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.

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One thought on “Heidi Curatolo: 5th Suzuki Teachers Xchange Conference in Germany – PART 1

  1. Bernadette Robinson

    Heidi, congrats. Great review of the weekend. Looking forward to part 2. Hope to see you next year. B


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