My nine-year-old daughter, Natalie, and I attended the Hartt Suzuki Institute this summer for the first time. What a rewarding experience it was for both of us! Intense, but also intensely FUN. And nothing short of transformational.

From the moment we arrived for our first class, we felt the palpable excitement in the air. There was an unmistakable sense that we—students, parents, and teachers—were together embarking on a shared journey of growth and discovery. Committing ourselves fully to this adventure, we opened our hearts and minds to the possibilities that lay ahead.

Natalie’s gifted teachers served as our guides on this journey. Their ability to engage and inspire the students was truly extraordinary. Natalie’s master class and repertoire class teacher, Christie Felsing, instilled in her an incredible focus, patience, and discipline, which paved the way for remarkable progress. Her inventive teaching methods and cheerful demeanor enlivened the rigorous work the students were undertaking. (Need to do 80 pinky taps? How about counting them in Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and Zulu?) In orchestra, Kirsten Marshall challenged her young students not only to master the notes and nuances of the new pieces they studied, but to play as one, creating a single, meaningful work of art. As the ensemble completed its final rehearsal, jaws dropped among the parents around me. Could this be the same group that had entered the rehearsal room just a few days earlier?

We parents had the chance to experience the thrill of ensemble ourselves in chorus, where we came together with our children jovially in song under the dynamic direction of Emmett Drake. The unity cultivated in these rehearsals was mirrored in the sense of camaraderie and shared mission that the institute fostered among its participants. We worked together, supported each other’s efforts, celebrated each other’s progress, and formed new friendships. In a lighthearted “shared mission” of their own, giddy gaggles of youngsters flitted through the corridors of the institute searching for a series of hidden clues, which would ultimately lead them to piece together an inspirational quote from Dr. Suzuki; one read, “To make a resolution and act accordingly is to live with hope.”

This very spirit of positivity—and possibility—filled these halls: the sense that, with concentrated and sustained effort, any goal was within reach. This energized our daily practice sessions, which Natalie and I approached with a renewed sense of intention and purpose. Tucked away in our little practice room, free from the usual distractions and interruptions, we found an amazing practice groove. Working together in this spirit, we forged a stronger practice partnership that will endure well beyond the institute.

So deeply immersed in this transcendent experience, we hardly noticed the days flying by; before we knew it, it was time for the final playdown. It suddenly dawned on us that our journey was coming to a most definitely unwelcome end. Reassurances were quickly made that we would return to the institute next summer. Tearful goodbyes were said. Reentering the world of the mundane, we vowed to keep the spirit of the institute alive in our hearts as we venture forth on our own path of discovery.