J: How and why did you decide to become trained in this approach to early childhood music?
Dr. Clark: When our first son was born, I thought what a wonderful thing for a baby to listen to beautiful classical music! I had observed young Suzuki children playing the violin and piano beautifully, and although I had some misgivings at first (because I couldn’t understand how they could do it!) I began Suzuki piano teacher training. From there I established a Suzuki piano school at Avondale College – and never looked back. It was such a joy to see young children playing so well and develop into such beautiful adults over the years. “Character first, ability second” was Dr Suzuki’s lifelong principle. Some students went on to take up music professionally, others just enjoy playing for fun and going to concerts.
J: In my experience, one hears of Suzuki teachers in violin and piano, however, you have not only developed a Suzuki organ program in Australia but are a Teacher Trainer for the Pan Pacific region. Please tell us about this program and why it is an effective way to teach organ.
Dr. Clark: The Suzuki repertoire and pedagogy was researched and developed over fifteen years ago by Swedish Suzuki Teacher Trainer, Gunilla Ronnberg. Ronnberg was fascinated by the challenge of preparing simple, progressive pieces and teaching techniques for children as young as three years old – something that had never been done before. See her website here: https://suzukiassociation.org/
I was fascinated by these wonderful developments of making organ playing accessible to very young children (something I had longed for as a child). I had read and studied the program as much as possible and some of my piano students were keen to learn the organ. So I began teaching, with Gunilla’s help, quickly building up to a studio of about twenty students followed by six teachers keen to study the pedagogy.
I was already a piano Teacher Trainer, so was awarded organ Teacher Trainer status for the Pan Pacific region. I was fortunate to have the resources and support of a one thousand member congregation at the Avondale Memorial SDA Church, Cooranbong, NSW, on the campus of Avondale College. We now hold summer schools, workshops, recitals, student concerts and teacher training on the campus and interstate. Our annual Christmas concert attracts an audience of nearly one thousand people.
There are six books in the Suzuki organ repertoire along with the listening resources (two more books are in preparation). Small children begin on the pedal board, the ideal ‘supersized” keyboard, perfect for gross motor movement and spatial development. Articulation (based on Baroque performance practice), legato and improvisation are taught right from the beginning pieces, along with theory, note reading and sight reading at every lesson when the child is ready.
J: Where can one study and receive training to become a certified Suzuki organ teacher?
Dr. Clark: In Australia, there are teacher training programs in most states, leading to advanced accreditation in early childhood music, psychology, pedagogy, repertoire analysis and performance. The Suzuki Association of the Americas, https://suzukiassociation.org/ has excellent training programs across the country, right through to masters and doctoral studies. Dr Jeremy Chesman, an outstanding Suzuki organ teacher at Missouri State University, can be contacted at: email@example.com
J: Please share some Suzuki success stories with our readers.
Dr. Clark: Many of my students are already at an advanced level, performing at concert halls and churches throughout the state and interstate.
They play regularly at the Sydney Town Hall and the Sydney Opera House. More details and student performances can be found on my website: http://www.learnsuzukiorgan.com/
My greatest satisfaction and success comes from teaching students who have learning challenges – some on the Aspergers spectrum, ADHD, or Global Development Delay. It is amazing what these students achieve, sometimes quickly, sometimes very slowly, on an instrument that appeals to them visually, aurally and spatially. They particularly love the wide spectrum of sounds and colors which appeal to their senses.
In Dr Suzuki’s words,
“Where love is deep, much can be accomplished.”
J: Thank you, Dr. Clark, for sharing this exciting information with our readers.
Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist, and David Jordan, media artist, are the creators and performers of three organ and multi-media concert experiences, Around the World in 80 Minutes, Bach and Sons, and From Sea to Shining Sea. Contact Dr. Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.