Students by the pond at Virgina Suzuki Institute

Students by the pond at Virgina Suzuki Institute

Image by Jan McClure

As I write, I am sitting near the duck pond on the beautiful Emory and Henry College Campus, near Abingdon, Virginia. Another Summer Suzuki Institute has come to a close, leaving me with wonderful memories – gifts too precious to be forgotten.

As I think back over the years, I realize how meaningful the Institute experience is to both my family and me. For some twenty years, I have attended Institute: as a Suzuki mom with children in tow, as a teacher trainee, and in recent years, as a member of the faculty. Each experience is among the richest of my life.

My son, Tim, now a violin performance major at the Brigham Young University School of Music, began attending Institute at the age of seven. He, like every child I’ve ever known to attend Institute, always felt wonderfully nurtured and esteemed. Institute is a “safe” place, where a child is free to learn, to grow, to be creative, to simply be him/herself. Parents, too, thrive in this atmosphere. At first experience, they may feel a little apprehensive, even skeptical, but within hours (minutes?) are drawn in to this wonderfully nurturing environment we call “Institute.” There is a noticeable lack of worldly influence – people from all walks of life come together to study and to make music with their children. And the children thrive! Oh, if only every child could have this opportunity every year!

My colleagues who teach and serve on the faculty of the Virginia Suzuki Institute (like the faculty of any Suzuki Institute!) are fine and caring musicians. They come from all over the country, each highly respected in their field, and each there for the sole purpose of making a difference in a child’s life. I feel proud, honored, and mostly humbled to be with them, a small part of this peaceful, yet powerful, Suzuki movement.

My mind wanders over the events of the past week, the little things that make the Institute experience what it is:

  • Numerous untold acts of kindness, such as a young man, violin strapped to his back, holding the elevator door open for a mom juggling a small cello in one hand and a toddler in the other.

  • Teenagers, whose playing skills range from rudimentary beginning to sophisticated artistry, together enjoying a rousing game of ultimate Frisbee. (Their artist teachers joined them as well!) Later these same students gleefully (and uncharacteristically) participated in a watermelon fight (no rinds, of course!).

  • Older children helping younger children put their dishes on the cafeteria conveyor belt.

  • Listening to a former student perform Kreisler’s Preludium and Allegro with the heart of an artist. (I grew a little teary at that!)

  • Stealing a few quiet moments just to walk around campus – good for body and soul.

  • Teens accepting, supporting, and encouraging one another, regardless of their playing level.

  • Performing a Mozart Duo with my son during the faculty recital. It was an opportunity to reassure parents that indeed, it is all worth it!

  • Thursday hugs from my pre-twinklers, who on Monday would not even look at me.

  • Feeling reassured that the world is not such a bad place: there are good, caring, nurturing parents, and loving, respectful, happy children; and teachers dedicated to Dr. Suzuki’s dream of creating a better world for our children… and their children…

I must put pen away, pack up, and return home to my waiting family. This moment of quiet – sitting by the pond, a cool breeze blowing, watching the ducks and squirrels within a few feet of me, and hearing an occasional violin in the distance, is yet another gift of the Institute experience. And I am grateful.

Virginia Suzuki Institute students