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Published: Monday, 8/10/2009

It's instrumental: School to teach kids how to play

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Cheryl Trace instructs Sara Lee to play a section of a piece more quietly. Ms. Trace teaches the violin and viola according to the Suzuki method for the Toledo Symphony School of Music. Cheryl Trace instructs Sara Lee to play a section of a piece more quietly. Ms. Trace teaches the violin and viola according to the Suzuki method for the Toledo Symphony School of Music.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

The Toledo Symphony Orchestra is forming a school to help children as young as 2 learn to play a musical instrument.

The Toledo Symphony School of Music officially opens Sept. 8 and is grounded in the Suzuki method, which teaches through listening and repetition.

Suzuki method lessons already are given in the Toledo area, but not in an organized way. The symphony previously referred parents looking for instructors.

So creating the school was core to the symphony's mission of education and a matter of efficiency, said Jessica Aeschliman, who will administer the program.

Cheryl Trace, a violin and viola instructor who uses the Suzuki method, described it as similar to how children learn language.

"Kids learn to speak their mother tongue based on hearing before they learn to read," she said. "It's like that."

Waterville residents Beth Hyder, rear, and her daughter, Claire Stoll, take classes together from Cheryl Trace. Waterville residents Beth Hyder, rear, and her daughter, Claire Stoll, take classes together from Cheryl Trace.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

The youngsters learn in small steps, starting with the best way to stand and bow. Then they practice holding a "violin," which at first is a cereal box with a

ruler attached.

Even if by their first concert some students know nothing more, they will bow and hold their instruments during the show, and everyone loves it, Ms. Trace said.

Students learn to clap rhythms

and the arm motions for the bow, which they then put to the violin to make music. The students hear their instructor play and then repeat the sound.

The goal isn't to have 5-year-old concert violinists, Ms. Trace said.

"It does a lot more than teach music," she said. "It teaches focus and discipline and learning that things don't always work the first time, but you keep trying until you get it right."

And Suzuki students eventually do learn to read music, Ms. Trace said.

The method depends heavily on a triangle of teacher, parent, and child.

At a recent class at the symphony's offices, seven children and one adult stood in front of the class practicing their songs.

Beth Hyder of Waterville was that only adult. She was with her 11-year-old daughter, Claire Stoll, who said it's fun learning with her mom.

"It's great," Claire said. "She's like my mentor."

Mother and daughter said they practice every day at home and play for Claire's grandparents.

Kathy Keller of Perrysburg has taken her 6-year-old daughter to Suzuki violin lessons for three years.

"She was always singing in the house and enjoyed any program that had anything to do with music," Ms. Keller said.

So she gave it a shot, and Charlotte loves it. She went through all the steps, beginning with proper foot position, and now she's making music on the violin.

She'll even walk to the piano and play the same melody there, Ms. Keller said.

"She really enjoys it," she said. "She's really built up a lot of confidence."

The formation of the school will not change the instruction but will help it be more organized.

More students will have access to the Suzuki method, and the instruction will include enrichment such as music theory and music appreciation, Ms. Aeschliman said.

The students also will have more performances with other symphony events and access to professional musician guest speakers.

More than 20 students are signed up for the school despite little advertising, Ms. Aeschliman said.

Lessons will take place at the symphony's office on Parkwood Avenue and at Bowling Green State University's Creative Arts Program.

Tuition varies depending on the length of private lessons, but it will be between $24 and $50 a week. More information is available from the symphony at (419) 418-0022.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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