SYOA violinists in rehearsal at the 2012 conference
My first trip to Minneapolis couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. I was in the final semester of graduate studies and far more concerned with my lurking post-grad financial crisis than with attending another music educator conference.
However, my teacher, Sandy Reuning, made it absolutely clear that this one was different and not to be missed. Thankfully, a few things fell into my lap to make at least the financial aspect of things a bit less stressful. A college friend asked if I was interested in sharing a hotel room. I also signed up for a credit card that gave me enough miles for a free round-trip flight. Once the flight and room were taken care of I was confident that I could figure out the rest when I got there. After all, there was that time when I survived on ramen for 2 weeks during senior year.
I was surprised to learn that Minneapolis, contrary to many other big cities, was actually really easy to navigate! I loved the beautiful train that took me straight from the airport across the river to Saint Paul, the Mall of America, and Target field. There also was a stop only a few blocks from the Minneapolis Hilton, the location for the conference and also my hotel. I remember walking and thinking to myself, this hotel is way too nice for music teachers. But, upon noticing the huge bronze statues of a violinist, bassist, flutist, and vocalist in the front of the hotel lobby, I realized I was in the right place.
It didn’t take long to find people I recognized. At first I was looking for some summer festival friends that I knew were attending, or other trainers that I had worked with at institutes. I ended up running into a couple that I met at the Starling-Delay Symposium the previous year. They showed me where the hotel restaurant was (that seemed to be a social hot-spot), the fitness center and pool (nice view of the city), and eventually my room.
Over the course of the next four days, my path in life changed forever. I made connections with teachers and trainers from across the country. We chatted at meals, the pool, before and after sessions. It was through those connections that I found myself sitting down for three interviews in the hotel restaurant. I wasn’t prepared at all. I had to print résumés in the Hilton business center. I heard an absolutely breathtaking performance from the Suzuki Youth Orchestra of the Americas.
I had been confined to my little bubble of New York for so long, that I had little perspective of the larger Suzuki community. Meeting and hearing from teachers in Colorado, Texas, Illinois, among other locations redefined what I perceived as the mission of the Suzuki Method. Daniel Coyle, author of the bestselling book, The Talent Code, gave a stimulating talk about growing skill across a variety of disciplines. Carrie Reuning-Hummel gave a keynote about her research into powerful learning experiences. The sessions on technique, studio building, networking, and technology were so diverse from each other. But, there was a common thread: teamwork.
This group of intellectuals came together from across the globe to present their research, successes, and failures from the last two years of their lives. The teacher-talk did not stop at the end of each session. Throughout the hotel I would overhear conversations about students, brilliant changes in studio policies, or a new brand of something. The energy in the hotel was absolutely radiating. It seemed that all of the ideas were new (at least to me). I was certain that much of what I heard would be eventually published in textbooks, or would make its way into college curricula. But, I was hearing it now. I was ahead of the curve. Most importantly, I was really excited to go home and teach. I think I added about 100 Facebook friends that week. I can’t wait to see them all again in May 2014.
I used to ask, ”Who is going to the conference?” But, not anymore. Once you experience it, you will never miss it again.