, and I love an excuse for a trip and to see a new place. Even though I’ve never been to a conference before, I’m confident that this experience will be every bit as inspiring and educational as the wonderful institutes I’ve attended. Plus, I know I’ll meet lots of neat people with whom I have much in common!

I admit, however, that a timid and cautious Sarah lives in my head and she gingerly admonishes herself, “Can you afford this trip? What if you’re overwhelmed by the schedule, the session offerings, and the large or crowded convention center? There will be lots of strangers! Everyone will already know each other and nobody will know you!”

But even the “timid Sarah” can’t controvert the safety offered by the presence of my teacher, my friend, and my mentor, Sue. I know our shared room cost will fit in my budget much more easily than if I were on my own! I’m certain Sue will guide me to sessions that are applicable for young cello teachers such as I. Plus, I’ll always know at least Sue, and I suspect that her many friendships in the SAA will generously be extended to me! So that settles it—see you in Minneapolis!

Sarah and I are already making heady plans about what we’ll pack, where we’ll dine, and what sessions and concerts we’ll attend. After one of our recent conversations, it occurred to me that I am gaining as much from this collaboration as she. I find myself looking forward to the conference with Sarah’s fresh eyes and her excitement about all it has to offer. Our relationship has come full circle; just as Sarah learned from me as a child, I can learn a lot from Sarah now.

Sarah and I hope to encounter many more somebody/new buddy combos at the conference. Look for us there—I don’t think you can miss us!