Suzuki kids pull off massive concert

Nearly 250 children showed off their skills at reading music and playing their stringed instruments in early December at the annual Suzuki concert. Parents of the Suzuki method students packed SIUE’s Dunham Hall—the payoff for regularly trucking their child to the University for individual evening lessons and weekly group lessons throughout the semester.

The SIUE Suzuki Program is dedicated to string instruction for children ages 3-18. The program for violin, cello and viola has been a part of the Edwardsville community for nearly 45 years.

“John Kendall went to Japan and brought back the Suzuki method shortly after the war,” said Vera McCoy-Sulentic, program director of the SIUE Suzuki Program. “After being trained in this method, SIUE invited him to start a teacher-training program, and this was the first Suzuki training program at a university in the United States. He is now 93, and I still talk to him every month.”

The Suzuki Method was founded by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki. He believed that any pre-school age child could begin to play the violin if learning steps were small enough, the environment were nurturing and if the instrument was scaled down to fit their young body. He modeled his method after his theories of natural language acquisition.

“This performance was a display of their reading work,” McCoy-Sulentic said. “We usually start music reading about the same time they start reading words. We finished (the concert) with students who have been with the program for as much as 15 years, our tour group. We have four levels of orchestra and our most advanced ensembles are cello ensemble and violin tour group.”

When Kendall started the program, what is now the main SIUE campus had not been built. The university was at what is now the dental school in Alton, as well as a location in East St. Louis. The main Edwardsville campus opened in 1965.

(Below: Two clips of the youngest students performing at the concert.)

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