LASE, Teachers, and Family

LASE, Teachers, and Family

Image by Andreas Beuschel

At the 2014 SAA Conference, children from all over the Americas joined together in a celebration of music and commonality. This is a story of gratitude to the many individuals who made it possible.

An idea was conceived. It might have been inspired by a twist in the conversation or a smile on the face of a child. It might have ignited in the recap of a sonata or in the twilight of sleep. But there it was: a seed in the form of a thought that soon became a vision. And then it was shared and validated, and it began to seem like it might be possible to mold the idea into a reality. As imagination fueled its metamorphosis, it took on many shapes before its architecture was fully formed. It was renamed a multitude of times before an apt moniker was determined. Finally, it was coaxed to life with the help of a thousand hearts and hands. On May 26, Suzuki Americas 2014 took the stage. Its impact was powerful as it distilled the goodwill and joy of people from two continents into one voice—the voice of music.

An event of this magnitude cannot materialize with ideas alone. It also requires support in the form of funding. It began with finding a sponsor for the event, someone with a vision larger than the confines of daily life. That person was Don Robertson, president and founder of Robertson & Sons Violin Shop. The Robertson Family has a long history of supporting the SAA. They have supplied countless students with fine stringed instruments, sponsored numerous Suzuki-oriented events, and donated more than a few instruments to worthy causes. In addition, the SAA has profited from Don’s business acumen as he graciously served a term on the Board of Directors. Thank you, Don and family, for seeing beyond the value of each instrument and recognizing the greater value of music to humanity. “We are proud to sponsor this event and to support the SAA. We shudder to think of what music would be like in the Americas without the influence of Suzuki Education. These kids are the audiences and professionals of the future.” –Don Robertson

Barriers existed, but they did not prevail. Many of the students from Latin America who were chosen to participate in the conference could ill afford the trip to Minneapolis. How could we help these deserving students who excelled through sheer determination and hard work despite their meager means? SAA teachers heeded the plea and embraced the opportunity to foster empathy in their students. Studio fundraisers were launched in every corner of the SAA to join hands in making dreams come true. Thank you to all who organized or participated in a fundraising event that would serve to connect diverse peoples sharing common values and beliefs. “It feels good to help friends come to the concert because we need to help each other.” –Luke (age 6)

Support came from outside the SAA membership as well. United Airlines generously donated eight roundtrip tickets from South America to Minneapolis! The Engle Family Foundation, which has been a friend and supporter to the SAA for many years, eagerly supported the Suzuki Americas 2014 project with a substantial grant. We are grateful to these entities for recognizing a powerful opportunity to build bridges between cultures. Three generations of the Engle family have benefited from involvement in Dr. Suzuki’s Talent Education over the last 45 years – as students and parents and teachers. We are happy to be able to help others as they are led to develop “beautiful character” as Dr. Suzuki hoped we would. –Ruth Engle Larner

And then, in an eleventh hour effort to close the gap, the SAA Air Race was launched. The East was pitted against the West in a virtual race to see whose plane would be the first to arrive in Minneapolis through their donations. It was a hard-fought race, with the West boasting an early lead, but the East ultimately reached the goal first. Then an amazing thing happened. A momentum had been created that couldn’t be stopped, and contributions for both teams kept rolling in! At the final tally, the West had raised the most money; but indeed, this was a race in which EVERYBODY won! Thanks to all who donated to the Air Race, proving that when we work together, it’s possible to reach and even exceed our dreams. “The Air Race helped bridge the gap financially, which in turn bridged cultures from across the world. This enabled so, so many teachers and students to learn and grow, and thus, will help spread Dr. Suzuki’s message even further.” –Christie Felsing

There were quiet and unforeseen surprises at the conference that no one could have planned or predicted. Gabriel Pliego, a fellow Suzuki teacher from Mexico City gave a moving keynote titled, “The Sound of Community.” Among other things, Gabriel shared a story of how his community is reaching out, offering solace and music lessons to young girls who are unconscionably abused and maltreated. Later in the conference, the following exchange took place:

Esther: I love your necklace.

Reba: I made it. I want you to have it. It would look fabulous on you.

Esther: I can’t take your necklace!

Reba: What if you were to make a donation to the SAA in exchange?

Esther: If it could go to support the abused girls in Mexico, I would happily donate  . . . .

Suffice it to say, it was a generous sum! And so it was arranged. A humble bow of admiration goes to those who are moved by compassion for others to both give and serve. Lives are changed. Despair turns to hope. “The solidarity shown by the community of the SAA for carrying out Suzuki Americas 2014 will resound, as long as memory remains, in the ears and hearts of every student, parent and professor who had the honor of participating. Thank you to all the conspirators in this journey!” –Gabriel Pliego

These amazing gifts paint a portrait of a vibrant community powered by the generosity and gratitude of its members. All of our lives have been enriched by Suzuki Americas 2014 through the many hands that brought an idea to fruition. Whether you witnessed the concert in person or watched the video, the evidence of noble souls and fine character within our Suzuki community is indisputable. Perhaps the next time you admire a necklace, you will see the uplifted eyes of a child. When you encounter joyful music, you might hear a child aching to express himself and to be part of a nurturing community. Each time you look into the eyes of a supporter of the SAA, you will surely see the heart of someone who is changing the world through music. We truly are powered by community.

The SAA Conference Team, Board of Directors, and staff, would like to express their sincere gratitude to everyone who participated in the fundraising efforts to make Suzuki Americas 2014 a reality.