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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 20, No. 5

Institut Suzuki Montréal

by Ellen Kogut / February 1, 2015

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It’s not every day that one sees a parade of kids carrying miniature violin, viola, and cello cases through the summer crowds at Concordia University’s downtown campus. These kids and their parents are part of Institut Suzuki Montréal (ISM), one of the best-known Suzuki institutes in Canada.

ISM is a weeklong music program modeled after violinist and pedagogue Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998)’s summer school in Matsumoto, Japan. The institute attracts families from across North America for instruction in string instruments and piano. Director Josée Desjardins, a piano teacher, describes ISM as a “lively week of learning” and “an inspiring musical experience for both children and adults.” The institute offers lessons, group classes, orchestra, chamber music, lectures and concerts. An advanced string quartet program for teenage players runs concurrently. ISM also offers teacher training courses for adult musicians who are interested in becoming Suzuki teachers.

A peek into the classroom of Christophe Bossuat gives one an idea of the learning atmosphere. Bossuat, who hails from Lyon, France, is teaching a Book 1 violin group class to play with “diamond tone.” He demonstrates a full, resonant sound that “sparkles,” and the children practice producing a similar tone. Bossuat encourages everyone to listen closely to their tone. “Grow elephant ears like me!” he says, goofily impersonating an elephant, much to the children’s delight. Later, Bossuat has the children playing folk songs together with him like a well-trained orchestra. In the middle of the last piece, he surprises everyone by sitting down on the floor, continuing to play with ease. The children laugh and follow suit. Their music sounds joyful, natural, and spontaneous.

Montreal parent Akina Lo has been attending ISM with her son and daughter, now ages 9 and 7, since 2010 because it allows them to focus on music while on school break. “We have a lot of fun here and we have friends, from places like Toronto, Kingston, New York City, and Chicago, who return every year,” Lo says. Last year, Lo’s son enjoyed playing in a trio with a cellist and pianist his age, while her daughter adored jazz violin and fiddling. “The institute has opened our eyes to a lot of new opportunities,” she says. “It inspires my kids to go further in music.”

Institut Suzuki Montréal: July 26-31 2015, for children ages 3-18 and their parents. www.suzukimontreal.org

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