The first time I heard about Mrs. Mary Waldo’s music program was during a youth choir rehearsal at our church, St. Luke’s Episcopal.* Our parish deacon and youth choir director said that she knew a great music teacher who was offering scholarship opportunities for recorder lessons. She said that she wanted to recommend some of our Sunday school students for the scholarship. After rehearsal, my son Valarian and I wanted to know more. Following a few emails and telephone calls, we met Mrs. Waldo. She has been encouraging and ever so patient since day one.

Valarian is recently seven years old. He has been working with Mrs. Waldo for about a year and a half now. Initially I thought I would be dropping him off and coming back to pick him up from music lessons, but I soon realized that with the Suzuki method, there is no such thing as dropping off. As a parent participant, I have been able to learn systematically with my son. He learns a new song, I learn a new song. He learns the music scale, and I learn the music scale. The journey has been fun and enlightening to say the least. Mrs. Waldo made sure that we have a CD to listen to the songs at home or in the car. She also provides practice materials and activities for children Valarian’s age. Those things really help to keep him excited and involved.

I have thoroughly enjoyed learning to play the recorder with my son. Mrs. Waldo is very innovative and in tune with the way children think, behave, and learn. She is never short-tempered and she never says “no” or “stop.” Whenever Valarian gets off track, she just redirects. She is consistent and always kind and patient with both of us. Sometimes it is difficult for me to catch on to learning a new skill. If a certain technique is not working she almost effortlessly switches to a different approach. Her frequent phrases are “let’s try something different” or “I have a game that we can play.” As the parent, I have been able to glean so much from her—not just about music, but about parenting, and life in general. She makes learning feel easy even when it is not. She challenges us both, while also allowing us to practice and learn at our own pace. She reminds us that practices can be brief, and she offers ideas to make them fun. Most recently, we have played mini performances for grandparents and even for our dog. Valarian thinks it is hilarious when the pup howls along—totally off key, of course. Mrs. Waldo suggested that we video Valerian performing some of his songs. Doing so has been really eye-opening. It started as a way to prepare for a virtual Suzuki recorder performance, but it has been helpful in other ways too. When Valarian watches himself play, he can clearly see where he may have missed an opportunity to breath or where he made a mistake along the way.

I want my son have exposure to many different things. Making sure that my children are well rounded is important to me. I want them to learn about different instruments, sounds, languages, cultures, foods, and more. My plan is not to force these things on them, but I want them to be curious about the world. Suzuki recorder lessons are helping to pique that curiosity. These music lessons can be a catalyst for so much more, and I am excited to see what comes next.

St Luke’s Episcopal Church is a historically African American parish in Columbia, SC.