SARATOGA SPRINGS — On Tuesday, August 7, Yumi Kendall, a cellist with the Philadelphia Orchestra held a master-class in conjunction with Demetria Koninis of Spa City Cello Studio.
Kendall is a direct descendent of the Suzuki Method, which her grandfather brought to the United States in the 1960’s. The Suzuki Method, created by Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki, who “realized the implications of children all over the world learn to speak their native language with ease. He began to apply the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music and called his method the mother-tongue approach. The ideas of parent responsibility, loving encouragement, constant repetition, etc. are some of the special features of the Suzuki approach,” said the official website.
The Philadelphia Orchestra is in residence at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) every summer and last year they did a Suzuki cello play-in with Yo-Yo Ma hosting, which is how the cello teachers met.
“We modeled the master class a little bit after the Suzuki Institute’s, which are actually a week long, they’re a kind of retreat where the Suzuki family and Suzuki teachers come together in places all around the world every summer,” Kendall explained.
“So, we modeled this one day after the Suzuki things that were happening globally. This was just one peek-a-boo into the potential that Saratoga really has for something larger. Actually, I encourage them to consider having a Suzuki Institute, because it seems to be really good Suzuki energy in Saratoga Springs based on this one day that we had together,” she continued.
The students from both music studios gathered for a halfday-long master-class that was met with wonderful feedback.
“The feedback was just generally applause and thank yous when it was appropriate in the given context and a big thank you to their main teachers who do the work teaching them week after week and to the parents, day after day. Even though I was coming in as a guest clinician, and I received the gratitude and the rewards that I would want, it’s really the teachers and the parents who deserve the credit because they’re the ones who are doing the day-in day-out work with their children,” Kendall stated.
Kendall had nothing but praise for the student’s teachers and families.
“First of all, they’re set up really well because they’re in good hands with really good Suzuki trained teachers like Demetria and Kathleen. So, the students were very receptive and very eager. The belief in the Suzuki Approach is that ‘every child can’ meaning that every child has potential and that with the family’s involvement, the teacher’s approach, and the student’s presence, every child has the ability to learn an instrument. It’s with that loving approach, combined with the daily discipline of practice, that I think helps the children be particularly receptive in a new environment and in a new circumstance, which this was for many of them,” she said.
Kendall credits her own family for her talent, stating she is a “Suzuki kid” and also a Suzuki trained teacher.
“I’m not a whole person without both [teaching and playing]. Performing is a part of myself that demands excellence and a sort of performance pressure that I crave, and I love and I also love sharing the stage with my Philadelphia Orchestra colleagues. That’s as essential to me as teaching. The self-growth process as a teacher where I continue to learn and grow myself and the challenge that comes with interacting with small children and helping them in their growth. So, both of those things to me are integral to who I am, and I cannot separate those out. They’re both as important as breathing,” Kendall concluded.
Kendall cites the “mothership” Philadelphia Orchestra as the main reason that she and the other teachers were able to gather and teach these students.