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Kathleen Schoen

June Student Recital

June Student Recital

June 19, 2022

We gathered at the Chinese Garden Ting Gazebo in the Louise McKinney Riverfront Park to play for each other in person for the first time in 2.5 years. It was wonderful to see and hear each other in person after so many months of on line learning during the COVID 19 pandemic.

It also happened to be Father’s Day on the day of our outdoor recital, so we invited all the fathers to pose with their kids at the end of the concert.

Learning Online with Children

The last year and a half has been a very interesting time. We moved our teaching activities to an online format as a safety precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have learned a lot.

We were wondering if it would be successful to try online classes with the youngest children, and it was more successful than we thought it would be.


Because in our Suzuki Early Childhood Education classes, the emphasis is on the interaction between the parent and child. As teachers, we are on a screen guiding the order of the activities and leading the songs and games. At home, the parent and child are still focusing on each other and learning together.

So the expectation is not that your child will remain glued to the screen in fascination. The expectation is that you will play together with your child, and we will help you with fun songs to sing along with and games to learn. It was our experience that after several weeks, the children would start to notice that there were other children on the screen and begin to engage with them through observation and imitation, but their primary focus at the beginning was on the parent. That is not so different from what happens during an in person class either.

Also, the biggest difference in Suzuki music classes when compared to other music activities, is the emphasis on review. We keep coming back to old songs, but because they are familiar, the children are very happy to recognize things they already know. This anticipation, knowing what is coming next, is what keeps their attention. We do introduce new skills in the context of the old songs, so there is lots of development happening as the children gain experience, but it is always in a very comfortable context. 

The best way to set up for a successful online music class with your child:

  • Set yourself and your child up in a quiet area free from distractions. Plan to be with your child and play with your child for the entire class. If your child wanders off, gently bring them back to your special class spot for the next activity.
  • Connect your device to good speakers, so you can hear us while you sing along
  • Observe your child – when do they want to participate, when would they rather sit back and just listen? Remember that observing and listening are a big part of learning and understanding, and some children need to watch and listen for many repetitions before they feel ready to try something new. Hold space for them to do that, and don’t rush them.
  • The email with the weekly class link will also have a list of small objects and toys that you can use with the activities (balls, scarves, small stuffed animals, etc.) These are not mandatory – the games can be played without them, but if you do have a few of the items around the house, collect them ahead of time and have them within reach.
  • Classes use the Zoom platform. Make sure you have the latest version before you sign in, so you don’t have to deal with prompts to upgrade before you can join the class.
  • Recommended Zoom audio setting: “original sound” – here’s a quick video tutorial on how to set that up: https://youtu.be/j52BLBQnH-w

Practice ladder challenge

Practice ladder challenge

During the four weeks leading up to the school winter break, we challenge our students to keep track of the number of days they practice, AND the number of days that they listen to their reference recording. For every day that they do both, practicing AND listening, they earn a rung on our studio practice ladder.

In 2017, for every 50 rungs on the ladder, we made a donation through the Plan Canada Gifts of Hope  program. Up to 200 rungs on the ladder, we donated baby chicks;  up to 400 rungs, we donated beehives; up to 600, sheep; up to 800, goats, and if they got past 800, we would go for the whole barnyard. 🙂 The students built a practice ladder of just over 400 rungs, earning 4 baby chicks and four beehives.  

In 2018,  it was planting trees around schools. The challenge was that we would donate 1 tree for every 50 rungs. Our students tracked their listening and practice for about 3 weeks.  In those few weeks they listened and practiced for a combined total of 406 days and we donated 8 trees.
Thanks you also to the Dong family who added to our studio donation by giving an additional donation through Plan Canada of Medicine for Moms and Babies.

In 2019, we went back to animals, as that seemed to appeal more to our younger students. The challenge was 100 rungs for baby chicks, 250 for a sheep, 400 for a goat, 550 for chicks + goat, 700 for chicks + sheep, 850 for two goats, and 1000 for the whole barnyard. Our students created a ladder of 604 rungs (200 more than  last year!), earning a gift of a goat and chicks through Plan Canada. The Suzuki Early Childhood class also participated in the challenge this year, since they also have a reference recording to listen to and songs to practice with their parents.

Looking forward to what happens with our challenge in 2020!

Hospice fundraiser recording

Kathleen in the studio with the bass flute.

Thomas has a parent in his studio, Jodi Allaway, who is a songwriter. She is making a recording which will eventually be sold as a fundraiser for a palliative care hospice. She asked us to provide a few backing tracks on the project, so we did – on violin, flute, viola, bass flute, and recorder. Shout out to Velveteen Audio for being a great place to work!