Bristol plans to expand Suzuki program
Kindergarteners will get another chance with violins in 2007-08 school year
In an expansion of its “arts magnet” effort, Bristol Elementary plans to offer Suzuki violin training to the first four grade levels in the 2007-08 school year.
This will mean an estimated 20 students more than the roughly 100 - representing all the school's grade 1-3 students - who performed two shows in the school gym April 16, Principal Steve Ferguson explained afterwards.
The Suzuki program, ending its second year, is one of just six of its kind in the United States, according to Ferguson. The teacher is professional violinist Michael Hanson, whose time will be expanded next year (using school Title 1 funds) so he can instruct the additional grade level.
“I think there's a sense of pride to many of the kids who are involved in the program,” Ferguson said. “Sometimes kids might not tell me, but I talk with their parents and they tell me they really love playing the violin. I know that a lot of kids are excited about it.”
In the first year, 2005-06, the Suzuki training was offered to grades K-1. After evaluation, it was decided that perhaps the kindergartners had not benefited sufficiently, so when the program expanded this year it was to grades 1-3 (which also allowed a smooth transition to the strings program funded by School District 11 starting in fourth grade).
However, Ferguson said, Hanson found to his pleased surprise that most of the incoming first-graders remembered “a lot of the general stuff” from their previous year's training, and this led to the decision to restore the program to that grade level in 2007-08.
For the April 16 performance, “the place was really packed,” Ferguson said. “The kids felt really good, and the parents were taking pictures. It was pretty impressive to see 100 of them playing at once.”
Before his students played, Hanson expressed appreciation for the parents who have helped him make the program successful. “I'm a good violin teacher, but I couldn't do it without them,” he said.
Under Bristol's Suzuki program, small groups of students get training a half-hour a day, four days a week in the method developed by Shinichi Suzuki, in which youngsters learn to play violin by ear.
The program is part of the Westside school's continuing effort to integrate the arts into the academic curriculum, Ferguson said.
He also praised the art teacher, Katie Robinson, two of whose students (Calina Herrera and Alaya Wilson) won awards in the recent Young People's Art Exhibition; and interim music teacher, Emily Sorensen (the replacement for Pam Hoots, who had to step down for family reasons midway through the school year). Sorensen organized the musical play, “School Daze,” which will be presented at Bristol Thursday, April 26 at 2 and 7 p.m.
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