Saturday, July 10, 2004

Suzuki Institute

The institute was awesome. Erin had 6-7 hours a day of instruction. She was the youngest in most of her classes by at least 2-3 years, so she didn't really have any social peers, but she had plenty of musical peers, which was really what she needed since she doesn't get that at home. The Advanced Orchestra was excellent, very challenging and filled with capable players, and she ended up in a master class with two teens who clearly play with lots of passion and committment. The 13-17-year-olds she was with in orchestras and groups were a really nice bunch too and they made her feel part of the social banter even though she was so tiny and somewhat shy. She made some really big strides participating in discussions both during classes and afterwards.

Noah had 4 hours of classes a day and was well-placed for confidence-building. He was the most secure and most advanced kid in his orchestra and master class, which was great, because he doesn't have Erin's stoical "deal-with-it" mentality when outside his comfort zone. He made many friends and proved to be a bit of a social magnet for kids his age and a bit younger. Every time I'd enter the music building with one of the girls, kids would come up to me and ask "where's Noah?" He impressed his master class teacher enough that she promoted him to the 3rd Suzuki Book on the spot and asked him to learn a new piece, which he did. He got a big boost from that. He made a very good friend, another 7yo homeschooled boy, and really enjoyed his company in classes and elsewhere.

Sophie had 3 hours of classes a day. She too was well-placed for confidence-building. She was doing the Junior Institute for "first-time enrollees under 7 and in the first half of Book 1." While she had moved into the 2nd half of Book 1 since registering, and was therefore the most advanced kid in two of her classes, it was the right place for her since she'd never had a lesson or group class with anyone other than her mom or grandma. She loved her group class which was run by a truly gifted teacher who was unrelenting in his expectations. I couldn't believe that the kids were enjoying themselves... he worked them so hard, insisted they toe the line (literally and figuratively) and had them repeat things like standing up and sitting down like a drill sargeant until they were perfect. But the kids loved working hard for him. This particular teacher is an internet friend of mine, and is very unschooling-friendly and child-centred, yet was able to pull this motley group of 4-through-12-year-olds together through leadership rather than coercion. Amazing!

The social activities were low-key and enjoyable. The institute was friendly and warm. We really really enjoyed it. Chuck spent lots of time being the "Suzuki parent in loco" for Noah and also sometimes for Sophie, and really liked being able to be involved. Fiona survived just fine, napping on my shoulder, making countless recreational trips to the washrooms and drinking fountains, watching, singing, smiling.

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