Dr. Suzuki taught us not only how to teach and play music with love, but also to live a lifestyle of compassion, innovativeness, and understanding.
Dr. Suzuki once said: “Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.” Many of us in the Suzuki community have our own stories about how Dr. Suzuki’s message has changed or affected our lives and families. This is a story of how Dr. Suzuki’s dream is still alive and bringing children across the world closer together through music.
¡Viva Suzuki! was created at the Colorado Suzuki Institute in 2001 to collect musical equipment and supplies and distribute them to teacher workshop participants who would take the instruments back to their underserved communities around the world. The idea for the ¡Viva Suzuki! program was kindled when Marcia Fisher, a Suzuki cello teacher in Colorado, was inspired to raise funds to assist Liliana Arboleda, a teacher workshop participant from Cali, Colombia, in buying one used cello for her students back home to share. Thanks to generous donations from the CSI community, Liliana and her sister Claudia, also a Suzuki teacher, left Colorado headed home with four cellos, a violin, and boxes of sheet music and other musical supplies.
Many Suzuki households accrue instruments, used strings, and sheet music that are no longer used. ¡Viva Suzuki! makes it possible for donors to make a tax-deductible donation of musical instruments and supplies and then finds new homes for these supplies in communities across the world. In January 2012, such an example was unfolding in Greensboro, North Carolina. Colorado Suzuki Institute faculty member Scott Walker realized that his student orchestra at Greensboro Day School would have the opportunity to play new instruments—but what to do with the old ones? Some of the instruments needed repairs, new strings, new bow hair but were surely not worthy of the landfill! Scott contacted Colorado Suzuki Institute and ¡Viva Suzuki! director Gail Seay with the good news that his orchestra class was prepared to donate a number of string instruments to ¡Viva Suzuki! Scott’s students at Greensboro Day School had an instrument packing party where parents, students and teachers got together and packaged their old instruments for shipping.
Instruments from Greensboro Day School’s orchestra that needed repair were sent to the Robertson & Sons Violin Shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Don Robertson, president and founder of Roberson & Sons Violin Shop, has had an ongoing relationship with ¡Viva Suzuki! since its inception in 2001, doing his part in making sure that children around the world have the opportunity to make music. Don Robertson generously donates his time and expertise repairing instruments that are donated to ¡Viva Suzuki!
Early in 2012, twelve-year-old Zach Harris, a Denver-area Suzuki viola, bass and piano student, went on a trip with his parents to Haiti where they were helping to build a new school in the town of Mirebalais. Zach was interested in helping the school build a new soccer field, but the school director asked Zach: “Is there any chance you could help us build an orchestra program in one of our schools?” Zach stepped forward declaring: “Well, that would be right up my alley!”
Zach and his family have attended the Colorado Suzuki Institute for nine years. Zach has heard multiple success stories about ¡Viva Suzuki! that are shared each June at Institute. After returning from Haiti, Zach contacted ¡Viva Suzuki! and set in motion his project to provide instruments to the new orchestra program in Mirebalais.
In May 2012, Zach took down his first donation of instruments to Haiti. Six violins, one viola and three cellos made the journey from a classroom in North Carolina to a world-renowned violin shop in New Mexico to the driveway of a twelve-year-old boy in Colorado to a school of nine hundred children in the remote village of Mirebalais, some of whom had never heard a violin, viola, or cello before. In a struggling community where funding was still being raised to provide clean water to the school, an educator dreamt that one day his students would experience the joys of playing in orchestra. A twelve-year-old Suzuki student, knowing the magic that music brought to his own life, made this dream come true. Almost seventy years after Dr. Suzuki began his mission to nurture loving human beings, his spirit is still alive in the “beautiful hearts” that he strove to create in children around the world.
¡Viva Suzuki! would like to specially acknowledge:
Zach Harris is thirteen years old and lives in Denver, Colorado. Zach began playing piano at age three, violin at age seven and bass at age eight. His favorite thing about playing music is learning different kinds of music and facing new challenges that make him a better musician. Zach wants to grow up to be a sports analyst and a professional jazz bass player.
Scott Walker is a guitar, cello and fiddle player, singer and orchestra director based in Greensboro, NC. A Suzuki violin and cello teacher since 1980, Walker began playing Irish music a number of years ago and has developed some materials for students in this area to help communities explore Irish music.
Greensboro Day School Orchestra Students: Roxanne Pfenning, Penny Hazlett, Karen Collins (Suzuki Violin instructor) Grace Ruffin, Hugh Walton, Connor Duggan, Lekah Ramachandran, Taylor Brooks-Murphy, Ian McIvor, Luke Hayes, Gray Ruffin, Cole Vincent, Audrey Wallace, Scott Walker (Suzuki Cello Instructor).
Don Robertson has repaired, restored and sold some of the world’s finest stringed instruments and bows. Robertson taught in the Albuquerque Public Schools for six years and was a cellist in the New Mexico Symphony for ten years and opened up Robertson & Sons Violin Shop in 1971. In 1993, Robertson was awarded “Luthier of the Year Award” by the International Society of Bassists.