Music and Camaraderie Fill Valley

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Front Page / Jul. 13, 2017 9:57am EDT

Musicians Spend Week Honing Craft In Rochester
By Emily Ballou


Vaughn Smith, Owen Wild, and Asher Parker-Sartori practice a piece in their chamber music group with institute director Pam Reit. (Herald / Tim Calabro) Vaughn Smith, Owen Wild, and Asher Parker-Sartori practice a piece in their chamber music group with institute director Pam Reit. (Herald / Tim Calabro) Learning how to play an instrument takes time. Hours upon hours of practicing can become tedious—learning how to read notes, figuring out how to play notes on the instrument of choice, and then putting them together simultaneously is no small feat. Many obstacles must be overcome before the reward of successfully playing a piece of music comes to fruition, but the students who persevere eventually discover the indescribable joy of music.

For 110 students at the Green Mountain Suzuki Institute (GMSI) this past week in Rochester, just that happens.

A classical music intensive and Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA) approved institute for ages 4-adult, people from far and wide attend to become better musicians. The Institute accommodates multiple classical instruments as well as teacher training sessions throughout the week-long event. Several public performances are also on the schedule. While half of those attending come from around Vermont, others come from places such as Florida, North Carolina, Washington, Massachusetts, New York, and even Hong Kong, China.

Still, it would make many people much happier if there was a less painful way of learning how to play an instrument. In the case of teaching, that person was Shinichi Suzuki.

The Japanese violinist and educator who died a few months shy of his 100th birthday in 1998, realized and developed a revolutionary method for teaching children how to play the violin that primarily relies on auditory perception. Students learn how to play music by listening, long before they ever learn to read a single note on a page.

“The Suzuki method is a way of learning the same way you learn to speak your mother tongue,” GMSI director Pam Reit explains.

A musician since the age of four, Reit has been a Suzuki teacher for over 30 years and an Institute faculty member for 13. With more than 45 years of musical experience, Reit took over the director role of GMSI this summer.

According to Reit, the Green Mountain Suzuki Institute is always held each summer in the town of Rochester, due to its beauty and hospitable atmosphere.

“They open everything to us so our musicians and their families can enjoy all there is to offer while they’re here,” Reit says. “I love being in this town. Everything seems to move at a slower pace… the kids are super high quality and all of the people here are wonderful.”

Repeat Performers

“What makes [the GMSI] special is the faculty and how many students and their families return year after year,” Reit notes.

Repeat attendee, 13-year-old Anya Hardy- Mittell from Middlebury, readily admits that she has been coming to GMSI every year for nine years now.

“It’s just like part of the summer,” she says. “It’s fun and I always meet friends here.”

At the institute, each student attends a master class and group lesson every day. In addition, students choose elective classes including: string orchestra, composition, fiddling, viola for violinists, jazz piano, art, sports and drums, yoga and more. Advanced level students may participate in chamber music groups, as well.

While many think that the Green Mountain Suzuki Institute is a place for musically-inclined and motivated students. It is, but it is also the place to cultivate talent and to be inspired.

“It gives me a feeling of confidence and that I can do it,” 11-year-old Owen Wild from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., declares. “It’s nice to play a piece I’ve been working on with other people and hear it come together… It’s a community here that brings people together and I enjoy that.”

While some of the younger students immersing themselves in the music philosophy and teachings of Suzuki are not performing full movements of music selections yet, those of all ages find happiness in attending GMSI.

Five-year-old aspiring violinist Benjamin Shpilman says, “I like when people teach me music.”

As seen and heard at the Institute in Rochester, the dedication to furthering musicians’ skills over the summer reflects on a strong system of music education in the Vermont area, one that will continue to be passed on, thanks to the Green Mountain Suzuki Institute.

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