Dr. Dave Sonntag, PhD

Violin, Viola, Piano, Recorder, Organ, Accordion Teacher

Dave Sonntag

SAA Member


Beavercreek, OH
[javascript protected email address]

I started Suzuki violin at age 7, and am the poster-child for what this does to create life-long learners. Acquiring complex new skills is a regular thing!

I retired from active duty service with the US Air Force as a biomedical science officer in 2014, having spent most of my 23 years managing advanced research and development in the areas of Human Performance and toxicology.

Much of what we know today about things like Cognitive Flow states, and learning models were amazingly grasped at a very intuitive level by Dr. Suzuki, and others, like fighter pilot ace Colonel John Boyd.

Boyd created a model that the Air Force uses today for managing its Human Performance research called the OODA loop. This is an iterative process of Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting.

Suzuki children do exactly this when practicing. They observe the master recordings, orient what they have heard to what they are playing. They decide if what they played sounds like Hilary Hahn on the recording, and if not why not? They then act, adjust, and move on.

Once a child masters this process, it is applicable across multiple domains, disciplines, and instruments. It creates, as Dr. Suzuki said, a condition where talent begets talent. Complex pattern recognition skills learned in music get applied to things like analyzing DNA or protein sequences.

I realized late in my professional life that music training is inherently a STEM master class in advanced pattern recognition and abstract cognition. Most of my students are as geeky as I am, and will happily chat with me about 3D printing, Minecraft, or programming their Raspberry Pi computers for world domination.

Since retiring from the Air Force, besides teaching, I enjoy restoring old violins and bows. Several of my students play on vintage instruments that I have restored, one of them that had been in the family for four generations!

Here are some samples of my work.

Suzuki Family Vintage Instruments
1842 “Grand Adam” Bow Restoration
John Juzek Violin Restoration
1910 GA Pfretzschner Restoration & Company History
1889 Alfred Moritz Excelsior Dresden
Czech One-piece Back
Violin Larks

For group classes, I recommend my students enroll in the MVSO Youth Strings program, where I am the viola coach.