A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to observe a Masterclass with one of my favorite Suzuki teachers, Deborah Moench. I’ve learned so much from her about quality teaching, and she has had a profound influence on my my own teaching.
In the masterclass, Mrs. Moench worked with three students: a twinkler, and two book four students (Seitz concerto and Vivaldi A minor first movement.)
Here are a few of the principles I took away from observing this masterclass.
One of the most wonderful feelings is a childlike sense of wonder. The world is an interesting and beautiful place. Mrs. Moench masterfully shares her sense of wonder with her students (and in a masterclass setting, the audience) by pointing out the things she finds wonderful. With the twinkle student, she talked about hearing sparkles in his violin. When you play with beautiful tone, it’s easier to hear the sparkles. With the student playing Seitz she shared how the lovely melody at measures runs through her mind, and makes her feel like dancing a waltz—and then they danced a waltz together. For the Vivaldi A minor student, she brought pictures of church and school where Vivaldi worked. She likened the opening theme to jumping on a trampoline and had the whole room jumping along in time. This eventually led to a beautiful, and technical exercise in whole bows with beautiful sound.
Mrs. Moench speaks quietly and slowly. There is no hurry. In my attempts to be fun, or exciting, I often err on the side of silly—I talk too fast and start to feel a little frantic. Watching Mrs. Moench reminded me that I don’t need to be fun or artificially make fun. Playing the violin is fun. I can be engaging without acting ridiculous. I imagine her calm, collected confidence would inspire similar feelings of calm in her students and their parents.
Mrs. Moench frequently began statements with “I wonder…” or “I’m interested in…” she asked the students questions. When giving suggestions for improvement she sometimes said, “You could…” implying that in music, many different interpretations are appropriate and valued.
Watching master teachers is such an important part of being a thriving Suzuki teacher. I learn so much and always feel so inspired and empowered to improve afterwards. If you were at the Debbie Moench masterclass at the Gifted Music School, I’d love to hear your takeaways from the experience. If you weren’t, who inspires you to be a better Suzuki teacher? And why? Please share in the comments.