On January 1st, violinist/violist Dee Martz, guitarist Alan Johnston and I met in the Chicago airport on the first leg of our journey to Peru and then Chile for the Latin American Suzuki Festivals. In Miami, we connected with pianist Caroline Fraser and then finally had the whole North American contingent together in Lima, early in the morning on January 2nd! Caroline was joined by two other pianists, Bruce Anderson and Doris Koppelman, and our violin team was augmented by Craig Timmerman in Chile. Tanya Carey also joined us in Chile, working with Peruvian and Chilean cellists, before going on to Brazil for the Festival there. June Warhoftig gave a wonderful beginning for another new instrument in Chile, working with nine flute teachers. Here are some reflections written by members of our team, after an interesting three weeks in South America.

Doris Koppelman

I arrived in Lima for the festival, after a few exciting days in Cusco and Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was spectacular and unforgettable, all the more so because I was there just when a rock slide prevented the usual bus trip up the mountain. Instead, a two-hour hike straight up a steep, rocky path at that high altitude was the only way to get there. After some hesitation and thanks to a very helpful guide, I’m proud to say I did it. (Going down in a mud-causing drizzle was also memorable.) And it was well worth it: even though I did have to throw out the white shoes and white track suit I had worn. (Well, who comes to teach somewhere with hiking equipment or the expectation of using it?)

At any rate, being in Peru was inspiring, as always. The Peruvian Suzuki folks don’t believe in “can’t.” Despite the poor economy, difficult conditions in the country, and terrible import duties, they go forward with enthusiasm and commitment to high standards. There aren’t enough trained teachers and opportunities to study with teacher trainers? The teachers teach each other: those who are further ahead share what they know with those less experienced. There aren’t enough excellent pianos? I didn’t see any grand pianos in Peru, but I heard a lot of good playing. Some students in remote areas only have occasional access to a piano at all, and practice on cardboard keyboards. One of those students played beautifully in the final concert. ”When love is deep, much can be accomplished. “

When I returned from South America last year and reported to my local association, we decided to make the Suzuki Association of Peru the focus and benefactor of our bi-annual5-piano concert in February. We included South American music in the repertoire, often accompanied by dance or percussion; we had a children’s choir singing Spanish language songs; we were thrilled to have two students come from Peru to participate in the concert along with a Peruvian/San Diego student; and we closed the concert with everyone singing our “international anthem,” Twinkle Little Star, in Spanish and Quechua. It’s wonderful to remind ourselves and our communities that we are part of a world-wide movement and that through music we can understand, appreciate and help each other.

Dee Martz

Because I have been fortunate enough to live and work on several continents, I know that in all corners of the world parents love their children and want them to have healthy and happy lives. I know that parents feel a responsibility to provide an excellent education for their children. I know that all over the world people become teachers because they want to help parents educate future generations. Why then was I so surprised that the atmosphere at the XI international Suzuki Festival in Lima, Peru, was so much like that at summer institutes in North America?

Of course there were some memorable things about this particular Festival. I) Because of the recent political uncertainties there were guards at the gates of the school to check identification papers every day. Although as North Americans we take peace for granted, the Peruvian families regularly express their gratitude for peace and for the improving economic situation. 2) There were at least 50 students studying Flauta Dulce (recorder). What a wonderfully sweet sound when they all played together! 3) The rice at lunch was a different color every day. Have you ever had purple rice? 4) The Suzuki Method is really growing in Peru. There were about 50 teachers in the Suzuki Philosophy class who are just beginning their journey in the Suzuki Method. 5) Many of the string students have their lessons in groups as part of their required school curriculum at private schools. This happens even when the parents cannot come for lessons and makes it very challenging to get the full benefit of the Suzuki triangle concept. 6) Greetings include a kiss on the cheek, both for hello and good-bye. The Peruvian people are open and warm-hearted, so this seems very natural. What a nice custom! 7) Although I heard a lot of wonderful music, there are NO VIOLA STUDENTS yet.

On another part of our trip, we saw the Suzuki principle of “nurtured by love” in action in a completely unexpected place. About an hour’s drive from Lima, up mountains that look like piles of sand and gravel completely without vegetation, we arrived at a home for boys who previously lived with the gangs of drug-addicted children on the streets of Lima. This place, CIMA, in Cieneguilla, Peru, looked to me more like a compound of walled chicken coops than a home for young boys.

Upon entering the main building I was immediately struck by the easy interaction between the adults and boys in the room. Each boy got the undivided attention he desired when he had a question or just wanted a hug. But in addition to the love and respect flowing in this community, a lot is expected of these boys and a lot is accomplished by them.

We got our instruments out and played some Suzuki tunes and a movement of a Boccherini quintet for guitar and strings. The boys listened intently to us and then it was their turn to play. I should explain that some mountain Indian musicians came to this home specifically to enhance the lives of these boys through music and in the process develop pride in their Andean cultural heritage. The boys are good performers and the music was entrancing. The sense of accomplishment and self-esteem in these young musicians was palpable. Listening to them was a powerfully moving experience.

The Suzuki Method is more than music education because it is based on the ideas that everyone can learn and with love much can be accomplished. As members of the Suzuki community we know that it is possible to change the world one child at a time. Although the boys in Cieneguilla, Peru, are not experiencing Suzuki style music education, their lives have been changed forever because they are experiencing Suzuki style life education.

I have a special place in my heart for the people of Peru. It gives me great joy to know that the Suzuki philosophy is thriving in this wonderful part of the world.

Alan Johnston

Going to South America for a second straight year to work with teachers and students was challenging but very rewarding. Seeing the improvements many of them had made during the interim made all the hard work worthwhile. There were some new teachers in attendance this year in both Peru and Chile; however, there were also some who had not returned. Some had encountered financial hardships which made it impractical to return. A few others had abandoned the method for a variety of reasons including dissatisfaction with the repertoire or strong resistance to the method on the part of their colleagues and administrators.

I found some cases where Peruvian and Chilean teachers remarked that there was something in their respective cultures that kept the method from being as successful in their countries as it was in the US. If only they knew the trouble many of us take to educate parents. In these cases, I just tried to instill in the teachers an unwavering confidence that it is okay to insist on high quality and that it is essential to educate the parents at the beginning even if it means scaring off a few. It is probably more crucial with guitar than with any other Suzuki instrument that the parents be clear about what classical music is. Otherwise many assume that, after learning a few melodies, we will get around to strumming some good old folk songs and leading a sing-along.

In Peru, the most encouraging thing this year was that two of the long-time Suzuki guitar teachers had decided to open their own school in Lima. This will allow them the freedom to administer a successful program. Prior to this, they were frequently making house calls via public transportation and as a result were able to hold precious few group lessons. Also there were two dedicated new teachers who had come from faraway towns. These teachers have agreed to travel some twelve hours by bus twice a year to Lima to stay in touch with the other teachers in the country. It will be interesting to see if these fledgling programs thrive.

In Chile, perhaps the most interesting development is that some of the serious professional classical guitarists in Santiago have taken a sincere interest in the method. These newcomers, as well as the teachers who have been at it for a while, are helping to create fertile ground for Suzuki guitar in South America.

Craig Timmerman

What a joy it was to see so many students, parents, and teachers that I met last year in South America and at the World Conference in Dublin. It is wonderful to see the excitement, joy, and eagerness that the people in South America have for the Suzuki Method. These people are Suzuki pioneers in their countries. Yes, there have been programs in some isolated places for more than 20 years; but for the most part the whole idea is new on the continent.

I had teachers from at least four different countries in the class, and I got much insight from them. I began to understand many of the difficulties they face:

  • getting the Suzuki Method accepted by the established musical Community

  • providing emotional support and advice for pioneer teachers in remote areas, hundreds of miles from another Suzuki teacher

  • importing instruments and supplies

  • getting printed materials in Spanish, materials that give parents and teachers insight and encouragement

  • developing cooperation and leadership among teachers

  • providing model students to encourage parents and inspire Students

Many of these things are difficulties that we faced in the US 25-30 years ago, so we know through experience that all of these problems can eventually be solved. Hopefully though, because of the experience that US visiting teachers have had in dealing with these issues, they will be solved more quickly and effectively.

It was a great joy to see that the Suzuki Method works well in South American countries, despite the differences in cultures and families. We could see the same life-changing education-where families learn new ways to relate to and help each other grow. It is sometimes easy to forget the dramatic impact Suzuki education has had in the US; but seeing the development in its early stages serves to re-ignite the passion to help others understand the importance of this kind of education.

As you can see, all of us had a great and inspiring time. These Festivals have been going on for about ten years now and give teachers and students a wonderful opportunity for training and sharing. They are also a place for networking and planning. There are several ongoing projects that were developed through discussion and suggestions from the teachers in these countries. As liaison to the Latin American Suzuki programs, I am assisting the SAA in putting the ideas generated there into form. This year the SAA produced the second issue of translated articles from the American Suzuki Journal, with translations by teachers in Latin America, as well as a directory of Suzuki teachers in Latin America. These were presented to representatives from Chile, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia, to be copied and distributed in each country. The SAA also sent a letter to the Latin American teachers inviting them to the Conference in Chicago and offering scholarships to cover the registration costs for representatives from Latin American countries. There are also scholarships for teachers to attend US summer Suzuki Institutes this year, for teachers coming from countries with at least four active SAA members. Each country association will decide which teacher will receive the scholarship. The Conference in Chicago will be a good opportunity for teachers from these countries to network and help everyone come to consensus regarding the best way for the SAA and the Latin American country associations to work together for the benefit of the Suzuki movement.