A smile is a wonderful thing for so many reasons. So is a compliment. People know when a smile or a compliment is sincere. There are friends and colleagues who we admire because they are consistently positive in their relationships and their work outlook. They accept responsibilities and added tasks with seemingly endless energy and magically attain wonderful results. These people might be parents in your program or a Suzuki teacher in the community.

Maybe these glorious people have learned the “art of positive thinking.” Much can be accomplished when one begins with a positive thought, compliment, act of kindness, or even a smile. For example, someone might say, “If only I could offer Suzuki lessons in my elementary school . . .” A positive response might be, “I know it can be done, and you are the right person to do it.” If that response is not appropriate because that individual or school is not ready for the changes needed to accomplish the task, a positive response still could be, “I love your interest and willingness to think about implementing this change in your school.”

Likewise, constructive criticism and suggestions for improvements are much better received after praise and compliments are given. As a teaching example, “Your tone is so beautiful. I can hear that you have been working on your tone. You know, it can also enhance your playing in this area of the music, if you would . . .” This request will probably bring a smile on the face of the student and also the desire and willingness to work toward a better tone. A smile on the teacher’s face when progress is made during the lesson goes a long way when the child and the parent is recalling the teacher’s request when practicing at home. Another thought along those lines—when was the last time you complimented a Suzuki parent for his or her work in the preparation of a task requested for a lesson?

I would like to take this opportunity to sing praises and send compliments to the hard-working Teacher Development Advisory Committee. They too need to know that their work is appreciated. Their dedication to the SAA and its future is amazing. No suggestion or recommendation is made without turning the issue over and over to see all sides of the outcomes when looking for a solution. The committee is composed of experienced teacher trainers working with our CEO, listening, weighing the pros and cons of each situation, and seeking solutions that support Suzuki education into the future.

The SAA Board of Directors is another group of dedicated individuals. The Board is charged to be visionary, to see a broad view of our organization and to empower the CEO to act on their vision. They review the year’s activities as presented by the CEO, review the budget, and like most boards, raise funds to balance our annual budget. I must express to you, these are people who say, “Yes, we can,” with a smile. I am sure you join me in thanking them for their selfless work on behalf of the Suzuki world.

The SAA Board members have been making random calls to SAA members whom they do not know personally. With these calls, it is our hope that we can learn more about our members and their daily lives as Suzuki teachers. It has been a true joy for me to make these calls. The teachers I have had the privilege to speak with are very positive in their remarks about their work and their students. Their musical training and Suzuki backgrounds have been extensive, and it is wonderful to hear of their successes as Suzuki teachers. This is a far cry from my beginnings as a Suzuki teacher when I was one of a few dozen Suzuki teachers. I believe we are making progress in our goal to reach more and more children with the philosophy of nurturing by love.