Alumni Spotlight: Erika Lord-Castillo

2016-02-18 09.07.31.jpgErika has been a full time faculty member and Assistant Administrator in the SIUE Suzuki Program since 2012. She also serves as the co-director of the SIUE Suzuki Tour Group. This group travels and performs internationally, most recently visiting the Baltic Countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in summer 2016.

Erika’s undergraduate degrees include a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance and a Bachelor of Literature, Sciences, and Arts from the University of Iowa in 2005. As a violinist and violist, she earned her Master’s in Music Education with an emphasis in Suzuki Pedagogy from SIUE in 2010. Erika pursued intensive Suzuki training before coming to SIUE, studying with renowned Suzuki teacher trainers Michelle Higa George, Moshe Neumann, Judy Bossuat, Nancy Jackson, Christie Felsing, and William Preucil, Sr. These training opportunities led her to seek out in-depth Suzuki pedagogy training with Vera McCoy-Sulentic at SIUE.

Erika taught in the Corvallis, Oregon public schools through the Corvallis Youth Symphony’s Elementary Strings Program, and after her graduate degree, taught for three years as a 4th-12th grade orchestra director in the Ferguson-Florissant School District in North St. Louis County.

Soon after graduating from SIUE, she was honored to be selected to present her Master’s Thesis “John Kendall’s Early Contributions to Suzuki Education in the United States” at the American String Teachers Association National Conference. In 2015, the Suzuki Association of the Americas awarded her the prestigious Certificate of Achievement. Her articles “John Kendall’s Early Contributions to Suzuki Education in the United States” and “Imposter Syndrome: What it is, Why Suzuki Teachers May Be Susceptible, and How to Overcome It” have been published in the American Suzuki Journal.


 I chose to attend SIUE because of the reputation of the Suzuki pedagogy program, which was established by John Kendall in 1965. As the first long term Suzuki training program in the United States in a university setting, the program is now celebrating fifty years! The opportunity to teach young students in the Suzuki program, while earning an assistantship, made this program my first choice and allowed me to gain practical experience from the very start. The sense of community within the SIUE Suzuki Program creates a distinct environment where the director, faculty teachers, graduate assistants, parents, and children all work together and learn from one another.

Many SIUE Suzuki Master’s Degree Graduates have gone on to become well known leaders in the worldwide Suzuki community. I am astounded by the immediate connection I have had with so many people at Suzuki Conferences, Leadership Retreats, and other string teaching events, simply because of a shared background at SIUE.

Although I attended SIUE because of the Suzuki Pedagogy program, my music education degree gave me ample opportunity to work on solo repertoire, become an accomplished orchestral and chamber musician, and to increase my experience in and knowledge of teaching and education in general. I feel grateful to have become a well-rounded teacher and musician.

After finishing my Master’s degree, but before returning to work at SIUE, I got the opportunity to work as a Cooperating Teacher with a Student Teacher in my orchestra classroom in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. I discovered a whole new aspect of teaching that I never realized I would enjoy; helping a new teacher learn to be a teacher. I value very much being able to continue this relationship at SIUE through my interactions as a faculty teacher with the current group of graduate students. I am working toward becoming a Suzuki Teacher Trainer so that I can continue teaching teachers in a more formal setting.

As somebody who would probably love to be in school my entire life, if it was feasible, I found my classes and degree in general to be really satisfying. When I finished my degree, I was admittedly a little sad. I was delighted when there was the chance to return to SIUE and to teach in the Suzuki program where I studied


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