Several months have passed since the first SAA conference of Latin American Suzuki teachers (also known as PEPSAL—Primer Encuentro de Profesores Suzuki de America Latina). Most of you probably saw the wonderful photos and read the words of many of the teachers who were there, published in the last Journal. We really appreciate the extensive coverage of this event.

So what actually happened? What did we learn? What decisions were made? What are some results we can expect? I’d like to share some of this with you, because this really was a significant event for everyone who participated and for the SAA as a whole.

The PEPSAL followed the two Suzuki festivals in Chile and Peru, meeting in Lima for two days in January. We met at a very nice restaurant, a former hacienda, with a beautiful garden, great food and a conference room perfect for our group. Roberta Centurion did a wonderful job on these practical details, which contributed greatly to the success of the conference.

The Conference opened with a rooftop reception in the beautiful Peruvian summer weather. We had the typical Peruvian “pisco sours”, “chicha morada” and snacks while greeting so many friends from Chile, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Puerto Rico and Brazil. It was fantastic that we had so many SAA representatives there: Board Chair Pat D’Ercole, Executive Officer Pam Brasch, and former SAA presidents Tanya Carey and Dorothy Jones (our Canadian representative!)

The next morning, Roberta opened the conference with words of welcome, followed by the keynote address given by Pat D’Ercole. Pat spoke eloquently on leadership, beginning with the vision a leader needs to have, the integrity that shows up as a match between words and action, a leader’s openness to change and growth, and the commitment to the creation of networks. She closed with the observation that leaders know how to follow and her excitement about the leadership skills she already finds in Suzuki teachers.

We had invited a guest lecturer to talk about communication and were entertained and enlightened with the presentation of Roberto Lerner, a Peruvian psychologist and author. It was interesting that his talk on communication began late due to miscommunication about when he was to give the presentation!

Dorothy Jones spoke about the importance of early education and helped everyone stay centered on the importance of Dr. Suzuki’s revolutionary ideas. She described the Suzuki early education program she supervises and talked about the differences between what they do and what others do.

After lunch, Judi Gowe from Warner Bros. showed a lot of the new materials that they are publishing and talked about the set of materials that Warner Bros. was making available by request for each country’s Suzuki Association library. She also presented each participant with a free CD or cassette and a Book 1 for their instrument. Everyone was very excited and honored by Warner Bros. care and interest in the Latin American programs.

Everyone was very pleased to have Pam Brasch with us. Pam spoke briefly about the formation and function of Suzuki Country Associations and then answered questions from the participants. There was a new understanding of how the organizational aspects of our large Suzuki community have developed and are still “in process.”

The long first day concluded with a forum on parent education with short talks by me, Marilyn O’Boyle from Minnesota, Maria Inez Texeira from Curitiba, Brazil, Ana Maria Wilde, from Tucuman, Argentina and Tanya Carey from Illinois. We each spoke about different kinds of parent education depending on the kind of program we lead.

That evening the coordinators of the conference (Caroline Fraser, Roberta Centurion and myself-plus Pat and Pam) talked over what had happened so far and what still needed to happen. We decided to depart from our original plan for the second day of the conference in order to give the leadership of the Latin American programs an opportunity to work together and come up with a plan for concrete action. So we spent most of the following day doing just that.

Tanya Carey set the tone with a great keynote speech about the Suzuki Philosophy. Then we had a big brainstorming session on concerns, issues and questions that we have been dealing with in the Latin American programs. These were gestalted into four general areas and the group separated into four groups to talk about solutions and suggestions. This was very productive and exciting work as we shared ideas with each other and learned to work together. Each group worked back and forth with Spanish, Portuguese and English languages dancing merrily around the table in wild abandon! We then gathered together after lunch to share our work, add to it, consolidate insights and decide what to do with it! We came up with some longer and some shorter lists, and we decided who needed to take responsibility for some of the actions that were being called for. Finally we came to a consensus on the top three priorities for each of the four areas of concern.

Here are the four areas and the action priorities.

  1. Suggestions to overcome financial challenges in Latin America

    • Start a Latin American Suzuki Foundation.
    • Have a workshop at the next Latin American conference on grant writing.
    • Organize “Musicians Without Borders”- a volunteer activity for North American Suzuki teachers to help developing programs.
    • Other suggestions: Draw up a list of entities that give tax-free donations; organize small fund-raising projects that parents can do to send kids to festivals; develop a “Teacher Development Corps” to train teachers, which would reduce repayment of loans if the teacher teaches in a developing program for a certain time period [A Teacher Corps program is being set up by the SAA as a result of the Shinichi Suzuki Memorial donations—ed.]; find a way to get donated instruments to Latin American programs; every teacher donate $1.00 to start the Latin American Suzuki Foundation (several did so right then!).
  2. Develop good communication between countries and with the SAA.

    • Start a Communication “tree” through e-mail addresses.
    • Publish a directory starting with the data from the Conference.
    • Assign a communication secretary in each country.
    • Other suggestions: Look at the possibility of communicating through the SAA web page; send press releases to local newspapers.
  3. Coordinate relationships between country associations, local groups and the SAA.

  • Form a Latin American Suzuki Teachers Committee.
  • Have representatives from each Latin American country with Suzuki programs represented on the committee. (The committee could be coordinated through the efforts of SAA Latin American liaisons Marilyn O’Boyle, Caroline Fraser and Roberta Centurion.)

IV. Improve the quality and quantity of teacher training in Latin America.

  • Adapt the requirements to become a teacher trainer to the particular reality of Latin America without sacrificing standards and quality.
  • Develop national and international cooperatives to improve the level of training and performance of teachers.
  • Add practice teaching as a requirement of training, supervised by master teachers.
  • Other ideas: Organize independent festivals, which would not offer teacher training, but would give local teachers a way to share ideas; find ways to continue to impact the economically disadvantaged segments of Latin American society.

Naturally this huge workshop took most of the day, but we did also have two more informative forums. Dee Martz from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Blancamaria Montecinos, president of the Chilean Suzuki Association and Annika Petrozzi, president of the Peruvian Suzuki Association talked about “How to organize a Suzuki Festival (Suzuki Institute) .”We also had an interesting forum on “How to Develop a Teacher Training Program,” led by Caroline Fraser from California, Roberta Centurion from Peru, and Sonia Vernaz from Argentina.

Pam Brasch, the final speaker, talked about the history of the SAA, the translation project that the SAA has sponsored for several years and asked for feedback from the participants. There was a lively discussion about the role of the SAA, the kind of help it can offer and what it cannot do. Pam also announced that the subtitled videos of the award winning video, “Nurtured By Love,” will soon be available for each country thanks to a grant from Johnson and Johnson, Puerto Rico.

The conference closed with summaries, reflections and conclusions. There were many warm words thanking everyone for coming. Kike Pinto from Cusco, Peru, referred to Dorothy Jones’ speech when she spoke about all of us growing through the Suzuki Method, like parents and children all growing from experiences together. He also thanked Roberta Centurion for going to Cusco to teach and for giving them the responsibility for making the Suzuki Method “work” in Cusco. Then we all had a festive dinner and a raffle of Suzuki materials which had been donated by Warner Bros. Then we went our separate ways, filled with wonderful memories and the resolve to work together to help realize Dr. Suzuki’s dream of developing the potential of all the children of the world.

The next few months were busy for all of us, but we have followed through with many of the ideas and plans we came up with. First of all we have formed a “Latin American Suzuki Teachers Committee” (Comite de America Latina). This group includes the SAA Latin American Liaisons and the Country Representatives as follows:

Roberta Centurion, Peru; Marianne Dietze, Bolivia; Caroline Fraser, USA; Martin Goldman, Puerto Rico; Odina de Medina, Argentina; Blancamaria Montecinos, Chile; Marilyn O’Boyle, USA; Annika Petrozzi, Peru; Shinobu Saito, Brasil; Pedro Suarez, Colombia; Maria Ignes Texeira, Brasil.

Another exciting result is the scheduling of the first Suzuki Festival in Bogota, Colombia. Pedro Suarez emailed me after returning to Bogota to say that he got home and asked himself why he hadn’t scheduled a Festival for Colombia?! So he did it! Caroline and I will be going in late July for lA courses in violin and piano.

The following report comes from Rebecca McKeown and Pedro Suarez, Colombia:

Yes, We Can!—What PEPSAL Did for Colombia

An old but often true expression “out of sight, out of mind” sums up how one often feels when separated from others at a great distance. Our Colombian Suzuki Association was formed in April of 1997. There were only three of us teachers with registered training, two in violin and one in piano. We saw from the beginning that one of our first priorities had to be to get more teachers trained in order for the Suzuki Method to grow in Colombia and maintain the integrity of the method. But how to do this with just three of us?

Then came PEPSAL, the first meeting of Suzuki teachers from all over Latin America. We met others from Latin America who were at different stages in their own Suzuki programs, some far ahead of us and some behind us. We could share our problems, our solutions, our frustrations, our dreams. And the SAA was there, too! All the way from the U.S. came our Board chair, our executive director, past and present board members, teacher trainers, and even Warner Bros. They shared, they advised, they encouraged, they communicated, they listened. We didn’t feel “out of sight, out of mind” anymore. At PEPSAL we saw what had happened in other countries and came back with a vision for what could happen in our country. We met face to face with those who we knew would support us and help it to happen.

Now, the first Festival Suzuki de Colombia is in process for July 25 -29 this summer. We are working hard and with encouragement and help from those at PEPSAL it is going to happen. The Bogota Philharmonic has suddenly shown interest in being a part of our Festival. There are a number of students and professors from all over Bogota expressing the desire to receive training. Yes, we can -have our own Festival and establish the Suzuki Method in Colombia! We are so grateful to all who worked hard to bring those of us in Latin America together at PEPSAL.

The next report shows the immediate results of Dorothy Jones’ introductory course on Suzuki Early Childhood Education. Dorothy’s presence at the conference was made possible by the support of the ISA Teacher Development Fund.

Early Childhood Music: Course for Expectant Mothers and Mothers with Babies, Lima, Peru

As a direct result of the Early Childhood Course taught by Dorothy Jones this past January during the 14th Suzuki Festival, a group of Suzuki piano teachers met to exchange ideas and develop a course for Early Childhood Music Classes for mothers and babies.

Lucha del Rio, Roxana Del Barco and Cecilia Rodriguez, all Suzuki teachers with experience in Early Childhood Education, began working together in teams in three different areas of Lima: La Molina, Miraflores and San Isidro. It has proven to be a marvelous experience. The results with the babies and mothers has convinced us that we are headed in the right direction, and that the stimulation during these early years will produce happy, sensitive children, who will be better prepared for future learning activities not only in music but for learning in general.

Thank you, Dorothy!

In addition, here are some details of courses in Latin America in 1999.

  • June 3-10, Tucuman, Argentina, contact Ana Maria Wilde
  • July 19-23, Cordoba, Argentina, violin 3,contact Odina de Medina
  • July 25-29, Bogota, Colombia, 1A, contact Pedro Suarez
  • August 9-13, La Plata, Argentina, 1A, contact Graciela Vides
  • August 14,15, Cordoba, Argentina, Clases en grupo (piano) contact Sonia Vernaz.
  • August 16-19, Cordoba, Argentina, 3 piano, contact Sonia Vernaz
  • August 20-24, Buenos Aires, Argentina, to be confirmed
  • August 25-29, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, lA, lB (piano), contact Marianne Dietze,
  • October, Brazil, 1A, lB (piano) to be confirmed, contact Maria Antonieta Pinheiro,

For more information, contact Caroline or Marilyn

We are also pleased to announce the dates for the annual Suzuki Festivals of Peru and Chile for the year 2000:

  • January 5-10 Lima, Peru, contact Annika Petrozzi
  • January 12-18 Santiago, Chile, contact Blancamaria Montecinos.

We’ll keep all of you informed as plans continue to develop and progress is made!