This month’s SAA Volunteer Spotlight features Jennifer Visick, a moderator of the Suzuki Xchange, the SAA’s chat community.
Tell us about yourself—your studio, your background, and how you became involved with Suzuki.
I grew up taking Suzuki violin lessons because a friend of my mother’s convinced her to enroll me at age three and a half. I made the switch to study viola when I was in high school, ended up as a BM viola performance major in college and started teaching music at that time. Soon after graduating, I took a Suzuki teacher training course, which really opened my eyes to all the “behind-the-scenes” planning and work that went into the Suzuki lessons I had taken as a child. I got a lot out of the part of Suzuki teacher training that involved observing other teachers, and I continued taking Suzuki training courses whenever I could.
Right now, I work as a viola and violin teacher in the Pasadena Suzuki Music Program (PSMP)—it’s the same Suzuki program that I grew up in as a child! I love that I’ve been able to come full circle and help that program continue to teach the next generation of young families to learn to make music “in the Suzuki style.”
In addition to working with PSMP group classes, I’ve got about ten viola and violin students in my studio right now, but also about 120 public school students in a beginning violin (Suzuki in the Schools-style) program that I’m running with another PSMP teacher this spring. I also coach/conduct a youth orchestra once a week and round out my teaching by volunteering as a Sunday School teacher at my church.
For those who don’t know—what is the Suzuki Xchange?
The Suzuki Xchange forum is a place online where we can discuss all manner of things related to Suzuki teaching and learning. That includes a lot of specifically Suzuki things but also topics that are more generally related to music, teaching, or raising kids. Right now it’s divided into three sections—a general forum, a teacher forum for posts or questions directed at teachers, and a parent forum for posts or questions directed at Suzuki parents.
How did you get involved with the forum?
I saw the link to the forum on the SAA website and started reading some of the discussion threads. Of course I have my own opinions and experiences and couldn’t just read for very long—I had to put in my two cents, so I created a username and started posting.
I had been visiting the forum pretty regularly and I noticed that there was an inappropriate post not related to Suzuki music teaching, so I sent a private message about it to Gabriel Villasurda (the only moderator at the time) and he suggested that I ask Jenny (the SAA webmaster) about becoming a moderator myself.
Describe your responsibilities for this position.
A forum moderator’s job is basically to make sure that all the posts are appropriate, on-topic, and posted in the right forum.
I log in to the forum on a regular basis and read all the new posts. It’s a pretty low-volume forum, so this is not a huge time commitment. We moderate posts from new users for a while, so if anyone who’s just registered a new username has posted something, I read through it and either approve it (then it gets posted publicly) or disapprove it. Sometimes people just register in order to post spam (ads), and I ban them from ever posting again.
Very occasionally, a user who’s not being moderated will post something that doesn’t seem quite appropriate and I’ll discuss it with the other moderator and the admin, we might edit, delete or move the post, and one of us will send a private message to the poster explaining what the moderators decided and why their post was edited or deleted or moved, and letting them know what to change for any future posts so it doesn’t happen again. We don’t have an official set of posting guidelines (yet), so we have spent some time creating precedents for the forum if a new situation arises.
Why did you want to volunteer for the SAA?
It seemed like there was a need and that the job was something I’d enjoy doing.
What do you gain from the experience?
I like the fact that we can keep a family-friendly Suzuki forum online—I learn a lot from the other posters and get to share my experiences. As in any internet forum, the regular posters sort of get to know one another a little bit, and it’s a great way of connecting with the wider Suzuki community and sharing ideas, questions, problems, solutions and sympathy across time zones. I suppose it brings us a little tiny bit of the kind of idea exchange that goes on at a Suzuki Institute or conference, without the travel and expense!
What would you say to others considering volunteering for the SAA?
If there’s a place where what you like to do, what you’re good at, and the time you’ve got available all coincide, do it!