Category Archives: Violin

Helen Hines: 6th European Suzuki Teachers Convention in Germany – PART 2

Simon Fischer Teaching Children  

Simon+KinderOn Sunday 2nd November 2014, the 6th European Suzuki Exchange Conference in Remscheid, Germany, welcomed Simon Fischer for the second year in a row.
The renowned pedagogue worked with six violin students from Germany and Switzerland in two masterclass sessions. The students played pieces including the Introduction and Polonaise from Arabesken, No. 12 by Carl Bohm, Violin Concerto No.3 by Saint-Saens, and the Double Violin Concerto in D minor for two violins by Bach.


Simon’s cheerful nature came across whilst working with the students, as he challenged each of them to strive to reach their full potential. Simon’s advice to students and teachers alike covered varying pedagogical topics, but much of his advice fell into three broad categories. Simon discussed the importance of the freedom of movement whilst playing, as well as covering technical issues of the left and right hands. Whilst he was careful to place great emphasis on the importance of instilling technique, he also discussed the importance of working with and for the music, rather than working for the technique.

The Importance of the Freedom of Movement

Fischer_Kerstin_Justus_klSimon was keen to stress that movement is a required part of playing the violin as it aids tone production and releases tension from the body, preventing aches and pains. To assist in the release of tension, Simon suggested that the students made sure they were ‘humans and not aliens!’ He encouraged them to jump up and down whilst bending their knees on landing, then keeping their knees soft when playing. He explained that every part of the body is connected and needs to work in harmony, just like the thumb and fourth finger on the bow needs to work together.

Fischer_mit_Justus_2_klHowever, whilst subtle body movement is encouraged, Simon warned that intense body movements could distract from the sound, particularly if the violin slants forward rather than staying upright and balanced on the performer’s shoulder.
Simon encouraged the young violinists to engage in suitable movement whilst performing, explaining that many successful solo artists may move around the stage during a performance, but their bodies will move around the violin, which remains relatively still.

Many successful solo artists also bring their bow to the violin rather than taking their violin to the bow, which further assists in fighting the natural tendency to give into the force of gravity. Simon encouraged all teachers to see their students through this lens, and to consider that performers raise their scrolls slightly at the apex of a melody stating ‘you need to go up when you go up’, rather than tipping the scroll and inevitably the violin, in a downwards motion.

In order to assist teachers with the teaching of their own students, Simon suggested that students would need to practise the freedom of movement in isolated sections of their pieces, either resting their scroll on a music stand or shelf protected by a cloth, or with the teacher holding the scroll whilst the student plays. This will provide the student with the experience of performing whilst the violin remains relatively still, which can help counteract the natural tendencies of the student to pull the violin downwards.

This effect that gravity has, pushing down on you while you are wanting to keep your arms, violin and bow up in the air, and how you react to it, is the first factor to consider in the whole subject of good posture and freedom from aches and pains (Fischer, 2013, p. 164).

Unbenannt-1Simon referred to an interesting paradoxical formula that highlights the delicate balance of movement required by the performer ‘if you can see it, it is too much. If you can’t see it, it is not enough!’.

Further information on the importance of keeping the knees soft whilst playing is available in ‘The Violin Lesson’ (Fischer, 2013, p. 195), and also in Paul Rolland’s book ‘The Teaching of Action in String Playing’ (Rolland, 2000, p. 30), Galamian’s ‘Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching’ (Galamian, 1985, p. 12–13), and Carl Flesch’s book ‘The Art of Violin Playing: Book 2’ (Flesch, 2008, pp. 92–96).


Left and Right Hand Techniques

Simon addressed a number of fundamental techniques that are paramount to a student’s success.

Technique is the ability to direct mentally and to execute physically all of the necessary playing movements of left and right hands, arms, and fingers… In short, it is the complete mastery over all of the potentialities of the instrument (Galamian, 1985, p. 5).

The following points are highlights from the discussion on left and right hand technique within violin playing:

Bow Hand Finger Placement:
Simon explained that in violin playing, there are no straight lines. The bridge is curved, the stick of the bow is curved, and the bow curves around the strings. The same advice applies to bow circles and spiccato (no straight lines, only curves,) and also to the fingers of the bow hand where straight fingers should not exist.

A common fault of the student bow hand is to protrude the pad of the flat thumb pad through the frog of the bow, resulting in a straight thumb and fourth finger. For an interesting case study on this issue, see Simon Fischer’s book ‘The Violin Lesson’ (Fischer, 2013, p. xxiii). Simon’s response to this common fault is to think of the bow as a touch pad, like a mobile phone. Each finger has a placement on the bow and must touch it’s ‘button’. The fourth finger is set on top of the outer edge of the bow, and the third finger has a button between the eye and the curve of the frog. Another button sits on the top and side of the stick for the first finger, with the second finger having no button as it just rests where it falls. Simon talks more about the bow hold in his book ‘The Violin Lesson’ (Fischer, 2013, p. 38), and ‘Basics’ (Fischer, 2008, p. 1).


geigengymnastik-1Simon advised that in order to play at the heel and under the fingers of the bow (stating that ‘you pay for all the hair on your bow – you should use it!’), the bow hold must be balanced and relaxed. In order to ensure a balanced and relaxed bow hold, Simon recommended bow hand stability and strength exercises very similar to the violin gymnastic exercises illustrated in Kerstin Wartberg’s Step by Step – Introduction to successful practice: Volume 2A (Wartberg, 2006, p. 8).

Left Thumb Placement:
With regards to the left hand setup on the violin, Simon explained that the key to relaxed playing was freeing tension, starting with the thumb. Simon urged his audience to consider that the base knuckle joint in the thumb is much lower that most people think, and therefore, relaxation of the thumb needs to start at the muscles close to the wrist joint and ball of the thumb (thenar eminence).

FischerSimon suggested that a 1-minute wrist massage before playing might be hugely beneficial (Fischer, 2013, p. 184), although care needs to be taken to prevent damage to the soft tissues.
However, discovering how to release tension in the hand and wrist is immensely important in the quest for tension free playing, and further discussions on the benefits of the freedom of the left hand can be found in ‘The Violin Lesson’ (Fischer, 2013, p. 181).

Left Thumb Rotation:
Simon proposed that teachers consider thumb rotation (clockwise or anticlockwise) as well as the forwards and backwards position of the thumb, and explained that the considerable benefit of relaxation can be gained by the frequent rotation of the thumb during playing (just for a few seconds), to make sure it is tension free. Suggested exercises for thumb position and independence can be found in Simon’s book ‘Basics’ (Fischer, 2008, pp. 89–91).

Left Hand Fingers Moving from the Base Knuckle Joints:
Fischer_Zeigefinger_2For ease and efficiency, it is good practice to train the fingers on the left hand to move from their base knuckle joints. However, when doing so, care must be taken to ensure that the shape of the first finger on and off the string does not change. In his book ‘The Violin Lesson’ (Fischer, 2013, p. 187), Simon discusses a number of tapping exercises that can assist in the student in developing the appropriate finger action technique. Further discussions on the importance of moving the left hand fingers from their base knuckle joints can be found in Galamian’s book ‘Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching’ (Galamian, 1985, p. 18).

Left Elbow Placement:
Basics_D_U1When referring to the correct placement of the left elbow, Simon connected the elbow placement to the base knuckle joints of the fingers. He suggested that when playing on the E string, the left elbow would need to swing more to the left, with the base knuckle joints of the fingers near to the level of the fingerboard. In contrast, when playing on the G string, the left elbow needs to swing more towards the right (under the violin), and the base knuckle joints of the left hand will be higher than the level of the fingerboard (Fischer, 2008, p. 108).

In order to demonstrate the feeling of this with a student, Simon advocated engaging in left hand pizzicato using the 4th finger to pluck the E string, then swinging the elbow under the violin in order to find the correct elbow position and finger placement to pluck the G string. This feeling should then be repeated whilst bowing (arco), challenging the elbow and left hand fingers to make the same placements as per the pizzicato exercise.

Violin Hold:
Simon explained that over the course of his teaching career, he has come almost full circle on what he considers to be the most ideal violin hold position. After many years of study in the area, he now believes that a violinist should adopt a violin hold that allows the violin to remain as flat as possible, in order to prevent the loss of natural bow weight on the E string. However, he does suggest slanting the violin slightly for the bow to gain better access to the G string, preventing bowing fatigue that might occur if the violin position is too flat.



The reason for adopting the flatter violin position is that the sound projects better. It also provides the performer with a different bow arm where everything feels different. Although the same muscles are used, they are used in different proportions, which result in the provision of superior bow arm motion.
Fischer_mit_Justus_1_klFor further discussion on the importance of the violin position, see ‘The Violin Lesson’ (Fischer, 2013, p. 27), ’The Teaching of Action in String Playing’ (Rolland, 2000, pp. 73-74) and ‘The Principles of Violin Teaching’ (Galamian, 1985, p. 13).


The Importance of Musicianship over Technique
Throughout the masterclass, Simon stressed the importance of being a musician first and foremost, and ‘then being a musician!’ Simon was emphasising the importance of making sure the primary aim of a violinist was to deliver the musical result, whilst employing the necessary technique required to support their musicality. This is contrary to the belief that many students have that their bow hand and bow arm is what makes the magic happen on the violin.

Simon suggested that the violinist starts from the musical result they want to achieve, and then works back towards the technique required to maintain the musical result. Therefore, what happens on the violin should be as a result of the music, and not the cause of the music. This means that attention must be paid to the form of the bow hand (the physical appearance), but it’s function (the way it works) comes directly from the music. Here, Simon was putting across his viewpoint on the age-old argument of balancing the teaching of technique and musicality, which has been debated by pedagogues as far back as Leopold Mozart in 1756 (Mozart, 1951).

Simon also applied the same idea to shifting, where he explained that the first rule of shifting is that there should be no musical concept of shifting. The shift is just a mechanism that the student gets for free when they work on the music rather than the technique. However, once they own the mechanism, the student will need to practise it repeatedly in order for it to be accurate, automatic, and readily available to employ in their future repertoire.

Simons key message was that ‘we do not play the technique, but the music requires the technique’. When applied to the bow hand, it means that ‘the bow hand supports the bow, but does not control it’.


Words of Wisdom
Throughout the masterclass, Simon made reference to some useful words of wisdom that are worth noting:

  • Sometimes you do not need to practise something over and over until you get it right. You just need to listen, understand it, then do it, which cuts out a lot of mindless practise time. ‘You need to listen, then do. This idea stresses the importance of an organised mind before embarking on practise. Simon talks more about this concept and other practise ideas in ‘The Violin Lesson’ (Fischer, 2013, p. 326).
  • Simon’s key to success in his own teaching is that he has a talent for seeing how a student could play in the future. This is a constant theme he employs for all of his students, and encourages all teachers to adopt a similar strategy, as developing a vision for every student is a hugely beneficial tool for clearing the mind and prioritising teaching.


  • If the student does exactly as they are told, when they are told to do it, they could do anything. This is a key concept that could be developed by teachers relating to their own students, although it may be a very difficult strategy to implement!


Simon made numerous references to Galamian during the masterclass, and suggested that all violin teachers should be familiar with the fundamental work ‘The Principles of Violin Teaching’ (Galamian, 1985), as well as Leopold Mozart’s 1756 book ‘A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing’ (Mozart, 1951), in which a number of Simon’s ideas are also corroborated. Simon also made a reference to Dorothy DeLay as the source of inspiration for the less-more-most concept of expressive playing. An interesting insight into Dorothy DeLay’s life and teaching can be read in ‘Teaching Genius’ (Sand, 2005).

Fischer+Great thanks are offered to Simon Fischer and the teachers and students involved in the masterclass. They proved to be a great inspiration for teachers and students alike, and the information provided will continue to help teachers and their students for years to come.



Fischer, S. (2013) The Violin Lesson: A Manual for Teaching and Self-teaching the Violin. London: Peters Edition Limited.
Fischer, S. (2012a) Scales: Scales and Scale Studies for the Violin. London: Peters Edition Limited.
Fischer, S. (2012b) Tone: Experimenting with Proportions on the Violin. London: Fitzroy Music Press.
Fischer, S. (2008) Basics. 300 Exercises and Practice Routines for the Violin. London: Peters Edition Limited.
Fischer, S. (2004) Practice. 250 Step-by-step Practice Methods for the Violin. London: Peters Edition Limited.
Flesch, C. (2008) The Art of Violin Playing Book 2. USA: Fischer.
Galamian, I. (1985) Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching. London: Prentice-Hall International.
Mozart, L. (1951) A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing. London: Oxford University Press.
Rolland, P. (2000) The Teaching of Action in String Playing. USA: American String Teachers Association.
Sand, B. (2005) Teaching Genius – Dorothy DeLay and the Making of a Musician. New Jersey, USA: Amadeus Press.
Wartberg, K. (2014) Basics for Young Violinists – Test Version for 6th Suzuki Teachers’ Exchange Convention in Germany. German Suzuki Institute
Wartberg, K. (2006) Step by Step – An Introduction to Successful Practice: Volume 2A. USA: Alfred Publishing.



Helen Hines
Studio Director of ‘Violin with Helen’ in Reading, United Kingdom


Helen holds an MA in Instrumental Teaching from the University of Reading (where she graduated with distinction), and violin teaching diplomas from Trinity College London (ATCL), and the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (DipABRSM).



Conference report – PART 1


Please like our page on facebook!


7th European Suzuki Teachers Convention in Germany
30 October – 2 November 2015

We hope to meet you all again for next year’s Conference, and extend an invitation to all violin, viola and cello teacher of the worldwide Suzuki community.






Print Friendly

Heidi Curatolo: 5th Suzuki Teachers Xchange Conference in Germany – PART 3

Heidi_2DAY 3
ntensive Course:
Pre-Twinkle and Book 1A


After the conclusion of the Main Conference, I stayed in Remscheid for two more days to participate in the Pre-Twinkle and Book 1A Intensive Course.


Sara and Silvia Migliorini:  Musical Garden
Italian sisters Sara and Silvia presented a demonstration of the Musical Garden. The Musical Garden is a non-instrument specific music and movement program in Italy for children. The curriculum consists of three different programs: Music Lullaby (for children from 0 to 3 years old, their mothers and their teachers), Children’s Music Laboratory (for children ages 3 to 10, with particular reference to the Suzuki methodology and support for the study of a musical instrument) and Dr. Music (a specific program for children with disabilities). Students in these programs learn to sing in tune, feel the beat, and learn many important music theory concepts. The Musical Garden classes support Dr. Suzuki’s belief that all children can develop musical, provided that their early environment supports such learning. For more information on the Musical Garden visit:

Sara and Silvia demonstrated a great number of wonderful Pre-Twinkle Activities from Children’s Music Laboratory. These exercises were both entertaining and very instructive for children and their parents.

Ruth Brons shared with us how she teaches Allegretto in a session titled

Teaching Dr. Suzuki’s Allegretto: Puzzles and Patterns


Here you will find a very detailed summary of Ruth’s lecture that she is generously sharing with all of us:

Conference material by Ruth Brons
Egg Puzzle for “Allegretto”

Sue Hunt “The 100 day practice Challeng

The Habit of Making Every Day Special.

How to develop a most important life skill in your students and yourself, the ability to follow through on a project, no matter how challenging.


Sue Hunt from London (Great Britain) says practice has to happen every day. Why doesn’t this happen easily?  She claims children don’t want to practice and parents find practice time too stressful.  In this session, Sue outlined many ways to make a 100-day practice challenge successful and rewarding. 
At her website,, Sue has created a 100-day practice kit that includes everything one could possibly want or need to kick start a new and effective daily practice habit. Sue taught the workshop participants her techniques for implementing the challenge in a teaching studio or with families and friends.  She shared with us examples of pledge certificates for children of all ages, weekly practice charts, tools for scheduling practice, milestone certificates, and ideas for celebrating the successful finish of the challenge (one way she recommended was to begin a NEW practice challenge).

Conference material by Sue Hunt

In a two-part session that happened on both Sunday evening and Monday morning, Charles Krigbaum from Texas (USA) presented Pre – Twinkle: Building Skills that Last a Lifetime, a series of lectures where Charles shared his Pre-Twinkle sequence and his lesson plans for the first several lessons with a new student.  He outlined his ideas about the use of a box violin and foot chart, lesson rituals, developing endurance for posture, balancing the bow hand, forming the left hand structure, securing the violin hold, developing a child’s tone concept, and training children to work with repetitions.

Evening program in relaxed atmosphere:
International Exchange

5 participants from 5 countries

Intensive Course:
Pre-Twinkle and Book 1A
Building Skills that Last a Lifetime, Part II

Charles Krigbaum shared that he spends anywhere between 6 weeks to 3 months on the box for a young child, and uses this time to find opportunities to teach attitude, behavior, and respect.  He says that it often takes him six months for a student to play a well-developed Twinkle.


He told teachers that during the journey through the Suzuki repertoire that we should be mindful that the students are not simply learning pieces, but that they are learning to play the violin. 
Charles_Pappgeige_2_KleinAccording to Charles, a student’s later success depends upon the teacher’s understanding and delivery of the material in the first volume.  He says that he learned this first-hand through his own experiences as a teacher committed to life-long learning.  He encourages us all to constantly revisit our ideas about Pre-Twinkle teaching.  He feels that it is important to keep ideas fresh, to have a clear vision of the student in mind, and to stay current with the best available information.

Charles believes that a teacher must be able to see with their ears and hear with their eyes because posture affects tone.  He says that beginning violinists must strive for even sound, even tone throughout the entire bow stroke and that the tone should be DEEP.

According to Charles, in Book 1, review means you do all of the pieces and their preview spots at home every day.  He stressed that in Book 1, students should play all Twinkle Variations every day and that every piece must be reviewed in the context of skill development.  He says that students who do this are different players.

Charles feels that having a sense of timing for progress is fundamental in teaching.  Knowing when to stay on something until it develops and when to move on is a special skill for teachers that can develop with time.

Charles showed many video examples of his early Book 1 students playing with excellent posture, violin holds, bow holds, and clear sound.  He claims that one secret to success is the use of practice videos and practice CDs such as Step-by-Step.  At the end of every lesson, Charles has the parent video tape him giving a short summary of the most important parts of the lesson, a reminder of all the assignments, and playing examples of the preview spots he has assigned. He says that he used to have parents video tape every lesson, but quickly realized that no one was watching them. He asks parents and students to watch the practice video once every day before practicing.


During home practice, Charles advocates the use of practice CDs. Practice CDs guide the home practice, make practice longer, and provide structure while letting the parents off the hook just a little bit. He gave many examples of how he uses the Pre-Twinkle recordings in Step-by-Step 1A to teach Pre-Twinkle concepts including clapping, chanting, singing, and bowing on the “magic violin.”  He says that his students review their pieces with the Step-by-Step CD at home every day and that it ends arguments between children and their parents about how fast something should be played. He says that a piece develops from playing the fundamental exercises, to being able to play by phrase, to playing through a piece slowly and in the student’s own tempo, to progressing through the three tempi approach used in Step-by-Step.  He believes that this process provides a clear standard and makes practice more musical and enjoyable.

SHEET MUSIC: First Pre-Twinkle Songs

Audio Files (MP3): First Pre-Twinkle Songs

Daina Volodka, Chicago
Real Review: Mastery of violin technique
through listening and review



According to Daina, if a student and parent do not know why they are reviewing, then they will not do it at home.  She feels that it is essential to raise the value of review by making it purposeful and relevant.  Daina shared that Alice Joy Lewis, an esteemed Suzuki pedagogue in the United States, cautions us as teachers to know that what we are not hearing in lessons is not being played at home. Her motto is, “inspect what you expect,” and by this she means that whatever we want the student to do at home, we need to stay current with in lessons. To take this a step further, Daina believes the student and parent must know what the expectation is and WHY she inspecting it. In this session, Daina shared games, strategies, and practice charts that she uses in developing a student’s review. One particular way Daina makes review relevant is the 15 WIN GAME.  In this game it is important that everyone understands what makes up a “win”.  In the  game there is “the stage”, “the backstage”, and “the audience.” When a child is playing, they must be “on the stage” and in charge, rather than the parent or teacher micromanaging the playing.

Daina reminded us that Dr. Suzuki said, “raise your ability with a piece you can play.” For Daina, review is an extraordinary opportunity to bring a previously learned piece to a higher level of development.  Daina shared with the participants her layering approach, and her system of grading review pieces to help students elevate the material to higher and higher levels.  Daina believes that review can powerfully impact the technique of every student, and can help to unlock the freedom to play with expression and high musical ability.

2. REAL REVIEW: Sample recital review lists
3. REAL REVIEW: Review by Student Level
Kerstin Wartberg (Deutsches Suzuki Institut)
Working on sound quality from the very beginning

Kerstin began her presentation by reminding teachers that working on a student’s tone was always a priority for Dr. Suzuki. According to Kerstin, many children’s lessons started with a brief exercise led by Dr. Suzuki. She explained a process that she observed many times:

2_SUZUKIDr. Suzuki played a rhythm on an open string and the student had to repeat what Dr. Suzuki played. Sometimes Dr. Suzuki would repeat the same rhythm, and sometimes he would move to a different tone with a different rhythm. I saw him working this way with many students, always for a period of about 2 or 3 minutes until he seemed satisfied.
I asked myself what exactly it was that he wanted to teach with this short imitation game. The game appeared to involve many components: listening to pitch and rhythm, imitation of bow speed and bow length, but this was not his main point.
It was the quality of sound.
For Book 1 students, Dr. Suzuki emphasized an understanding for the depth of tone. Once, at a workshop in Denmark, he asked us to buy 20 bananas —one banana for each child in the Book 1 group class. The bananas were clever reminders that the children should understand that a good sound is never like a straight line, but like a little curve… or like a little banana.

Kerstin led the teachers in Remscheid in several similar games for Book 1 children.

Here are some examples:
The teachers closed their eyes and listened to the sounds Kerstin was playing using Twinkle rhythms on open strings. Was the sound flat, (like a plain? shallow? as a pancake?) or deep (with depth? curved like a banana?)? It was very easy to hear and to understand the differences. Then some teachers had to play and the group had to guess again. Now it was not so easy as it seemed before. The results were not always easy to differentiate.

The aim of this tone exercise was to get a clear feeling for the flexibility of the bow hair and the stick in connection with the natural weight of the arm. When this relationship is nicely developed the result is a beautiful tone with clear ringing sound – Kerstin called it the “bell tone.” Developing a beautiful bell tone is one important goal in Book 1. It is the preparation for the Casals tone exercise in Book 2, when the children need to shape three tone waves in the Beethoven Minuet.

Another interesting example of how to focus on tone quality with children was the STEP GAME. It is useful for private lessons or small group lessons with only a few children. The teacher plays, for example, a Twinkle rhythm on an open string with an excellent posture and the student standing at the other side of the room has to repeat it. If the child can play the rhythm with a good posture they are allowed to make a step forward toward the teacher. Then the teacher plays the rhythm again and asks the student to listen for very clear stopped bows on the eighth notes. If the child could stop well between the eighth notes, then they can take another step forward. But if the child did not play it very well, then they are not allowed to make a step forward. If the teacher wants to make this point VERY clear, then the child even has to make a step backwards. Within the framework of this simple game, the teacher has freedom to work on many topics, such as: playing only on one string (not accidentally touching the neighboring string), resonance between the eighth notes, a clear start to the tone without being squashed with uncessary pressure, more depth to the sound, a straight bow, or keeping the bow on the right sound point (bow lane) etc. If the child plays very well then he or she can make a very large step. The game is over once the student arrives at the other end of the room.
There were several other games focused on how to concentrate on sound and how to improve a student’s tone production. Always the main point of the game was to focus the student’ listening, and to increase the awareness of the three parts of every note that both the child and their parents must listen for:

No. 1 a clear start of the tone
No. 2 a deep, ringing sound
No. 3 a clear tone ending with resonance

The report is now finished!
Thank you for reading my account of the 5th Suzuki Teachers’ Exchange Conference in Germany. We all hope to see you next year! Stay connected here at the Suzuki Teaching Ideas – EXCHANGE and watch for upcoming articles by presenters and participants of this year’s Conference, or write one of your own!


Many thanks to Monika and Jürgen Pieck
for their perfect organisation!


We hope to meet you at the next
Suzuki Teachers’ Convention in November 2014!

Kerstin, Barth, Quiroz


31 October – 3 November 2014

Sixth Suzuki Teachers’
Xchange Weekend in GERMANY


In response to the great demand
by many course participants we asked
Simon Fischer
to come also to our next conference in 2014.
And YES! He agreed to come!

Excerpt of the film “LET US WORK TOGETHER!”


Heidi L. Curatolo
Director of the Suzuki Violin and Piano Institute of Aspen, USA

Music Performance from Brooklyn College
City University of New York 1998
Masters in Education and Mathematics Brooklyn College, 2001
Aspen Music Festival and School alumni

Read what the newspaper ASPEN TIMES reports about Heidi’s Suzuki Institute.

Print Friendly

Heidi Curatolo: 5th Suzuki Teachers Xchange Conference in Germany – PART 2

Conference Motto:

Excellence from the Start

Following the Book 6 Intensive Course, the 5th Suzuki Teachers Xchange Conference began on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. with a brief welcome from Kerstin Wartberg, Director of the German Suzuki Institute.  Over 130 teachers from 20 countries throughout Europe and North America gathered in the main lecture hall of the Akademie Remscheid to begin two days of seminars, presentations, and training sessions. 

During the conference, Carol Bez and Agathe Jerie from Switzerland, Anders Grøn from Denmark, Andrea Mugrauer from Austria,  and Kathrin Averdung and Kerstin Wartberg from Germany  were the trainers for an introductory course on the Suzuki method and its application to music learning.  Approximately 20 interested teachers participated in the course.  The purpose of the course was to give perspective teachers a basic understanding of the Suzuki approach and to introduce them to the ideas in Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy.

Isabel Morey Suau, from Germany, led the first activity. Isabel and I had exchanged messages and become friends on Facebook, so it was very exciting for me to finally meet her in person. She led a group class demonstration and had teachers volunteer to be the “children” for her class.

Isabel illustrated several of her techniques for using toy props. Using a very scary (but funny) black rubber rat with sharp pointy teeth, Isabel successfully got our attention to start the class. Isabel made an excellent point about the use of props, toys, and games.  For Isabel, props can serve as a way to create a memory or reminder of important ideas and concepts in the minds of the children. They are not just about entertainment, but for creating a strong memory association—although they can certainly be fun.

Once we were ready to start, she had us take our violins and place them on the ground. She used nonverbal cues to organize our arrangement, focus our attention, and to prepare the class for learning. We did exactly as she asked, but then she indicated through her actions that it was too loud and had us try again even more gently and with less sound.  

She also shared a unique system for controlling the flow of traffic in and out of class. Isabel overlaps two classes and has a student from the previous class lead a piece while she tunes the children from the next class.  Once a student has been tuned, she then adds them to the group one by one. Each child from the previous group leads a piece until she dismisses the previous class and is ready to start the next one. This procedure cuts back on the children becoming noisy and maintains their focus.  She also advised teachers that the best way to start a group class is to just begin the piano accompaniment and get started; talking just makes students (and parents) want to talk more!

Using several recordings (including the Suzuki, Step-by-Step, and Recital Training CDs) as accompaniment, Isabel modeled a variety of activities using music and movement to prepare techniques used in the Suzuki repertoire. Flowing movements, circular gestures, knee bends, and other body motions were first experienced by the group and then related to the teaching points of the pieces.

Charles Krigbaum presented a 90-minute lecture called Excellence from the Start where he explained how he aspires to create an environment of success and excitement and seeks to motivate students and their parents to develop the abilities of the child in the spirit of Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy.  He outlined his ideas about excellence, revealed strategies for setting the tone of one’s program, and gave practical examples for bringing out the best in everyone.  Charles shared many video examples of his students at different levels, and even showed the development of several children (over a period of many years), from the Pre-Twinkle stage to playing major concertos.

Krigbaum, Kerstin, Gruppe_004_Klein

Steven (5 years old) practices the Pre-Twinkle bow hold

 Steven (now 7 years old) works on vibrato

Charles believes that through the process of learning to play the violin, children learn valuable life lessons: that attitude is everything, to always try your best, to have the ability to do things even when we do not want to, to value cooperation, and to experience the joyful satisfaction of accomplishments achieved as the result of one’s own efforts.
He stated that developing the technical and musical tools for excellence in performance, along with developing the character of the child are the dual goals of the Suzuki method.  Charles urged teachers to always remember that in the Suzuki method we advocate developing the character of the child, for it is the character of the child that will be reflected in the quality of their music. He joked that “no one ever became excellent at anything by doing something once or twice, two or three times a week.”  He stated that the pursuit of excellence is our way as Suzuki teachers to help children develop into the best they can be.

Charles has a very direct, yet inspiring way of communicating with parents and students.  He lets parents know from the very beginning that the Suzuki experience is a mirror of their own personal values, work ethic, and attitude.  He outlined ways to inspire excellence using a positive approach, and stressed that the teacher must set the pace of progress, insist on completing assignments, and require the parent to fully embrace their role in the Suzuki Triangle. 

He concluded his presentation with the following thought:
“Imagine a world where children grow up learning to play the violin. Yes, there are challenges – but the children develop into wonderful people with splendid abilities and fine character. They have a deep appreciation for the power of their own efforts, a connection to music and all things beautiful, and know the joy of delayed gratification. Every day, teachers all over the world are using Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy and vision to create, through music, a world where these possibilities become reality. Good communities have a shared set of values. The Suzuki community is no different, and we are all in this together. Together we can achieve excellence from the start.

The Spanish Suzuki teacher Claudio Forcada from England shared part of his doctoral thesis on the similarities of different teaching schools from Kato Havas, Paul Rolland, and Mimi Zweig Pedagogy. Charles shared with me that he was amazed at how small the music world truly is. He and Claudio had been in Mimi Zweig’s pedagogy class together 10 years ago at the Indiana Summer Music Festival. Unfortunately we had to choose which workshops to attend and when to have dinner, so I was only able to see the beginning of this lecture.  There were so many things happening, it was hard to choose!


At the end of the day there were two parallel events. “Pre-Twinkle Exercises without Instrument” presented by the teachers Mike Hoover, Tanja Bachmann, Pia Karls, Jordi Neumann and Constanze Wurzel.
I attended the session called “Irish Fiddle Tunes for Suzuki Students” by Bernadette Robinson and her sister, Noelle McHugh. This class was so much fun! Bernadette and Noelle explained that culturally in Ireland, folk tunes are taught by ear and are a part of the environment of the child from an extremely young age.  For many generations, music has been passed down in a manner that is strikingly similar to the Suzuki Method.  

The Irish Suzuki teachers, the sisters Bernadette Robinson & Noelle McHugh

The Irish Suzuki teachers, the sisters Bernadette Robinson & Noelle McHugh

A few of us enjoyed this session so much that we continued to play fiddle tunes at the bar very late into the night as a part of the “evening program”.


The evening seminars ended with Anders Grøn from Copenhagen and a group of his cello teachers playing arrangements of Suzuki pieces for cello choir. These touching arrangements exemplified “how to speak and sing through our instrument.”




The incredible tone of the cellos, played so beautifully and with great emotion was so moving to me. I sat motionless in awe. It made me want to learn how to play the cello.


Ruth Brons

Early Sunday morning there were three different lectures occurring at the same time. Unfortunately, I will admit that I missed Ruth Brons “Things 4 Strings” bow hold accessories discussion, although I am interested in purchasing one to experiment with.  

During the Conference, Ruth met with many teachers and shared her story of how the bow-hold buddies were invented, the needs that she believes they can help meet, and her experiences with using them with her own students.  The participants at the Conference clearly had a unique opportunity to learn about a pedagogical tool directly from the inventor!

Here you can see a video with the latest information about “Things 4 Strings.”

Our Conference IT specialist, Christoph Friedrichs, who has managed all of the technological support for the Xchange for several years, presented himself this year as a speaker.
He invited all Suzuki teachers to use Facebook and to recognize the opportunities present in
social networking in bringing Suzuki communities together. He spoke about common concerns and problems that could be present when adapting to social media (such as privacy and maintaining professionalism) and how to manage them.  He noted that we are all pioneering a new era in community building, and as a positive example he mentioned the Facebook group “SUZUKI TEACHING IDEAS – EXCHANGE.” This and other Suzuki groups are great opportunities to be in contact with colleagues from all over the world and to share teaching experiences.  Christoph reminded the participants that in the 21st century, communities are no longer bound by physical limitations (indeed our close friends and colleagues may live on the other side of the world) and that everyone who uses Facebook prudently can find lively exchange, good teaching ideas, and new inspiration. 

Gino Romero Ramirez is a Suzuki violin teacher originally from Columbia who now lives and teaches in Germany and works a lot with rhythm, body percussion, and drums. Often he uses the Step-by-Step CDs in classes that integrate drumming, body percussion, stepping, and singing. He teaches Suzuki classes and shares the joy of music in the public schools for up to nearly 700 children a week! We watched a video of Gino’s energetic and engaging teaching and it included so many different facets.   He shared his experiences with teaching large groups of children in many diverse formats.  From violin classes and general music to orchestra and early childhood music—it is clear that Gino has many talents and shares them to touch the lives of so many children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn about music and the violin. Gino’s infectious and playful spirit is most certainly inspired by Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy.

Gino Romero Ramirez Gino Romero Ramirez

Here is an example of some of the rhythm training that he uses in group lessons.


Claudio Forcada & Andrea Quiroz

               Claudio Forcada & Andrea Quiroz

Andrea Quiroz from Barcelona presented a note reading game (invented by Andrea) with many possible uses and variations.  

It  is  directed  to young  children and  their  parents and  helps them  to  understand  the  first steps  of  note reading in a playful manner.  Children using Andrea’s system are able to learn elementary pitches, rhythms, and time signatures, all while having quite a lot of fun.

On Sunday morning at 9:15 a.m., most of the teachers at the Conference gathered in the main lecture hall of the Akademie Remscheid to hear Simon Fischer, internationally renowned teacher, violinist, author, and pedagogue, present a morning of lectures on “Solving Problems in String Playing.”

Basics_D_U1All German-speaking teachers received a special gift from the conference organizer: a copy of the newly published edition of Basics translated into German by Kerstin Wartberg.  This enormous project (231 pages of English to German translation) was completed just in time for the conference, and the appearance of Mr. Fischer at the Xchange was a perfect opportunity to celebrate the release of this important publication.

The participants had been eagerly awaiting Mr. Fischer’s presentation and the excitement in the room was quite evident. 

His lecture focused on the teaching of proportions, tone production, and making a distinction between what constitutes a “violin lesson” versus a “music lesson.” 


It was very exciting for me to interact with Simon, and he used me as an example for illustrating the importance of healthy posture and position in order to prevent injury. 

After the lecture, many teachers greeted Mr. Fischer and had the opportunity to have their books signed and to pose for pictures.  Daina Volodka and Charles Krigbaum are preparing a detailed article about Simon Fischer’s presentation for an upcoming blog. 

Check back here in the future for this article, and also for Part III of this series coming soon!

Simon Fischer & fans


Heidi L. Curatolo

Director of the Suzuki Violin and Piano Institute of Aspen, USA


Music Performance from Brooklyn College

City Universtiy of New York 1998
Masters in Education and Mathematics Brooklyn College, 2001
Aspen Music Festival and School alumni

Read what the newspaper ASPEN TIMES reports about Heidi’s Suzuki Institute.

Print Friendly

Heidi Curatolo: 5th Suzuki Teachers Xchange Conference in Germany – PART 1

Conference Motto:

“Let Us Work Together!”

In early November I attended the 5th Suzuki Teachers Xchange Conference in Germany for Suzuki Teachers throughout Europe.  The event was organized by the German Suzuki Institute, the teacher-training department of the German Suzuki Association, and led by vio­linist and Suzuki pedagogue, Kerstin Wartberg.  In addition to the weekend confer­ence, teachers had the option of attending the Suzuki Book 6 Intensive Course prior to the conference and the Pre-Twinkle & Book 1A Intensive Course following the conference.  I chose to attend all of the course offerings because I was very interested to learn more teaching strategies for my advanced students, and I also wanted to gain new ideas for working with my young beginners. 

I am so pleased that I attended all of the course offerings because these classes ex­ceeded my expectations!

On Friday, the teachers participating in the conference gathered at the Remscheid Academy and checked in to our very comfort­able dorm rooms.  At the registration desk participants were given huge folder packets which included our sched­ules, conference documents, and amazing new test materials from Kerstin.  Among the newest publications already in the testing stage are Enjoying Violin Technique (in three volumes), and a second volume of note reading.  All of these materials included beautifully recorded accompaniment CDs.

I was one of three Americans attending the Xchange. Charles Krigbaum from Texas and Diana Volodka from Illinois also traveled to Germany to participate in the conference.  Once we were situated in our dorms and had time to peruse our new materials, we proceeded to meet at the cafeteria for coffee and cake and become acquainted with some of our new European colleagues.  Charles, Daina, and I had met before at Suzuki Institutes and conferences back home in the US, but we had never before met our colleagues from over­seas.  We were extremely excited to meet Kerstin Wartberg in person.  Until this time, we only knew Kerstin through her teaching materials, via e-mails, phone calls, and Facebook.

Day 1: Suzuki Book 6 Intensive Course 

The American Trio: Daina Volodka, Charles Krigbaum, Heidi Curatolo

The American Trio: Daina Volodka, Charles Krigbaum, Heidi Curatolo

Our Book 6 class started with Charles Krigbaum leading a session on teaching Fiocco, Allegro and Handel, Sonata in F Major, 2nd movement.  Charles included in the course documents – a very good outline of teaching points – that he has collected from his studies and uses in his teaching.  He discussed how Fiocco is a much more difficult piece technically than it first appears to be.  We looked at how to teach complicated string crossings, fast finger action in the left hand, and dynamics by breaking them down into small steps.  We played several of Charles’ previews and also performed the entire piece as a group.  After playing together, Charles joked that while adults playing Fiocco together will tend to slow down, students will always want to rush the piece.  He talked about considerations for leading the piece in group performance, and stressed that it is unnecessary to make exaggerated body motions to indicate dynamics.  He suggested that rather than dropping down to one’s knees to indicate a sudden p, that teachers could communicate the same intention by standing very still.  After showing videos of his home students performing these pieces in recitals, he also emphasized slow practice in small sections, and gradually increasing tempo.

Conference material by Charles Krigbaum (USA)
Joseph-Hector Fiocco, Allegro
Georg Friedrich Handel, Sonata in F Major, 2nd movement

Veronika Kimiti & Andrea Agotha-Vajer

Veronika Kimiti & Andrea Agotha-Vajer

The next seminar was led by Veronika Kimiti. Together with her colleagues Andrea Agotha-Vajer and Sergej Simki,  she shared a Polish edition of Sevcik’s 40 Variations, Op. 3 with special attention to Variations 1 and 2 regarding the teaching of Hungarian Professor, Foldesi Lajos.
Veronika discussed using the small muscles of the bow hand in combination with the movement of the arm while playing at the frog. We performed several exercises (and many repetitions) to develop finger motion and the collé bow stroke. We watched a video presentation of the Professor giving a master class to Veronika’s students and were told that the students made significant progress after working with him for a short time.


Diana Volodka outlined the teaching points of the Handel Sonata in D major 1st and 4th movements and highlighted the changes in the Revised Edition. Most of the participants already had the new edition and were becoming familiar with the changes that Daina helped distinguish. Daina addressed many important points in this piece, including how to count and subdivide the first movement, how to use the natural weight of the arm to produce a strong tone, and other special considerations for managing bow speed when performing slow movements.  During the last movement, Daina led the class in discovering the new bowings for the dotted figures.  These could be practiced on open strings or made into a Twinkle variation. She also explored alternate possibilities for shaping the musical line in various phrases of the 4th movement.    

Daina Volodka & Kerstin Wartberg

Daina Volodka & Kerstin Wartberg



Conference material
by Daina Volodka (USA)
Georg Friedrich Handel,
Sonata in D Major, 1st movement

Georg Friedrich Handel,
Sonata in D Major, 4th movement



Day 2: Suzuki Book 6 Intensive Course
On Saturday, we continued Book 6 with Sergej Simkin outlining a brief history of the origins of the theme of La Folia. He explained that the La Folia theme can perhaps be traced back to Portugal, Italy and Spain, however its origin is still somewhat shrouded in mystery.

Sergej Simkin & Liana Mogilewskaja

                             Sergej Simkin & Liana Mogilewskaja

In the 15th and 16th centuries it was used for festivities and courtly theater. Some sources say it was a Portuguese noisy carnival dance. The La Folia melodic formula and harmonic progression was often used during this time in instrumental dance music.  Some sources say the Spanish, not Portuguese, used it for theater. The melody consists of 16 bars divided into 2 phrases. The melody is in 3/4 time and the first part exists as a 4 line poem.
It was also used in the 17th and 18th centuries as an aristocratic dance in Spain and France. It further developed in the mid-17th century, beginning its triumphant procession across the Iberian Peninsula. Here, La Folia emphasized insane movement and farce text. 

Corelli used the theme in the 1700s. The 18th Century La Folia was also performed in Sweden, America and Mexico. About 150 composers have created works using the La Folia theme. After Sergej talked about the long history of this beloved theme, he played many musical examples for us.

1. (Guitar) Arcangelo Corelli (1700) – Folias
2. Alessandro Scarlatti (1723) Variazioni su La Follia
3. Antonio de Cabezon (1557) – Folias (Pavana con su Glosa)
4. Cherubini (1813) – Gli Abencerragi – Ballet
5. Corelli-Veracini (c.1729) – Sonata No. 12 ‘Folia’ in G minor
6. CPE Bach (1778) – 12 variations H263
7. d’Anglebert (1689) Suite No. 3 In D Minor- Variations Sur Les Folies d’Espagne
8. Diego Ortiz – Recercada Quarta sobre la Folia (1553)
9. Fernando Sor (c.1815) – Folies d’Espagne et un menuet, Op. 15a
10. Geminiani (1726) Concerto XII in d moll ‘Follia’ – Theme + Variations 1-8
11. Girolamo Frescobaldi (1615) Partite 6 sopra l’Aria di Follia
12. J.B.Lully-A.Philidor (1672) – Les Folies d’Espagne
13. J.S.Bach (1742) Cantata BWV 212 №8 Aria Soprano “Unser trefflicher lieber Kammerherr”
14. Liszt (1867) – Spanish Rhapsody
15. Lully (1672) – Les Folies D’ Espagne
16. Marais (1701) LES FOLIES D’ESPAGNE – 32 Variations
17. Marc Roger Normand Couperin (c.1695) – Folies D’Espagnes
18. Mattheson (1720) Der brauchbare Virtuose, Sonata XII – Sarabande
19. Paganini (c. 1815) Violin Concerto 6 ‘Grand Concerto’ – III. Rondo
20. Rachmaninov (1932) – Variations on a theme by Corelli in D minor Op 42
21. Salieri (1815) – Twenty Six Variations On La Folia De Spagna
22. Vivaldi (1705) Trio Sonata in D Minor RV63 Variations on La Folia

"La Folia"  with Kerstin Wartberg

“La Folia” with Kerstin Wartberg

Following the historical account of La Folia, Kerstin Wartberg had us take out our instruments and we began a long and detailed session on the teaching points for La Folia from Book 6. We started off with singing! We used the “magic violin” (bowing in the air without our instruments) and learned to sing the bow speeds for the opening theme—such as “fast slow…. slow…. fast”. We discussed the specific variables for tone production such as speed, weight, and contact points (the lanes on the highway). Then we looked at the various ways of changing bow lanes to achieve tone color differences. We also studied several important preparatory exercises for the exchange shifts. Kerstin taught us specific language for cueing the students’ motions and ensuring technical accuracy.  For example, when we shift on the same note from 2nd position to 3rd position, we learned to cue the student by saying (while playing) “light” (indicating a release of finger pressure) just before the shift. 
The class found this more challenging than we might have expected!


These exercises were very neatly organized in our seminar packets.
Exercises for the variations
Just a few examples:

Variation 1, bow speed exercises and intonation.
Variation 2, emphasis on arm weight for tone projection followed by a second section to be played in the upper half more détaché.
Variation 3, Bariolage-practice open string bow pattern without fingers, then add fingers.

Thirds, place hand, play thirds, drop hand and try to remember feeling of where fingers should be placed each time to be in tune.
At the top of the 3rd page, we learned an important technique for securing the fast runs by using fast finger placement in finger patterns.

Raul, Helen, Daina_038_Klein

I learned about combination double stop tuning and how the intonation is different from playing thirds on a piano. The F appears to be slightly higher on the E String when played with the open A string.

Kerstin, Heidi, Adler_059_Klein

We concluded our session with a group performance of La Folia. We played the theme and the first several variations as a group, and then soloists played some variations. We ended the last page together as a whole group. I got to play a solo and lead the group—this was very exciting! This approach could be used in a group class and for group performances.

I really appreciated how Kerstin outlined each point in a manual for us to take home and use with our students. I find this very helpful after going through the exercises together in the class. There was so much information presented, I like being able to further review it when at home.

Conference material
by Kerstin Wartberg (German Suzuki Institute)

Teaching points:    Arcangelo Corelli, La Folia 

Kathrin Averdung

Kathrin Averdung

Kathrin Averdung
gave a class on Gavotte I and II by Rameau.

Kathrin gave excellent examples of the fundamental exercises needed by the students to perform this charming and sentimental piece. We began by working in detail on performing the opening theme with special attention to the double stop and bow speed.

Led by Kathrin, we later worked in particular on how to carefully prepare the bow strokes necessary for the Gavotte II.  My favorite part of this session was when we played a beautiful trio arrangement of Gavotte I together as a class.

Kathrin, Schlenk, Karls, Kerstin_063_Klein

Conference material
by Kathrin Averdung (German Suzuki Institute)

Rameau: Gavottes I and II, Teaching points
Rameau: Gavotte I, Arr. for Three Violins by Kerstin Wartberg


The Violin Intensive Course Book 6 has been a great experience. After lunch the 5th Suzuki Teachers Xchange CONFERENCE will begin and we’ll meet even more of the European teachers. In many parts of the building we see people arriving and groups of teachers with happy faces.  We have been studying now for nearly two days, and now it is time for the conference to begin.

Jerie, Mugrauer, Barth, Zillmann_015_Klein

I’ll report more about the 5th Suzuki Teachers Xchange CONFERENCE in PART II – coming in the near future.



Heidi L. Curatolo

Director of the Suzuki Violin and Piano Institute of Aspen, USA


Music Performance from Brooklyn College

City Universtiy of New York 1998
Masters in Education and Mathematics Brooklyn College, 2001
Aspen Music Festival and School alumni

Read what the newspaper ASPEN TIMES reports about Heidi’s Suzuki Institute.

Print Friendly

Suzuki Violin School, Book 6

♫  Technical advices: Allegro by Fiocco (video)
♫  Teaching Points: Allegro by Fiocco (download)
  Musical imagination: LA FOLIA
♫   Attentive listening: Handel Sonata in D Major (HWV 371)
♫   Playing in church: Handel Sonata in F Major (HWV 370)
♫   Teaching Points: Handel Sonata in F Major (HWV 370)
♫   LA FOLIA arranged for three violins
LA FOLIA: Teaching points and Exercises
♫   Rameau Gavotte I and II
♫   Teaching Points: Handel Sonata in D Major (HWV 371)

♫   Supplemental Duets


Todd Ehle:
How to study the Allegro by Fiocco for violin and piano

Charles Krigbaum: Teaching Points of Joseph-Hector Fiocco, Allegro



La Folia Music Video

Music is a flight to the imagination …
Five of my Suzuki violin students and I made this music video for La Folia by Corelli. Although this music video is of La Folia, the ending credits are set to the Hampster Dance. Growing up in Provo, Utah, my teacher, Hiroko Primrose, taught La Folia to us with each variation depicting something you might see in a forest. The theme asks the question, “What’s inside a big forest?” The variations represent the following (some you have to use your imagination): trees blowing in the wind, a stubborn mule, the storm, ski jumps, an old man with a cane, bunnies hopping, bike riders, a polar bear, frogs jumping, bull horns locking, a mama bear, a river, Niagara Falls, and finally, the whole forest! We had a lot of fun making this…we hope you enjoy watching!


Handel Violin Sonata in D Major (HWV 371)

Isaac Stern, violin
Alexander Zakin, piano

Recorded 1953

Listen to Isaac Stern’s most beautiful playing. Dr Suzuki liked this recording very much and asked his students to listen attentively to the tiniest of details: to every note, every phrase, every rest.
During the lesson he often asked his students: “Who is your teacher?”
He wanted to know which recording the student is listening to. If Dr Suzuki was quite pleased, he said: “Please, give my regards to …Kreisler, Elman or Stern! He taught you well!”

The Violin Sonata in D major was composed (circa 1749-50) by George Frideric Handel, for violin and b.c. This sonata represents Handel’s last piece of chamber music.


Another wonderful experience for our students:
Playing in Church

Listen to the MP3 of Handel Violin Sonata in F Major (HWV 370)
Mvmt 1: Adagio
Arranged for 2 violins or violin and viola with organ by Kerstin Wartberg

Rudolf Gaehler, violin
Kerstin Wartberg, viola (= b.c.)
Tobias Kunst, organ

Teaching points of
Georg Friedrich Handel, Sonata in F Major, 2nd movement (HWV 370)

Arcangelo Corelli, LA Folia
Arranged for Three Violins by Kerstin Wartberg

Violin 1: You can use the violin part in book 6
Free Download
La Folia (Score)

This piece was successfully performed at the European Teachers Convention in 2011.
Bela Detreköy conducts the Suzuki teachers orchestra.

Teaching points and Exercises of LA FOLIA (18 pages)
by Kerstin Wartberg (German Suzuki Institute)

Arcangelo Corelli, La Folia 


Rameau: Gavottes I and II, Teaching points
Rameau: Gavotte I, Arr. for Three Violins by Kerstin Wartberg


Teaching points of Georg Friedrich Handel,
Sonata in D Major, 1st movement

Georg Friedrich Handel,
Sonata in D Major, 4th movement



Supplemental Duets for Students in Book 6 and up:

Jean-Marie LeClair
Sonata No. 5 in E Major from “Six Sonatas for Two Violins”
Pinchas Zuckerman & Itzhak Perlman, Violins


Dmitri Shostakovich
Five Pieces for 2 violins & piano, op. 97
Janine Jansen & Julian Rachlin, Violins

Dear Colleagues!
Please tell us about
your favourite teaching ideas for book 6
and send us a short note with your name and email address.
Please click here. We’ll contact you as soon as possible.

Best wishes,
Kerstin Warberg
German Suzuki Association

Print Friendly

K. Wartberg: Johann Sebastian Bach in the Suzuki Violin School

Johann Sebastian Bach is the most frequently encountered composer in the Suzuki Violin School, appearing in most of the books, and consequently at each developmental level. Following is a brief summary of the included works with bibliography:

Johann Sebastian Bach

Book 1
–       Minuet 1: From the Suite in G Minor for piano, BWV 822

–       Minuet 2: From the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, BWV Anh.116  (in G Major for harpsichord)
–       Minuet 3: From the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, BWV Anh.114 (in G Major for piano)

Book 2
–      Musette: From the English Suite No. 3 in G Minor, BWV 808

Books 3
–       Minuet I and II: From the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, BWV Anh. 114/115 (for piano)
–       Gavotte in G Minor: From the  Suite in G Minor for piano, BWV 822
–       Gavotte I and II: From the Orchestra Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068
–       Bourrée: From the Suite for Violoncello No. 3, BWV 1009

Books 4 through 8
–       Vivace: From the Concerto for Two Violins and String Orchestra in D Minor, BWV 1043

–       Gavotte I and II: From the  Suite for Violoncello No. 5 in C Major, BWV 1011
–       Gigue: From the  Suite for Violoncello No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007
–       Courante: From the Suite for Violoncello No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007
–       Violin Concerto in  A Minor, BWV 1041
–       Andante: From the Sonata in C Major for Violin Solo, BWV 1005
–       Allegro: From the Sonata for Violin and Continuo, BWV 1023

I am sure you will agree with me that the ultimate purpose of violin lessons cannot be the simple mastery of individual pieces. The impressions that we acquire through intense exposure to music and an instrument are much more important. These impressions will accompany your child for a lifetime, cultivate character traits and motivation, impart practical experience, and above all, open an inner path to artistic and spiritual values. We are not dealing with a short-term influence of the moment, but rather a long-term sensitization of the child. Music carves a path “into the depths of the human heart” (Robert Schumann) without words or explanations and can bypass the intellect to find the most direct route.

Suzuki was convinced that children who listened to music by Johann Sebastian Bach would absorb some of his character traits and feelings.

During my studies with Dr. Suzuki in Matsumoto, Japan, he spoke many times about this subject. I quote from my notes: “When children grow up with the music of Bach, their souls will be directly influenced by Bach’s spirit with its strong personality, deep religious earnestness, desire for order, and noble character. The life forces of children sense the traits of a composer and absorb them to bring them to life in themselves. I am certain that every heart capable of feeling music will assimilate its special radiance and its clear message.”

Presenting a vivid encounter with the composer Johann Sebastian Bach, the article A Journey Back in Time to the World of Johann Sebastian Bach will provide parents and students with anecdotes, challenging tasks and information about Bach and his personal circumstances. Students and parents should read this text together. Depending on the students’ ages, the article is likely to raise many questions requiring explanation. While some students will only be able to complete the assignments with parental help, others may find them very easy. Group lessons are also an ideal forum for answering these questions, completing the assignments, or discussing particular aspects of Bach’s life in more depth.

Parents and teachers can further encourage their children and students to develop an interest in the world of music by providing appropriate books and recordings, with portraits of composers created especially for young audiences. It might also be inspiring to listen to recordings of original versions of works by Bach, especially those pieces appearing in the Suzuki Violin School. (Please see the list above.)

Bach_VivaldiOriginal Compositions and Arrangements in the Baroque Period
Many pieces which are especially popular among players and audiences can often be found in a variety of arrangements. In the Baroque Period, it was considered an honor for a composer when colleagues would make arrangements of his works. After the  motto “All is permitted that pleases!”, no less a figure than J. S. Bach made arrangements of half of the 12 Vivaldi concertos op. 3 (one for four violins, two for three violins and three for one violin) for piano, organ, or even four harpsichords with string orchestra. He transposed some of these pieces into different keys, changed bass lines and harmonies, fashioned figures to be more virtuosic, and even added or deleted measures.
See the direct comparison on the right. The lower system is by Vivaldi, the upper one shows its arrangement by Bach.

Bach’s pupil, Johann Friedrich Agricola, wrote in the year 1775 that Bach often played his pieces for violin or violoncello solo on the clavichord (a forerunner of the piano) adding chordal accompaniments to the melody.  (See Johann Nikolaus Forkel: From the first biography in 1802 about Bach, Bärenreiter-Verlag, Kassel 2004). So it is certainly not a stylistic offence to include in book 3 the Bourrée from the Suite No. 3 for Violoncello Solo as an arrangement for violin and piano in this book. This is simply a continuation of Bach’s own frequent practice and is reminiscent of his free spirit.

Arrangements in Instrumental Pedagogy
When students like a piece, they are much more willing to work intensively on difficult passages and tackle challenging technical issues like bow speed, string crossings, tempo and intonation. This is why arrangements can be such valuable additions to the lesson repertoire. Expecting students to polish etudes to the same high levels of mastery at this stage of development will usually exhaust their perseverance and enthusiasm rather quickly.

The Written Music as Foundation for Our Work
Although Suzuki frequently challenged teachers to act freely and creatively in their manner of teaching, he did want them to remain faithful to certain elements. One of these was adherence to the common repertoire used by Suzuki students throughout the world, which has enabled them to communicate in the common language of music for many years. This thought is further embodied in the homogeneity of the worldwide student and teacher training and has great merit. Nevertheless, movements for change have emerged and some Suzuki materials are coming on the market with alternative versions and different editions of some pieces.

Bach_Bourree_MagdaBourrée from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3
Facsimile of the hand-written manuscript by Anna Magdalena Bach.

There is no Bach autograph (Urtext) of the suites for cello. Here, you see  the earliest source, a copy from 1727 in the hand of Anna Magdalena Bach.
In Revised Edition of the Violin School Volume 3, you will find alternative versions of Gavotte I and II and the Bourrée by J. S. Bach.

Upon closer examination of the three different versions of the Bourrée

–       Facsimile
–       the transcription in the original Suzuki Violin School, 1978 Edition
–       the transcription in the Revised Edition 2008

it is easy to see that none of the transcriptions may claim to be consistent with the facsimile edition, not to mention the fact that they have been transposed from the cello to the violin.

I am convinced that Johann Sebastian Bach, and Shinichi Suzuki as well, would have been extremely happy to hear children around the world play these pieces together, regardless of the arrangement. Both would have placed primary emphasis on the quality and musicality of the performances. 

Let us finish our thoughts on Bach and the use of original compositions and arrangements during the baroque period with some music from Book 5:
Gavotte I and II from Cello Suite No. 6 in D Major, BWV 1012, Johann Sebastian Bach

In the Suzuki Violin School you find two Versions for Violin Solo.
In RECITAL TRAINING, vol. 2, supplemental material for Suzuki students in book 5,
you find an additionally version for Violin & Piano.

Please listen to the da capo of Gavotte I and ENJOY!

Violin: Rudolf Gaehler
Piano and Piano Arrangement: David Andruss


MP3 Files: Free download
Gavotte I and II from the Suite No. 6 for Cello solo, BWV 1012A.
Edition for Violin & Piano

Tuning notes

Audio file 1a Performance tempo (violin & piano) 6,18 MB
Audio file 1b Performance tempo (piano accompaniment) 6,19 MB
Audio file 1c Slow practice tempo (piano accompaniment) 5,48 MB

How to download
Put the mouse cursor on the link for the file to be downloaded.

Right click (control + click for Mac users) then, depending on your browser select:
Save target as (Internet Explorer PC)
Download link to disk (Internet Explorer Mac)
Save link as (Firefox)
Save Linked File As (Netscape / Safari)
You will then be prompted to choose where you want to save the file.


Alfred Author-Kerstin Wartberg

Kerstin Wartberg received her professional musical education at the Conservatory (Musikhochschule) of Cologne, earning violin performance and teaching degrees. After her graduation in Germany, she went to Japan for two years, where she was the first German to study at the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan. She graduated in 1981. In 1982 she became the director of the teacher-training program at the German Suzuki Institute, a position that she continues to hold today.

Kerstin Wartberg regularly organizes string workshops, courses and concerts. In 1987, she was the Director of the 8th Suzuki Method International Conference at the International Congress Center Berlin, which boasted 4000 active participants from more than 32 different countries. She is in demand to teach and lecture worldwide at universities, conservatories, conferences, workshops and festivals.

In addition to teaching in public forums, Kerstin Wartberg is the author of several teaching books and CDs, including the Step by Step series of violin exercise books and companion CDs (published by Alfred Music Publishing Co.) and Recital Training (published by Edition Peters). She drafted these series, based on Dr. Suzuki’s Method, at the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan between 1981 and 1986, where they were approved by Dr. Suzuki and tested by numerous Suzuki teachers, their students and parents. Step by Step and Recital Training represent a source of Dr. Suzuki’s instrumental concepts as well as specific instructions concerning the individual pieces, in both written and audio form. Many of the publications are available in German, English, French and Spanish.

Print Friendly