Recently, Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Marcus Steede (cello teacher), Emma McAlister (Holy Family Conservatory of Music violin teacher) and her friend, also a music teacher, drove to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the bi-annual Suzuki Convention. There were at least a thousand students (all school age), parents, and teachers from all across the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America—even Alaska.
Besides many excellent lectures and concerts there were master classes by out-standing teachers on violin, cello, harp, flute, piano, guitar and recorder. Sister Marcus shares her thoughts on the experience.
There were many first rate sessions but a few were truly exceptional. Carnival of the Animals by Saint Saens, a set of ten pieces representing various animals was performed by elementary and middle school students as piano duets accompanied by a small ensemble. The music was superb, played with energy, enthusiasm, and humor. For instance, one piece made fun of piano players. The two boys began and it sounded terrible so they stopped, one boy stomped across to the other piano and turned the music over (it was upside down). Then they began again—not much better, the second boy stood up, shook his finger as if to say, “That was your fault!” Finally all was fine and they continued to the end.
For the first time ever there was a cello ensemble of students from Canada, South America, and all over the U.S. The three pieces they performed were in different moods—one was slow, gentle and elegant; one was a fast, energetic classical number; and the last was contemporary, wild and jazzy. It sounded like rock and the kids really got into it.
Of all the wonderful lectures I was really impressed with one titled “Celebrating Black violinists and Composers.” According to the presenter, a very talented young violinist and her six-year old daughter, there were black composers as early as the 18th century of the same caliber as Mozart and Haydn. She, Rachel Barton Pine, would talk about the composer and his music; then her daughter would play the piece. Rachel has done much research and has hundreds of pieces written by black composers.
The icing on the cake was the pipe organ played on Sunday by a fantastic organist. After Mass he performed a Bach postlude—so exciting! The convention, as always, was informational, illuminating and entertaining.