“‘Listo, ya!” “San, hai!” “Ready, go!” Spanish, Japanese or English-the result is the same for the Suzuki teacher-a signal to begin. I had the need to add some Spanish to my teaching vocabulary last January when I had the opportunity to teach in Suzuki Festivals in Lima, Peru, and Santiago, Chile. While the violin and piano programs had been started and nurtured by teacher trainers Marilyn O’Boyle and Caroline Blondet, there had been no cello teacher trainer in either country. Marilyn did as many violin teachers may do, out of necessity, and began some instruction in cello and some training for the teachers who were there. The SAA made my trip possible by a grant to help with my airfare, which I very much appreciated. As I left San Francisco on January 2nd, I was feeling a big responsibility to Dr. Suzuki and the cello program in these countries to present the method as best I could.
“FESTIVAL”-What a good way to describe the experience of learning and making music together! Doesn’t it sound like it would be more fun to go to a “festival” than an “institute?” The festival director in Lima, where the program was begun ten years ago, was Roberta Centurion, a transplanted Pennsylvanian and Suzuki piano teacher. I teased her that in my hurried” homework” for this trip I had read that in Latin American cultures it was customary to have breakfast from 8:30 to 10:00 AM and a lunch/siesta break for about two hours in the afternoon. My schedule for the festival had no such timing with classes from 8:00 to 5:00, a two-hour break, and evening events. Supper came after that!
Activities began January 3rd, with a play-in that evening. The program was small enough to have an “icebreaker” activity for parents and teachers to become better acquainted. The students had classes on Thursday and Friday, but only teacher training classes were held on the weekend. Students returned for more classes on Monday. I thought this schedule was a good idea to help avoid the fatigue that sometimes hits with the five-day consecutive student schedule.
Classes were held at the Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an American school with a beautiful campus in Lima. For reasons you will see later, I was grateful that this school has its own well. The only reminder that we were in difficult political times was the heavy security at the entrance to the school with the private guard signing in each carload at the strong front gate.
A familiar person is a welcome sight in a foreign situation. At the 1985 International Conference in Edmonton, Canada, I had met Annika Petrozzi, a cello teacher from Lima (and now the mother of eight!).A fine performer with a background of European training, Annika has an excellent group of students started in Lima. We began the warm-up class together with Annika helping with the basics of the situation, namely, translating my English into idiomatic Spanish. As I started, I thought, ”Well, let’s begin with what we have in common,” so I played the introduction to Twinkle A. What a relief to hear the students readily respond after the introduction! The parents were eager to help, also, so there really was no need for concern on my part. The students were a delight tome for their attention, concentration and courtesy. I was happy to find that they carried out their “homework” and were prepared so well for the next day of class. Some of the teenagers were at the Book5 level so the program had the models of very fine advanced students for the beginners to see.
The teacher training in Book 1A Philosophy had up to 24 teachers with more teachers attending for later courses. I was so impressed by their earnest desire to learn as much as possible in a very short time. A young teacher who wanted to learn the piano method but had no piano of his own very carefully practiced in any classroom that was available. One teacher traveled 420 km (262.5 miles) to attend. Other members of the class included a choral teacher, who was delighted when she found that the method and philosophy of Dr. Suzuki was similar to her own ideas in music education which she had been pursuing in an isolated situation. There was a young bass player who was quite interested in developments in that area. (In recent correspondence I have learned that approximately forty teachers have pledged to join ISA.)
Evening events included a faculty concert attended by the American ambassador and his wife, who is quite interested in the Suzuki program. The “fun night” could have been in North America with the exception of skits in Spanish and some wonderful playing of Peruvian folk songs on violin. All too soon it was time for the final concert of the fifth festival in Lima. This was held at sunset at a band shell on the Costa Verde, an ocean side strip with rather steep cliffs covered with greenery. The teachers’ orchestra accompanied seven students performing the Bach Double concerto, first movement; nine students playing the first movement of the Vivaldi a minor; two advanced cellists playing the Vivaldi Sonata in e minor, and Joseph McSpadden’s arrangements of the Kuhlau and Clementi works with two pianists per movement. Two advanced violin students played the Bach a minor Concerto, first movement.
All who wished could attend a dinner following the concert. If anyone had told me a year ago that on January 10, 1990, I would be in Lima, Peru, eating in a Chinese restaurant while Beatles music was played on the background speakers, I would have thought it someone’s fantastic imagination! I certainly felt the closeness of the Suzuki ”family” that is building worldwide. I cannot write an article on my experience in South America without mentioning the conditions I found in my first visit to a Third World country. While the Chilean economy is in comparison quite stable, the Suzuki families in Peru are certainly enduring difficult economic times. During my home stay with a professional, upper middleclass family, I became aware of some of the problems of living in Lima. Fifty-two power towers in the mountains were detonated last November by a group that desires economic and political collapse. The result is intermittent electrical service at random hours. One morning the electricity went out at 7:00 AM and did not return until evening. On the second day of the festival, no water came out of the tap for a morning shower. That was the situation for forty-eight hours in my home. Instead of greeting a teacher with ”How are you?” the question of the day was, “Do you have water?” The 1989 inflation rate was 2700%, according to the people. Prices are given in American dollars because the local currency is fluctuating daily. I can only admire the Peruvian parents who were managing to deal with these problems and giving their children music lessons as well.
This economic situation also means that the Suzuki teacher is greatly affected. In the town of Trujillo, one teacher was receiving $3.00 per month for lessons. A cassette price of $12.95 and $6.95 for music is so expensive for these students. Instruments and strings are difficult to obtain and maintain. Some violin students were playing on unraveled strings, ones that we might throwaway when they become the least bit false. I hope that we in North America can work with our colleagues in the Southern Hemisphere in these areas that we take for granted.
We boarded the plane on January 11th for the three-hour flight to Santiago. It is not easy for Peruvians to leave the country so we were relieved when Roberta, who is married to a Peruvian, and Benito Palomino, a native, were allowed through emigration. At the Santiago airport, a group of violinists, wearing Festival T-shirts and led by the teacher, Hatsuho Kuwayama, greeted us like VIP’s, causing quite a stir! We were taken to the director’s home for a brief rest and then to Nido de Aguilas (the nest of eagles), the International School with a campus of 130 acres and beautiful facilities in the Andean foothills of Santiago. I looked forward each morning of the festival to my daily commute with the view of the snow-capped higher peaks in the distance.
The festival schedule for this its second year included a weekend for teacher training and Monday-Friday student classes. Since the daily concerts were held at 5:30 PM, we were able to have a little more leisure time in the evenings. Faculty concert and “fun night” were augmented by a guest artist concert presenting local musicians who were not all involved in Suzuki teaching. That is a great way to introduce other musicians to the activities of the Suzuki community plus enrich the scope of the students’ experience. The director of the Santiago Festival was Mrs. Tillie Roberts, a classroom teacher and Suzuki parent, who has carried on the direction of the program after Marilyn O’Boyle returned to the U.S. last year. I was impressed that there were many faculty members of the International School who were donating their time (and their summer vacation!) to work at the Festival.
At the orientation assembly there was, as in Lima, an eager group of teachers for the training sessions. I worked with five cellists during the weekend, including my hostess, Sra. Jimena Bravo, a Philharmonic cellist who was responsible for the fine training of the students. Another trainee was a teacher of elementary school music using a unique system of music education. A young professional cellist whose father studied in the violin training class completed the core of the group.
As an ideal situation, I had two eight-year-old boys who were beginners with about three previous lessons. They were marvelous students and gave the trainees a chance to see my initial stages of cello teaching. I was so fortunate that they were eager and very studious. I was delighted to present them at the end of the Festival, playing Twinkle A at a recital. The final concert included three violin students on the Bach a minor Concerto; five playing the Bach Double; and six on the Vivaldi a minor with the teachers’ orchestra. The three most advanced cello students played the first movement of the Breval Sonata.
There were two special events for me at the Chilean festival. One was a faculty “tea” at a revolving restaurant with the International School as host. During “Saluds”-a toast is given at every sip of your drink-a most moving toast was given by Roberta to the furthering of the Peruvian-Chilean cooperation through the Suzuki movement.
The other event was a party given by Sony Corporation Chile to announce the recipient of a beca, or scholarship, to send one Chilean to train in Matsumoto for one year beginning in April, 1990. Letters were read from Dr. Suzuki and from Mr. Masaru Ibuka, founder and honorary chairman of Sony Corporation, Japan. The winner, Sr. Lautero Rojas, is a member of the faculty of the university and symphony. He spoke of his honor at being selected but also of the great responsibility that he knew awaited him when he returned to further the Suzuki Method in Chile. At this same event Mrs. Tillie Roberts graciously stepped down as the acting director of the Santiago Suzuki program. The teachers who gathered at the Festival had seen the need to form a professional organization. So the seed planted by Marilyn O’Boyle in Santiago has begun to send out a tiny shoot.
It was thrilling to see the influence of these pioneer teachers working with the Peruvian Chilean teachers. From one person’s encouragement has grown a dedicated, selfless group of teachers and parents who have been touched by the work of Dr. Suzuki. One of the Peruvian teachers, Benito Palomino, who always had loving encouragement for all of the students, expressed his feelings in a letter at the end of the Santiago Festival. I think this says it all:
“Through the activities of the Festival, music has united our hearts. The happiness, the enjoyment have filled our lives, and the hope for a better world of justice and love makes us put a personal effort to accomplish this.”