On September 26 and 27, 1992, I was in Austin, Texas, and I spent an hour with my former student, Manuel Bravo, listening to him play and talking about his new life here in Austin. I also used the opportunity to find out a few details about him that might be of interest to other people. Manuel started his violin lessons with me at the age of 7, in Lima, Peru, while I was there teaching for two years. When I left, he continued with Caroline Blondet-Fraser, whom I had trained in Suzuki Violin Pedagogy. (She is also an excellent Suzuki piano teacher and teacher trainer.)
Three years later, Caroline left, and Manuel studied with Carlos Costa at the Conservatory for the next two or three years. Every year he came to the January Suzuki Festival, and I worked with him on the concertos and sonatas in Books Seven and Eight. Even without a Suzuki teacher, Manuel graduated from Book Ten, playing the Mozart Concerto in A Major at the Graduation Concert in Lima in 1989.
I remember Manuel’s first years of study very well. His father, Lorenzo, was a devoted Suzuki father. He made Manuel’s first violin himself and worked with him every day at home. Manuel is the third of eight children of this poor Peruvian family. His father plays and teaches guitar and repairs instruments in a home workshop. My house in Lima was at least an hour and a half away from theirs, but they were there every week without fail. Every year at the Festivals Mr. Bravo would be there with Manuel, asking me for help in furthering Manuel’s etudes.
When I visited with Manuel in Austin, he said he misses his family very much, but he’s very happy to be here and is learning so much. The biggest differences for him are the food and the musical opportunities. The most difficult thing for him is learning English! It was good to see Manuel again. He’s playing very well and really benefiting from his lessons with Laurie and Bill. And his whole conversation with me was in English!