Indian Hill's Blog

Is the Suzuki Method for you? A chat with instructor Bethany Stephan

Children the world over learn to speak their native language with ease. Shinichi Suzuki applied the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music, and called his method the mother-tongue approach. The ideas of parent responsibility, loving encouragement, constant repetition, listening to recordings, step-by-step mastery, and group learning are some of the defining features of the Suzuki approach.Discovery3

Indian Hill Music School is now offering a Suzuki Program for Violin or Guitar for ages 4+.  Learn more about this unique and effective approach from instructor Bethany Stephan.

Q. What makes Suzuki different from traditional instrument lessons?

A. Suzuki a great step-by-step approach that can be easily tailored to the individual needs of the child and incorporates a lot of games and repetition — two things most children love.

Unlike traditional lessons, students in the Suzuki program attend one private lesson and an additional group class each week — an incredible opportunity for your child to be motivated by and grow relationships with their peers and learn about ensemble playing,  and for parents to build relationships with others in the program and trade experiences. When a student studies the Suzuki repertoire, there is an immediate bond with other Suzuki students across the nation and the world.

“If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline, and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.” – Shinichi Suzuki

Suzuki’s ultimate goal was to develop beautiful human beings, so engaging in the Suzuki Method is not only about developing solid musical abilities – it is also about encouraging growth in character.

Q. Is Suzuki all about learning to play by ear?

A. Absolutely not! The philosophy is really that the best way to learn a spoken language is through hearing, imitating and repetition followed by learning how to read after a child can speak it. Suzuki took this and created a parallel for the language of music, so once a child can play songs with a certain fluidity (speak) then they are taught how to read.

When a child begins to read will vary from student to student. In the beginning, the focus is on developing the ear and setting a solid foundation for posture and technique. Suzuki students often find later in life that they are able to easily improvise or play in bands because of this early ear development.

Q. Why is parent involvement important?

A. Developmentally speaking, parents are the greatest support system a child has. Within the context of Suzuki lessons, parents act as cheerleaders, ensure practicing is happening, and act as an extension of the teacher at home.

Q. Did you take Suzuki lessons as a child? 

A. Yes! I was five years old and watching my brother take lessons weekly. I became a bit jealous, asked for my own lessons and the rest is history — I now play with the Orchestra of Indian Hill and have taught violin for almost 15 years.

Q. To whom would you recommend the Suzuki method?

A. Suzuki is a great way to start for young children (elementary school age and younger) and parents who want to be involved in their child’s education and are prepared to dedicate some time building a special bond with their child through a new activity. As a Suzuki teacher, I believe that every child can learn how to play the instrument well with the right tools, practice and environment.

Please call our main office at 978-486-9524 or visit the Suzuki Association of the Americas website to learn more about the Suzuki approach and the Suzuki program at Indian Hill Music.

About Bethany Stephan

BLandbyB.M. and Performance Certificate, University of Denver; Suzuki Association of the Americas Teacher Training (Books 1-8); M.M., Carnegie Mellon University. Principal teachers: Andres Cardenes, Linda Wang, and Mary West

Bethany Stephan’s varied performance and teaching career has taken her around the globe, including Austria, Iceland, Central America, and Spain. Her current orchestra positions include Orchestra of Indian Hill, Albany Symphony, West Virginia Symphony, and the Santo Domingo Music Festival Orchestra (Dominican Republic). She has also performed with artists such as Josh Groban, Ben Folds, and the Transiberian Orchestra. Bethany’s teaching career of over fifteen years has included teaching both traditional lessons and the Suzuki Method. She is also experienced in coaching chamber music, teaching group classes, leading orchestral sectionals, and substitute teaching orchestra ensembles. Her previous faculty experience includes the Lamont Pre-College Academy (Denver), the Mounds View School District Summer Orchestra Program (St. Paul, MN), Sewickley Academy (Pittsburgh), Pittsburgh Music Academy, and in Panama through the Orchestra of the Americas. In addition to teaching private lessons at Indian Hill Music, Bethany teaches group violin classes at our Ayer Shirley After School Program. As a lover of many music genres, she enjoys fiddling in the American and Irish style. When not performing or teaching, Bethany can be found in nature, with many good books, or social dancing.

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Faculty Spotlight: Amy Lee, Piano – Chamber Music Intensive

Meet IHM Piano Department Co-Chair Amy Lee of our summer Chamber Music Intensive, a challenging immersion program for advanced students.

amylee_headshot_8328What instrument do you teach?

I primarily teach piano. I also coach ensembles — piano four-hands, piano-and-string duos and trios.

What styles of music do you teach?

My main focus is teaching through classical music, but there are “side projects” too. There are over five-hundred years of classical music, a wealth of compositional value and history to share. I’m always introducing my students to unfamiliar composers and have them listen to recordings before they decide on repertoire. The students can develop their individual musical taste. When a student has a curiosity for a pop-song, Broadway hit, jazz, TV or movie soundtrack themes, I encourage them to learn the music and embrace what it has to offer.

Do you actively perform?

Yes! I perform solo, chamber music, collaborating often with instrumentalists and other musicians. It’s enriching to create and perform a work that’s larger than oneself. There is tremendous value in balancing both performing and teaching. It’s a cyclical learning process, which I enjoy immensely.

Why did you choose to study piano?

I played several instruments growing up, but I always returned to the piano. I enjoy the physicality and symmetry of the keyboard. I enjoy how the piano keyboard can cover the entire range of an orchestra.

How long have you been at IHM? What do you like most about teaching here?

I have been at IHM for about five years now. I’m glad we have multiple learning and performing opportunities for students during the school year and summertime. In addition, it is a wonderful, supportive community. I have some fantastic colleagues and friends!

AmyLee2
Tell us about Chamber Music Intensive. What can students expect from the week?

There is so much more to musicianship and music education than a student’s individual, technical mastery at their instrument. How will students play together, collaboratively? It’s beyond counting and rhythms, or knowing your individual part. Students must open their minds and learn how to listen. They will learn how to communicate with other musicians, and how to convey and contribute to a larger-scale work. Students will develop more confidence and intention in their playing.

What do you like to do when you’re not teaching or performing?

I love cooking, baking, making espresso drinks and challenging my palate. I also really enjoy photography, visiting museums and enjoying live music.

Amy Lee is a multi-faceted musician who is passionate about collaboration, chamber music, and education. Her repertoire ranges from Bach and Martino to new music collaborations with young composers. She performs chamber music regularly with Trio d’amis and frequently collaborates with composer Timothy Dusenbury. From concert halls to libraries, salons and jazz clubs, Amy has performed internationally and across the East Coast, with chamber performances in the UK, the Sheung Wan Civic Center in Hong Kong, as well as recitals at in New York, Harvard University, Bentley University, and the Brevard Music Center. An active member of NEPTA and board chair of the Massachusetts Music Teachers Association (MMTA), she also enjoys giving guest music lectures at local colleges and high schools and performing community outreach. She is a graduate of Longy School of Music (U.D. and M.M. in Piano Performance) with additional studies at Boston University and Emerson College. Masterclasses with Leslie Amper, Norman Krieger, Sally Pinkas, Victor Rosenbaum, and Andrius Zlabys. Principal teachers: Randall Hodgkinson, Roberto Poli, and Judith Ross (a student of Nadia Boulanger)

A dedicated teacher and adjudicator, Amy specializes in teaching piano, keyboard theory, and coaching piano ensembles. Her students often perform in community outreach, workshops, masterclasses, recitals, and state-wide Massachusetts Music Teachers Association events. Amy believes in fostering the love of music-making, developing a strong sense of pulse, listening, imagination, curiosity, dedication, and achievement.

Raise your artistry with our Chamber Music Intensive! Hone your individual and ensemble playing skills and polish your repertoire through coaching sessions, guided practice time, and masterclasses with distinguished teaching artists.

Chamber Music Intensive
Aug. 7-11 | 9:30am – 4:30pm
Concert: Sat. Aug 12 | 4pm
Ages 14 – College
Tuition: $625
Learn more and register!

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Stage It! DIY Musical Revue: Meet the Directors

FAC_JAN_RobSueWebStage It! DIY Musical Revue is Indian Hill’s unique two-week summer musical theater experience for young singer-actors ages 8 – 15. Learn more about our directors, Susan Bonito and Rob Woodin, IHM voice instructors with extensive experience in musical theater and opera stage performance and production. Read their bios.

What singing style(s) do you teach?

Sue: Classical, opera, musical theater, pop, rock, folk, singer-songwriter, jazz, and contemporary commercial music.

Rob: All styles of vocal music, primarily classical/opera/art song, jazz, pop/rock, folk, and musical theatre.

What are your favorite musical roles to perform?

Sue: Although I have done a few Operatic Roles, such as Lina (Stiffelio), Fiordiligi (Cosi fan Tutti) Belinda (Dido and Aneas), and Suor Angelica, I prefer singing solos in large choral works with orchestra like The Verdi Requiem, Mozart Requiem, Great Mass in C, and Bach’s Mass in B minor.  I also love The Four Last Songs by R. Strauss and Knoxville, Summer of 1915 by Copeland.

Rob: Papageno from The Magic Flute, The Count from The Marriage of Figaro, Mercutio from Romeo and Juliette, and Marcello/Schaunard from La Boheme

Why did you choose to study voice? Was there one teacher or program that inspired you StageIt3the most as you were learning?  

Sue: I started out as a saxophonist. When I applied to USC as a double major, they told me I would not have time to study both sax and voice there, and that I should pick one or the other.  I was more drawn to classical music and there was a lot more repertoire for voice than for saxophone.  So, I chose voice, even though, at time, I was much more accomplished on saxophone.

Rob: My first voice teacher, Jim Pitka, had performed operas in Europe and was a big inspiration. My parents are both musicians/actors as well and provided a great supportive, guiding base to follow in their footsteps.

StageIt1How long have you been at IHM? What do you like most about teaching here?

Sue: I have been teaching at Indian Hill for almost 15 years. There are so many things I enjoy about teaching at Indian Hill: being part of an incredibly talented group of people, having the opportunity to both teach and perform, helping my students achieve their musical goals, collaborating with other musicians, and creating curriculum are all high on my list.

Rob: About eight years. Indian Hill offers lots of recitals and performance opportunities for my students — I love cheering them on, and seeing the fruits of our labors.

What do you hope to do in Stage It! this summer? What can students gain from this experience?

Sue: I hope to give students the tools, confidence, and opportunity to explore and realize their own gifts and talents through the process of creating a show together. Not only will they have the opportunity to hone traditional musical theater skills like singing, dancing, and acting, but they will also have opportunities to collaborate with others to determine the story line, write their own dialog, develop their character, and design their own costumes. They may also hone life skills such as planning, organizing, marketing, and team building.

Rob: I hope that students unlock their potential in all aspects of the theatre, be it writing, design, singing, acting, or dancing! Stage It! is a valuable experience because we produce something new together, from our own creative minds.

What do you like to do when you’re not teaching or performing?  

Sue: I like to garden, write, compose, paint, sew, cook and read.  I also like to design and build things.

Rob: Watch the Patriots & Red Sox! Vacation and travel all over European countries, cook, and go out to dinner with my wife, Jenni.

 Learn more about Stage It! and register for Summer 2017

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Summer Spotlight: Summer Jams with Joey Pierog

Summer2017-SummerJamsGet ready to rock in our new summer program for ages 10 – 14, Summer Jams! Summer Jams offers aspiring young musicians with some experience a chance to perform in a rock band with new friends. Play songs by your favorite artists or work on your own original songs, and learn recording basics under the guidance of a professional touring musician, and other members of our talented faculty. Open to guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, and voice students. One year of lessons or equivalent experience recommended.

Meet your instructor, Joey Pierog, and learn more about this rockin’ band experience!

What instrument(s) and styles do you play/teach?  

I’m a bass player, and I also play and perform guitar, ukulele and a little bit of drums. I do love the excitement of picking up a new instrument so when I’m ready I’d like to be able to play the piano.  I teach many kinds of music depending on the student’s proficiency level — anything from folk to rock to jazz and pop. I perform regularly in multiple bands around New England and I really love it.

Watch Joey play with his band, Four Legged Faithful

Why did you choose to study music? Was there one teacher or program that inspired you the most as you were learning?

I’ve always heard the phrase, “Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I took that saying to heart. I knew early on that if I were able to play, write and record music as a job, I would be happy.

At a very young age music had a profound effect on me. Music has a way of tapping into your emotions and inspiring you. I wanted to reach people the way that so many of my favorite bands and artists had reached me.

My father is a musician, and as a young child I was fortunate enough to see him perform. The effect he and his band could have on an audience was captivating. I started performing as soon as I could play and soon wanted to create the types of music I was listening to. I enrolled at Berklee College of Music and once I started working more deeply in my major, Contemporary Writing and Production, I was exposed to arranging and composing. Writing and arranging music for orchestras, chamber groups and big bands was an empowering experience. Hearing the music you previously heard in your head — realized on real instruments — pretty much sealed the deal, and I knew that my life would be all about learning how to make music in any capacity I could.

What do you like most about teaching at IHM?

Indian Hill has a strong emphasis on community. Its programs and classes show how music can bring us together. The staff is cheerful and helpful, which in my opinion is a sign of a good place to be.

What do you hope to do in your program? What can students expect to get out of it?

I’d like to take what students have learned throughout the year (or years) in their private lessons and apply that to a group setting. While solo practice is very useful, it’s hard to understand the full potential of music until you’re playing it with other people. I also want to show people how fun and easy it can be to play some of their favorite music. In a band everyone has a job to uphold. If we all work together and try our best, the results can be pretty awesome.

Who are your favorite contemporary musicians / bands? 

My personal tastes are always changing so it’s hard to pin down what I would call my favorite bands. For the classics, l’ve always been a huge fan of The Beatles, The Band, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Fleetwood Mac (the list goes on). As for new artists I like the Fleet Foxes, Wilco, Sia, Bruno Mars, Adele, Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar… (this list also goes on and on). I listen to everything from hip hop to country. As long as the music is inspired and sincere I can find something to like about it. Louis Armstrong once said “There are two types of music. Good music and bad music.” To me, the two types of music are the music that speaks to you and the music that doesn’t.

What do you like to do when you’re not teaching or performing?

I always try to connect with my audience/students on an emotional level. The purpose of all art is to make us feel something. While the technical side of music can be very helpful, it’s pointless unless it helps you convey a feeling or idea.

Learn more about Summer Jams and our other summer programs for youth, teens, and adults, and register online.

 

 

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A minute with Alice Hallstrom: A Seasoned Finale with Vivaldi’s Classic

Orchestra of Indian Hill wraps up its season featuring some of Indian Hill’s best on Saturday, April 22! The program features Ginastera (Variaciones Concertantes), Tchaikovsky (Capriccio Italien), and Vivaldi’s classic Four Seasons with soloist Alice Hallstrom, OIH concertmaster. Indian Hill Music School 2017 Concerto Competition winner Justin Gu, 15, will also take the stage to perform the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No 2: Mvt I.

Alice Hallstrom has served as concertmaster of the Orchestra of Indian Hill for the past five seasons, and is an active performer in the Boston area where she plays freOIH_AliceHallstrom_CREDIT_AliceGeburaquently with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra.  She has also served as assistant concertmaster of the Portland Symphony and assistant concertmaster of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic.  As a featured solo performer, she has played concerti with the Southwest Symphony, Juilliard Baroque Ensemble, Purchase Symphony Orchestra, and Chamber Orchestra of Tennessee.  She has recorded with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, BMOP, Josh Groban, Natalie Cole, Chamber Music Atlanta, Train, Ephraim’s Harp, and The Cartoon Network. Alice received her master’s degree from The Juilliard School and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of music from SUNY Purchase.  She lives in Bedford, MA with her husband Michael and son Spencer.  She took a minute to give us her take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

How are you bringing a fresh perspective to the popular Four Seasons?

Vivaldi put many interesting nature sounds, programmatic elements, and visual images in these pieces.  It has been a lot of fun to explore ways to bring these out and really create an auditory picture with the violin.  Some of the musical decisions I have made for this performance will be different from past performances that the audience may be familiar with, but I hope that they will serve to highlight the effects that Vivaldi was creating through his music and the poems that he included in the score.  In my work on these concerti, I did a lot of thinking about how best to emphasize the sound effects, characters, and stories that are interspersed throughout each season.

How do you personally connect to the piece? 
In preparing to perform the Four Seasons this past year, I decided to work seasonally and focus mainly on practicing the season we were currently in.  Having Vivaldi’s view of the seasons in mind shaped my experience with nature, and my own experiences with the season shaped my interpretation of the piece.  For instance, Vivaldi portrays a much more harsh and stormy picture of summer than we typically think of in our day.  While we associate it with summer vacation, swimming, lemonade, and leisure, Vivaldi captured exhausting heat and fierce, terrifying storms.  Drawing on my own experiences of oppressive heat, no air conditioning, and the scary storms I’ve lived through put me in mind of the images that Vivaldi was evoking of summers in Italy in the 1720s.  I remember one day in particular last summer when a huge storm came up.  A tornado watch was issued for our area, and I found myself hunkered down in the basement with my son thinking of Vivaldi’s poor shepherd quivering with fear. And so on with the other seasons.  The thing that’s so wonderful about Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is that they invoke images, concepts, and feelings that we are all very familiar with, and put them into a beautiful and fascinating musical setting.

If you had to choose a “season” as your favorite, which one would it be and why?
If I had to choose a favorite season, it would probably be Spring for its bright, fresh and joyful melodies.  Although the drunkard in the first movement of Autumn and the icy sounds of Winter are also favorites.

What do you hope the audience will come away with from this piece?
These pieces are so fun to play and to listen to!  I would hope that audience members would come with their own experiences of the seasons and combine those experiences with Vivaldi’s vivid musical portrayal of his view of the seasons.  Most of all, I hope the audience will have as much fun listening to the Four Seasons as we have playing them!

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