Star Trek, St. Louis Arch and SIUE Suzuki Program…what could they possibly have in common? They share a 50th anniversary this year, celebrating a half century of a popular TV show, and iconic landmark, and a philosophy of music education that is known throughout the world.
In 1959, SIUE’s professor John Kendall traveled to Japan to investigate the extraordinary success of Shinichi Suzuki’s teaching method for young violinists. Kendall returned to the United States and began educating musicians around the country about the method and how it could be applied to string education. Kendall was soon appointed director of the String Development Program here at SIUE and initiated the first Suzuki Teacher Training program in the U.S. in 1965.
50 years later, the program still flourishes, now under my direction. I’m a 1988 SIUE graduate who moved here from Oregon to study with Kendall. The Suzuki Program currently has about 230 students enrolled and serves students age 2 through 18. Every faculty teacher has earned a Master’s Degree in Music and has Suzuki training up through Book 5. Most of our faculty teachers have long term university training in Suzuki Pedagogy.
We also have graduate students serving as teachers while they earn their Master’s Degree at SIUE. Several hundred graduate students from around the world have completed the SIUE Suzuki Teacher Training program and have gone on to become leaders, composers, performers, and extraordinary teachers of Suzuki Method around the world, including Ireland, Brazil, Portugal, Taiwan, Singapore, Canada, and Sweden.
Some of our most notable graduates are
* Erin Schreiber, currently associate concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony, started in the SIUE Suzuki Program at age 4.
* Christie Felsing, current Director of Teacher Development for the Suzuki Association of the Americas, was a graduate of Mr. Kendall’s Master’s Degree Program in 1991.
* A recent highlight for a few of our students was a chance to meet Joshua Bell after a rehearsal on Sept. 18, 2015. A former Suzuki student in Indiana, Joshua Bell graciously signed a poster celebrating our 50th anniversary.
Did you know the Suzuki program isn’t only for young children? First, we pride ourselves on parent education, too! Parents of our beginning students learn to play the violin or cello for 8 weeks and perform “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on a Saturday recital. This helps them understand what effort it takes to learn to play violin/cello.
Second, our older students have the opportunity to travel to Europe every other year as a culmination of their years of study and practice. In June 2014 the tour group performed in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. Past tours included France, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, England, and Sweden. This is an amazing opportunity for the advanced players to share their gift of music in an international setting.
Third, we have a special program called Community Strings for adults and non-Suzuki students.
We’re looking forward to the next half century! In celebration of this year’s 50th birthday, the students of the SIUE Suzuki program will give 50 performances in our community, post them on our Facebook and Twitter pages (SIUE Suzuki Program) and display photos for all to enjoy in the Suzuki Hallway of Dunham Hall 2nd floor.
Please visit our site, and I hope we’ll see you at some performances!