STEP provides music education in The Suzuki Method. This involves a combination classroom instruction, and private lessons. We also offer a range of additional classes aimed at creating well rounded musicians.
Private instruction is integral to the Suzuki Method. Students enrolled in STEP are expected to take weekly lessens with a Suzuki trained and accredited teacher. Typically these teachers are faculty members of STEP, who also conduct Group Classes, and Musicianship Classes within the STEP Program. Private lessons are billed separately from school fees by the teacher. Private lessons are taken in conjunction with group classes at STEP.
Small Steps at STEP
Children progress at their own pace, mastering each small step as they move through graduated Suzuki music books that feature more challenging and advanced skills as they go up in level. Private teachers monitor students’ progress and guide them in maximizing their development as musicians and members of the STEP community.
The Suzuki Triangle
Because parents are active participants in the Suzuki Method, the focus of private lessons includes the parent as well. While assisting the child in working on specific skills, the teacher will often engage the parent with advice on areas of focus or review in home practice . The relationship between the teacher, the parent and the child is often referred as the Suzuki Triangle. The parent, teacher, and child make up the three sides of the triangle. All three work together as a team to achieve learning both in lessons, and in daily practice at home. The teacher’s responsibility is to motivate, provide clear instruction to learn a skill and provide guidance to the parent on how to help the child achieve their goal. The parent’s responsibility is to follow the teacher’s instruction through careful note-taking and provide an optimum learning environment at home. The responsibility of the child is to be a child. The child will learn from whatever is put in their environment and will progress if given the opportunity and the proper surrounding.
Quotes from our students
“Maggie is patient, kind, and very much in tune with my daughter’s busy mind, yet somehow still manages to gently keep her focused on the task at hand. She is more than a teacher to my daughter, she is a friend and a role model. I would recommend her to anyone looking for music lessons. Our one-on-ones with Maggie are a weekly highlight.” – Mark Bragg, Suzuki parent
Instrumental Group Classes
One of the most important means of enriching the musical environment is the Group Class, a key component of the Suzuki Method. Group classes are essential for performance of the review pieces. They are also are also the only regular opportunity most students have to learn to play with piano accompaniment. Learning happens much more quickly when children are allowed to watch and play with others. In addition to group lessons reinforcing what transpires in the private lesson, they also provide a motivating social environment that, if nurtured by the parents, can later blossom into extra-curricular musical activities such as small chamber music ensembles as the children mature. It is this kind of social atmosphere that inspires students to practice, especially during adolescence when music is in competition with so many other activities.
The skills taught in group classes can only be learned if the student is already very good at playing the pieces. Dr. Suzuki said “Improve your ability with a piece that you know.” It is much more difficult for the group to achieve these goals if the students are still struggling with notes and bowings, so please don’t worry if the group does not play your child’s latest piece. Not all the children in the class will know all the pieces that the class is doing – if they do not know a piece or a particular skill, they will watch and learn from the others. The teacher may give them an activity to do while the others are playing (help another student with posture or straight bows, play on an open string, count circle bows, listen or watch for a specific technique) which will help them when they get to that piece.
Parents as Partners
Parents are expected to attend all classes. Parents usually sit quietly and support the learning environment by being aware of the class structure and participating when called upon. Take notes for home practice. If you need to be at the class of a younger sibling, ask another parent to have an eye to yours, and get their notes after class. Parents are expected to attend musicianship class as well and reinforce class assignments at home.
Make sure your child is in “good review shape” by playing review pieces at home every day, and practicing the assigned review pieces for class.
The fiddle has been part of Newfoundland’s music for centuries. STEP offers instruction in fiddle playing to continue this tradition. Students learn fiddle playing techniques and many of the tunes which have been passed through aural tradition from generation to generation.
Musicianship teaches your child to read. For a musician, reading notes is as important as reading words – not reading (or reading badly) is a major handicap. Think of the wonderful world that opened to your child when they began to read books! There is a similar world of music, just waiting for your child to unlock the mystery of musical notation.
The Musicianship curriculum includes rhythm training, aural skills, mapping the instrument (knowing where the notes are on the fingerboard) and musical symbology (clefs, lines and spaces, pitches, rhythms). As your child progresses through the Musicianship curriculum, they will learn about keys, modes and scales, musical terms, and learn how to identify intervals by ear and on the page. Eventually she will join the top-level class which will prepare them for Royal Conservatory Theory examinations.
Musicianship is a required class for all STEP students who have reached Minuet 1 (Book 1), or are 7 years of age or older.
It is important for a string player to know how to use his/her body so that injury will not prevent lifelong enjoyment of playing. Body Mapping teaches musicians to move according to the true design of the body in order to prevent injury, fatigue and limitations. In the Body Mapping classes, students will explore the common misconceptions or “mismappings” that affect violinists, violists and cellists and replace them with accurate information. Sometimes this will be done through movement explorations both with and without the instruments and sometimes it will be done through exploring anatomical images and models.
We are extremely lucky to have Canada’s foremost expert in this field, Jennifer Johnson, teaching in our program. Students in late Book Three and above will focus on Body Mapping in their group class.