Southeast Suzuki Program Experiences Enrollment Surge

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 19, 2005ᾰSoutheast Missouri Music Academy’s Suzuki program, which provides instruction on the violin and viola to area youth, has seen a significant rise in enrollment for the fall semester.

There are currently 85 students enrolled in the program, up from 70 at this time last year.

The program consists of four levels. Levels are based on a student’s ability to master all 123 variations of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”  Students learning the variations are placed in the pre-twinkle class.  Those who master the variations are then enrolled in weekly group classes and private lessons. 

Group experiences build on the student’s ability to follow a musical conductor and develop ensemble skills, which are necessary for orchestral playing.  The classes also provide peer groups for students and parents.

The program has been at Southeast Missouri State University for five years and enrolls students ages 3 and older.

“When I started the program again, I never dreamed it would grow to be so big in such a short amount of time,” said Hays Hendricks, director of the Southeast Missouri Music Academy.  “I think the method works because of the nurturing environment and positive influence parents provide for the children involved.” 

Hendricks said she was a Suzuki student at the University of Louisville and began studying the violin at age 7.  The program was dormant for more than 10 years at Southeast when Hendricks reactivated it in 2001.

The philosophy of the Suzuki program creates a triangle between teachers, parents/guardians and students.  Parents or guardians are required to attend all lessons and group classes with the student in an effort to guide the student’s practices in the home.   A special education class is also required of parents of new students.

Hendricks attributes the program’s growth and success to parental involvement in the program. 

 “The parents who are involved with the program are telling other parents about it,” Hendricks said.  “For every family that leaves the program, we have two or three families wanting the empty spot.  So word of mouth is a big reason for the program’s growth.”

 Hendricks says the program also has received wide exposure through community performances.

“This past spring, we performed at several events, such as the Teacher’s Appreciation Banquet and the unveiling of the new mural inside First Missouri State Bank’s building,” she explained.  “I received numerous phone calls the next day wanting the children to perform at other community functions throughout the year.”

 The program’s growth has made not come without challenges, though.  The biggest challenge has been the shortage of Suzuki-trained teachers.

 “Being in a smaller city, it’s much harder to recruit qualified teachers for the program,” Hendricks said.  “Although we currently have four teachers, the increase in student enrollment means we need to have more if we want to continue to grow.”

The program bases its instruction on the teachings of Dr. Schinichi Suzuki, who believed music could be taught by listening, imitating and repeating sounds as a method of developing musical talent.  Suzuki students are taught basic competence on instruments before learning to read music.  Lessons begin with 15-minute sessions and are taken with one or more partners studying the same repertoire. Students will move up to 30–minute lessons before reaching private 60-minute lessons.

For more information about the program, visit http://www.semomusicacademy.org/SuzukiProgram.html.