SAA Staff at the 2012 conference

SAA Staff at the 2012 conference. Alexa Lister, Beth Stanley, Anita Hamilton, Jenny Ferenc, Whitney Kelley, Libby Felts, and Deb Yamashita

Are you considering making 2014 the year you first attend an SAA Conference? We assure you, you won’t be disappointed—SAA Conferences are not to be missed!

Some of our volunteer coordinators for the 2014 Conference have shared favorite memories of their first SAA Conference experiences. We hope you plan to make your own in 2014!

What’s my favorite memory from the 2012 conference—my first year? It was wonderful to finally meet in person all the ASJ contributors I’d worked with since joining the SAA staff the previous January. Meeting them and seeing their energy and passion for the Suzuki method reinvigorated my own spark. Or maybe it was the student performances! No—it was definitely meeting all those incredible Suzuki students, who not only play music at a high level of ability but are also just great kids having a blast!

Do you have a favorite conference memory? Share in the comments! It’s totally okay if you can’t choose just one.

Ruth Engle Larner, 2014 Conference Coordinator

What do I remember from my first SAA Conference? Why do I keep attending the conference? Why have I volunteered to help put this conference together?

I attended my first SAA Conference around thirty years ago, as a graduate student with John Kendall. What a great way to be welcomed into the world of Suzuki teachers! I remember being impressed by the sheer number and variety of sessions being offered and how much I learned during the all-too-short weekend.

I have continued to go to the SAA Conferences ever since then. I relish the camaraderie I’ve developed with fellow teachers and thirst for the educational boost I always get from both keynote speakers and attending sessions.

I started volunteering to help at the conferences many years ago, first by just showing up and asking what I could do. Over the subsequent years, I got to know people on the conference planning teams, and on the SAA Staff by being there to help out. Not only did this widen my circle of acquaintances even more, it also was a wonderful feeling to contribute some of my own effort into this event which has given me so much.

Kevin S. Hart, Guitar Coordinator

Attending the conference is always a valuable experience for me. In addition to hearing what my colleagues in the Suzuki guitar world are thinking about (both in formal presentations and over lunch), I enjoy dropping in on the general sessions and presentations by teachers of other instruments. I also find keynote speakers such as The Talent Code author Daniel Coyle to be educational and inspiring. I can think of few other opportunities that offer so much under one roof at one time.

Ellen Berry, Piano Assistant Coordinator

Why do I eagerly attend every SAA conference? After each one, here is what I come home with:

  • A renewed sense of enthusiasm for teaching. Being immersed in an environment for four or five days where I am surrounded by so many experienced and passionate Suzuki colleagues helps me “catch” their energy.
  • Great ideas for my studio management. How can I involve my parent community even more? How can I make sure my studio runs smoothly and efficiently? What can I do to build a community feeling amongst my students? Questions such as these are explored during formal sessions and in casual chats with colleagues.
  • New teaching tools. When I attend a session at any music conference, I tell myself that if I pick up at least one new teaching idea, I’ve been to a good session. At the SAA conferences, however, I always come home with a great collection of techniques to add to my teaching toolbox.
  • A greater perspective of the Suzuki community. At my first SAA conference, I could hardly believe the number of participants gathered in the hotel ballroom for keynote speeches, the banquet, and other events. All the Suzuki instruments were represented, and there were delegates from all the Americas and beyond. When I returned home I was excited to tell my studio families about the extensive Suzuki community of which they were a part.
  • Inspiration. The concerts at the SAA conferences are always wonderful. Students from many different programs happily perform at a high level, as do the clinicians and guest artists.*

I hope you, too, will take advantage of this great opportunity for growth, enrichment, and enjoyment!

Jessica Meyer, Chamber Music Co-Coordinator

I have been attending conferences for more than ten years and I value them highly for several reasons. First, I value the new teaching tools and ideas at all of the different presentations. It is enlightening and inspiring at a time when my teaching is ready for it. Second, being of the generation who was not lucky enough to have worked with Dr. Suzuki directly, I really enjoy the way his philosophy and legacy is kept alive through different stories and presentations at the conference. Third, the high level of playing of all of the students who perform at the conference is really exciting to see and motivating to my teaching. I am very proud to be a Suzuki teacher. Last, and definitely not least, I love the chance to reconnect with people I have met along my Suzuki journey. Last conference I met up with my childhood piano teacher, who I have not seen since I was five. She saw my bio in the program and recognized me. I have also made contact with childhood friends who I had not seen since high school. The Suzuki world is such a small and wonderful place; I really enjoy the connections facilitated by the conference.

James Hutchins, Violin Coordinator

I teach out of my home, which I love, because I can be my own boss and be there with my family. The downside is that I don’t get to interact with colleagues on a regular basis. My best chances to do that are at institutes and the SAA conference. One of the best things from the conference is just being able to hang out and share with my Suzuki buddies from around the Americas. That combines with the new ideas I gain by attending interesting sessions presented by teachers from all over the globe. These benefits allow me to bring back so much to my home studio.

David Evenchick, Cello Coordinator

Like in any family or organization, it is the interaction between people that holds the community together. The SAA Conference provides us with an exciting way to get away from our studios and locales to communally participate in stirring the larger pot that makes up the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Volunteering and participating in the conference has taught me much about the importance of our cause and the amazingly diverse skills of our members.

I have always come from the conference with the joy of catching up with old friends, making new friends, and finding new recipes for helping the learning experience be more effective, efficient and joyful for my students.
I’ll be there, and I hope to see you as well.

Beth Goldstein-McKee, Cello Assistant Coordinator

I have attended every SAA biennial conference except for the first. For me, it is the ideal way to learn and is essential for my growth. For the Suzuki community, I have seen how we develop a common ground of knowledge and experiences. The conference events and sessions, the richness of us being in one place together, and the many inspirational moments deepen our understanding of how we can be better teachers for each of our students as well being nurtured in what we do and extending support to each other. Looking forward to the 2014 Conference and to seeing you there!

Megan Titensor, SYOA Co-Assistant Coordinator

My first conference experience was in 2010. It started as an excuse to meet up with old friends from teacher training courses, but quickly became an eye-opening and inspiring weekend. I had a great time reconnecting with friends, but soon discovered that our shared network of friends and colleagues blossomed as we all got acquainted with one another’s favorite trainers, mentors, and colleagues. Not only did the conference prove to be a phenomenal educational experience, but I became recharged from socializing and “talking shop” over shared professional challenges and successes. I’m perpetually hooked on the stimulating experience that the SAA Conference provides, and I highly recommend it.

Zachary Peter Sweet, International Ensembles Co-Assistant Coordinator

Two years ago I attended my first Suzuki Association of the Americas conference. I was blown away by how quickly I was welcomed by communities not specific to my area of expertise. Not only did I meet many people I had read about, but I made friends who continually inspire me. I left feeling an intense sense of pride and renewed dedication and would not dream of missing the 2014 conference or the ones to follow.

Reagan Brasch, SYOA Co-Coordinator

My first conference was in 1998 in Chicago. I had been teaching for exactly two years, so everything was very new. The organization I taught for, Denver Talent Education (DTE), gave all the teachers a scholarship to attend the conference. There were many great lectures and performances, but what I remember most is how all of the DTE teachers bonded together in a way that we could not at home. As a result, we got to know each other’s teaching philosophy better. We also made great connections with other teachers that continue to this day. For me, this was connecting with my now-husband, Blake.

Linda Armstrong Rekas, International Ensembles Co-Assistant Coordinator

There are so many reasons why I enjoy attending the conference every two years, but the primary reason is that I feel that I owe it to my students to keep up to date with what is happening in the Suzuki world. As the world changes, I need to stay up-to-date with the new research and ideas that are being developed, and what better way to do that than to attend the biennial conference where the movers and shakers convene? I never return home without being reinvigorated with new ideas or viewing old ideas in new ways. Of course, catching up with my friends from around the world is a treat, too, and the icing on the cake is getting to play viola ensembles with fellow alto clef lovers!

Ann Montzka-Smelser, Violin Assistant Coordinator

As Suzuki teachers we give so much of ourselves, our time and our energy. I feel the SAA biennial conference is a time to get fueled back up with new ideas and inspiration. Teachers need Suzuki conferences for the same reasons parents and students need Suzuki institutes: to know we are stronger together and believe in the same dreams.

Lisa Guttenberg Orfaly, SYOA Co-Assistant Coordinator

The SAA Conference provides a renewal and inspiration unlike any other teacher development. I attended my first conference as a graduate student and will not forget how much it opened my eyes and my heart to the path ahead as a Suzuki teacher. I am reminded each conference since then how truly special it is to be part of the Suzuki community.

Wan Tsai Chen, Suzuki Early Childhood Education Coordinator

My first SAA conference was in 2000. Since then, I have participated in every biennial conference because I love to be in the community where everyone shares the same vision for the beauty of the human being from before and beyond the age of zero, supports and applauds what we do in our own community, and feels nurtured and has a sense of belonging.

We speak the same language! I hope to meet my old friends and get to know new ones in 2014!

What are your favorite memories from your first SAA Conference or Leadership Retreat? We want to hear from you! Share with us in the comments!