Tag Archives: Suzuki

Spring Festival ’22 Recap

Hello Everyone!

Many thanks to all the students who participated in this year’s Spring Festival group performance this past Sunday, May 15. You all played so beautifully, and displayed such growth and maturity in both ability and confidence. which was a testament to the value of group class alongside private lessons in developing well-rounded musicianship. A heartfelt hank you to all the families who made the trips to group class on Tuesday evenings throughout the school year, making this learning experience for students – and this wonderful concert – possible! To those who weren’t able to join us for group classes this school year, we certainly hope you’ll join us in ’22-’23!

Summer ’22 Registration Now Open!

Hello Everyone!

Even as we work towards the events that highlight the spring, it’s also time for us to start looking ahead to the summer!

Registration for the Summer ’22 Semester at West County Strings will run April 1-30, and as always we are so excited to continue working with all of our current students, and to welcome new students and their families into our community.

Summer is such an incredible time of opportunity for students to learn and grow. When students get even just one restful week of break from school during the school year, the positive effects are immediately and unmistakably noticeable in their playing. Apply that to the 12 weeks of the summer, and students can make incredible development in their musical ability, and have a lot of fun doing it!

As always, registration over the summer at West County Strings is more flexible than during the school year. Families are free to sign up for only the weeks they know they’ll be in town and will want lessons, and we can accommodate requests for different days and times on different weeks, if needed.

You can download your Summer ’22 Registration Form here, and return it by email to Mr. Brad (bradleytkay@gmail.com), or bring it to your lessons in April. We look forward to seeing you all this summer!

New Year ’22 Update

Lessons & Group Classes

Private will resume on Thursday, January 6 and run through Saturday, May 29. We’re excited to see each of you again, set new goals for the remainder of this school year, prepare for everything that’s coming up this spring, and see how much each of you grow over the course of this Spring ’22 Semester!

Our 12 weeks of group classes for the Spring ’22 Semester will run on Tuesday evenings from March 1 – May 24. Group classes will continue to meet at the Saxony Clubhouse, 1208 Brittany Pkwy. Fall’s group classes were such a support to students’ development, and we’re excited for this spring’s classes! If you are unsure of your group class assignment or it’s meeting time, just ask your teacher.

One quick note: our Spring Break will be the week of Monday, March 21 – Saturday, March 26. We hope this aligns with most of your school Spring Breaks, but if it does not and you would like to try to switch lessons with another family to accommodate your Spring Break, please do so at your earliest convenience!

COVID-19 Policies

Heading into this new year, we are going to continue to require masking for students, parents, and anyone else who comes into the studio or attends group classes. We’re also going to maintain a 10-day quarantine period for the foreseeable future for anyone who tests positive or experiences a known exposure. We hope that by following these two simple steps we can play our part in keeping the members of our community healthy, safe, and leading uninterrupted lives, and can keep our programs running smoothly throughout the second half of the school year. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation!

Missouri Federation of Music Clubs

Every spring, we look forward to helping students prepare for opportunities offered by the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs local chapter, the “Virtuoso Club.” For every student, there’s the opportunity to perform select pieces for a judge at the Festival, get helpful feedback, and earn points, ribbons, and trophies. Students in 7th grade and above also have the opportunity to participate in the Camp Music Scholarship Competition to earn up to $500 to put towards music education opportunities over the summer. Students in 10th grade and above can also participate in the District Competition, with the opportunity to continue onto the State Competition.

This year’s Festival entries will be judged by video submission on the weekend of April 23-24. Camp Scholarship and District Competitions will be held in person at the Steinway Gallery on Dorsett on Saturday, March 26. Registration for all events is due by February 15, so Kirby and I will be talking with each of you soon about what events you might like to participate in, and selecting repertoire to prepare accordingly.

Solo Recitals & Spring Festival

Towards the end of each school year, we look forward to our Spring Solo Recitals and our Spring Festival Group Performance. We are still working on setting concrete dates and times for both events, as we want to find days that conflict with as few other events in students lives as possible and performance venues that enhance the experiences as much as possible for students and their families. For now know we’re aiming for a Sunday afternoon in late April / early May for Solo recitals and a Sunday afternoon in mid-late May for the Spring Festival, and we’ll keep you posted throughout the semester as we’ve solidified more details!

That takes care of everything for now, so we’ll see you starting Thursday, January 8, and we have every expectation that with lots of work, lots of laughs, lots of practice, lots of thought, and lots of learning, this will be an exceptional spring! See you all soon!

Holiday ’21 Update

Hello WCS Students & Families!

It’s hard to believe that we’re entering the holiday season and 2021 is nearing an end. It many ways, it feels like the year has absolutely flown by, but when we look back at the year as a whole, so much has happened.

What A Year!

We started 2021 with roughly 50% of our students’ and their families feeling comfortable coming to lessons in the studio in person, and seeing the other 50% online. The church that we had used for years for group classes was still closed to the public, and many facilities still had very uncertain availability, but the Campbells were kind enough to open their home to us for our Tuesday-evening group classes, which turned out to be so special as it was our first time all getting back together – and we got to hold some absolutely wonderful classes and rehearse some exceptionally rewarding music like the Vivaldi Concerto for 2 Violins in D Minor and the Bach Fugue in G Minor. At the end of the Spring ’21 Semester, we were able to hold our solo recitals in person, which again was especially meaningful because of the ability for us to share our music with each other in the same place as each other once again.

By summer, we were fortunate to be seeing almost all of our students in person once again, and Kirby and I even had the pleasure of seeing some of you at the Colorado Suzuki Institute, where we had the opportunity to teach in June. Kirby and I were both also able to take further Suzuki teacher training through the Ithaca Suzuki Institute in Ithaca, NY. We love to take every opportunity we can to continue our training, as it fills us up with new ideas to in turn pour into you all in lessons and group classes!

This fall, we’ve had such a wonderful blend of continuing to work with students and their families who we’ve known for a long time, and who are growing and maturing – both in music and in life – in ways that are so exciting to see and beginning new relationships with so many new students and their families. It’s always so fun to begin these new musical journeys, start sharing ideas, and see good tone, technique, and musicality begin to grow.

Coming Up Next!

Now, we enter a time to rest, recover, enjoy family, friends, and food, whether at home or on the road, and of course hopefully practice some scales, review pieces, preview spots, and listen to our Suzuki CDs or other recordings! We’ll be on break from lessons from Thursday, December 23, 2021 – Wednesday, January 5, 2022. Lessons will resume on Thursday, January 6. For Kirby and me, this is also a time to prepare and lay out plans for what we’ll be working on with each of you when we return. We always look forward to the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs’ events in the spring, resuming group classes with you all, and preparing for our Spring Festival group performance and Spring Solo Recitals. We’ll have more details about all that and more at the end of break!

With that, we hope that you all enjoy a very happy holiday season. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year with each of you, and look forward to all the opportunities we’ll have to learn with you in 2022!

Paganini Caprice No. 5

We’ve listened to Paganini’s Caprice No. 5 in A Minor here before. It’s a piece that’s often on my mind, as it’s one of the more “accessible” (obviously that’s a relative term, as it is still rather difficult!) of Paganini’s 24 Caprices to students. It’s built on a series of arpeggios and sequences that are not unlike the Wohlfahrt or Kreutzer Etudes that students will have studied by this point in their playing – it’s just more challenging!

Today, I wanted to take a look at two very different versions of the same piece. Both are extremely virtuosic, excellent, and exemplary. But from tempo, to bow stroke, to character and style, the two could hardly be more dissimilar. One is Sumina Studer’s amazing recording, in which she displays incredible technique in using the extraordinarily difficult ricochet bowing that most performers opt not to use for this Caprice. The other is Leonidas Kavakos’, which he approaches with raw power and prowess. Which do you prefer?

Committing to Fill our “Ability Buckets”

A few years ago, the one of the faucets in our house developed what I would have described as a “little drip.” Nothing particularly serious. A little drip every few seconds. Certainly not worth putting right at the top of my to-do list. I’d get around to fixing it when I had the time, I thought.

And then the water bill for that month came in. I don’t recall exactly what it was, but I do remember that it was over ten times our normal monthly bill! I won’t soon forget that part.

So, I went straight to Home Depot, picked up the part needed to fix the leaking seal for, and with about 15 minutes of work, I had the problem solved. Next month, the water bill was back to its normal range.

My point? Even a little drip can add up to a whole lot of water when it drips steadily over time. In this case, the result was not so positive. But let’s turn it around and apply it to something productive.

I hesitate to refer to anything from the ’20-’21 school year as a “silver lining,” because it was such a difficult year for so many people. One of the realities for us at West County Strings, though, was that violin or viola lessons was in many cases the only activity that students were able to stay involved in, as sports and other extracurriculars had to take a break until they could be done safely again.

The result? Students had a lot fewer things vying for their time and attention, and a lot more time to practice! I dare say that a lot of the exceptional results we saw from students during the ’20-’21 school year were due to this reality.

And now, as things increasingly return to “normal,” we are also seeing students and families returning to balancing more and more activities and events, and practicing sometimes getting lost in the mix.

So why did I begin by mentioning our leaky shower and the water bill that ensued?

Because just as even little drip can add up to a whole lot of water, so too can a little bit of careful, consistent, thoughtful, focused practice add up to a whole lot of ability.

I’ve been thinking about it like this:

We’re all trying to fill up what we’ll call our “buckets of ability.” We try to fill them up before coming to each lesson. We try to fill them up on a larger scale over the course of a semester before recitals. And we try to fill them up on an even larger scale over the course of a whole school year, and over the course of many years of practice.

The problem is that all too often – and especially this year as we all get back to more and more different types of activities and events – we try to turn that metaphorical “faucet” on all the way and fill up our bucket in one or two big efforts over the course of the week.

And I suppose that would be okay, if our bodies and brains worked that way. But for better or worse, they don’t. Our bodies and brains work best, learn best, and develop best with high-frequency, moderate-intensity efforts.

Dr. Suzuki didn’t have all the science that we have today to back this fact up when he started teaching, but he knew it from observing life. And he wrote about it a lot. In the preface to Suzuki Violin Book 1 (Revised Edition, pg. 5), he says:

“It is the daily practice at home that leads to ability development. The key is how much and how well the student practices the teachers’ instructions.” (emphasis mine)

So, as we find ourselves roughly a quarter of the way into the Fall ’21 Semester, I’d like to encourage each of our students, and each of their families, to commit to this idea of a steady, daily filling of our “buckets of ability” through practice.

Ideally, this would mean focusing on the materials assigned in each students’ private lesson. It may be necessary to practice music for school or community orchestras, as well, but these should not be considered replacements for developing individual skill on lesson assignments.

Given that we are only human, not all days will be of the same length or quality, and some days it may feel utterly impossible to practice (Dr. Suzuki would remind you, “Only practice on the days you eat!”). On the most difficult days, it may be a good idea to simply practice a scale or review piece and relax with the Suzuki CD or recording of another work you are learning.

There is more we can all talk about individually in lessons as the school year goes on, but I’d like to think of West County Strings as a place where each and every student is slowly, steadily filling their “bucket of ability,” and will eventually find it overflowing!

’20-’21 Registration Now Open!

Hello WCS Students & Families! 

I hope you all have been enjoying a wonderful summer, and had a fabulous July 4 weekend in particular.  From a teacher’s perspective, Kirby and I have been loving this summer – with more free time and less school stressors, students have been absorbing information like sponges, and making huge strides in their technique, repertoire, and overall musicianship.  

As much as we’ve been enjoying summer, it’s already time to start preparing for the ’21-’22 school year, in which Kirby and I look forward to furthering and deepening each student’s individual ability and accomplishments, as well as building upon the exceptional work that students did in group classes to help them become better ensemble musicians.  

Our ’21-’22 school year will run from Monday, August 23, 2021 – Saturday, May 28, 2022.  Registration for the ’21-’22 school year is due by Sunday, August 8, so that Kirby and I can have time to create a schedule that works for everyone and get that information out to everyone a week before the school year begins.  Please download a copy of our ’21-’22 Registration Form, which can be returned hard copy or by email.  Similarly, registration fees can be paid by cash, check, Zelle, or Venmo.  

After a ’20-’21 school year that required extraordinary adaptability from all of us, Kirby and I are very much looking forward to a ’21-’22 school year full of much more “normalcy,” and the ability fo focus on the community, collaboration, relationship, and enjoyment that comes along with all the dedication and hard work we, our students, and their families engage in in order to achieve exceptional musical ability.  We can’t wait to start this upcoming school year with all of you!

Spring Festival ’21

Hello WCS Students & Families!

With our Spring ’21 Solo Recitals behind us, the next big thing we have to look forward to is our Spring Festival ’21. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Who: students who have been regularly participating in Tuesday-evening group classes throughout the semester.
  • What: a group performance in Suzuki “play-in” style, beginning with the most advanced repertoire and working down until we finish with everyone playing Twinkle.
  • Where: the Amphitheater at Schroeder Park, 359 Old Meramec Station Rd. Manchester, MO 63021
  • When: dress rehearsals from 5:15-6:15 p.m., with the concert at 6:30 p.m.
  • How: as the Amphitheater has lawn seating, this event will be weather-permitting, and will be B.Y.O.C. (bring your own chair!)

For dress rehearsals, students Book 4+ should please arrive at 5:00 to tune, and students Pre-Twinkle – Book 3 should arrive at 5:30. Attire should be semi-formal, but comfortable for outdoor weather. Please see the list below for the concert repertoire, which we’ll be focusing on polishing in group class this week!

Reminder: Summer ’21 Registration Due April 30!

Hello Everyone!

The month of April is absolutely flying by, as we prepare for all of our end-of-the-school-year festivities. In fact, it’s hard to believe that the month is already half over! So, Kirby and I just wanted to extend a quick reminder that registration for the Summer ’21 Semester is due by Friday, April 30, so that we can put all of your lesson time requests together into a schedule that works for everyone, send it out to everyone, and work out all the kinks before the Summer ’21 Semester begins.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions as you go through registration. We so look forward to the opportunity to continue working with you all this summer and building on everything we’ve done together this school year, and to welcoming new members into our music community, as well!

Holiday ’20 Update

“Where love is deep, much can be accomplished.” – Dr. Sinichi Suzuki

To say that 2020 has been a “wild ride” would be an understatement of the highest degree. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to come up with a superlative that is too extreme or extraordinary for the unprecedented challenges we’ve all faced this year. As the year draws to a close, and we sit back and reflect on all that has happened over the course of the past twelve months, Kirby and I have been struck by just what a constant joy and pleasure making music, teaching music, and navigating all of the challenges of this year with each and every one of you has been. We always feel blessed to have the opportunity to do what we do, to bring the joy of learning music and developing musical ability to children and their families, but we have never felt that blessing more profoundly than this year.

This has caused us to think back not only on this year, but on the 12 years that we have now been in St. Louis teaching music. The number of wonderful relationships that music has brought us into, the number of children we have been able to see go from forming their first bow hold to heading off to college and beyond, and the number of special, unforgettable musical and relational moments that we have had as music teachers is overwhelming. That’s why this year we wanted to send this message not only to all current West County Strings students and families, but to everyone who’s ever been a part of our teaching here in St. Louis. You are all part of a special group of people to us. We’re so thankful for you, and the ways in which you have enriched and continue to enrich our lives.

As noted above, Dr. Suzuki was famous for his belief that, “Where love is deep, much can be accomplished.” Stated differently, it is only when there is a mutual understanding, respect, and closeness between parents, the student, and the teacher that ability can truly be developed to its highest degree. We’re so thankful that due to the relationships we’ve been able to develop with each of you, West County Strings has been a place where love has been deep and much has been able to be accomplished, and we look forward to 2021 as an even better and brighter year than all that have come before.

For all current students and families, we will be on Winter Break from Wednesday, December 23, 2020 – Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Private lessons will resume on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, and we plan for our group class sessions of the Spring ’21 Semester to begin in March. There’s a lot coming up at the start of the New Year, including All-State auditions on January 13. So, be sure to use your time over break wisely, both to rest and relax and to listen, prepare, and practice well!

If you are an alumni or former member of West County Strings, we would love to hear from you this holiday season. We hope that you have all been safe and well, and would love to know what you and your families are up to these days. You have all played a special part in our lives, and we’d love to stay connected with you.

To everyone that music teaching has brought Kirby and I into contact with – Happy Holidays! We are blessed to know you, and so thankful for you. We’ll see you in 2021!

– Brad & Kirby