Squinting her left eye a little in emphasis, Danette Readman says she started her introduction to the Suzuki Method of musical instruction with a grain of salt.
“To be honest, I was a little skeptical, so I took it out of curiosity,” Readman says about her first teacher training in 2004.
But she found it really works. “I liked the aural-based approach, teaching music like a language, I liked the community, the parent involvement – they take training and come to classes and take notes.
“They’re involved and music is something you’re trying to integrate into everyday life,” Readman explains, her head nods emphasizing her points.
Hands reaching out, sculpting and shaping the air as she continues to describe her teaching process, Readman gives a bit of a preview of how she engages her students, demonstrating not only through the aural aspects of music, but through the physicality of how the body shapes the sound, how the process shapes the end results.
“It’s neat to see relationships between parents and kids progress and grow stronger through their involvement. And because it’s systematic and structured, it’s building a framework to have more freedom later on … the self-discipline needed to master any instrument later on,” Readman continues, words tumbling out.
With a shared repertoire, the group classes have the advantage of starting to learn those songs together. As Readman says, there are many facets to musical education: “They’re learning how to communicate musically in these groups.”
Students learn aurally first in this classically based method and, as time progresses, they learn to read music as well. Later on is theory.
In addition to their weekly routine, Readman tries to add outside stimulation for her students: “Some of the things this year I’m trying to highlight is getting guest artists to come on and, for the advanced students, a guitar club once a month where they learn how to jam and cross-over and experiment.”
This guitar club is led by a somewhat older peer, Grade 12 student Graeme Poile.
With a laugh and smile, Readman readily opens up to why she teaches as intensively as she does: “It’s sharing my passion for music, and in particular for guitar, and helping young people and their families have music become part of their regular life.”
Since her style is classic instrumental music, she likes introducing it without discouraging other styles.
“I get excited about things. I like helping create opportunities. In September, my advanced kids, my Suzuki Ensemble, played for the Montréal Guitar Trio and it was really cool,” Readman exclaims.
And because parents are involved, the lessons and practice become a family affair. This year, Readman has three sets of siblings in her studio. Ever thorough, Readman adds, “The older siblings often help out at home or, at group classes, the older sibling will sit in on the younger group classes as helpers.
“This always warms my heart (aww!)”