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, www.musicinpractice.com, 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.

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