To some, Suzuki means a car; to others, it’s an electric keyboard. To Cynthia Man, a resident of northwest Las Vegas, it means hearing music played by young musicians.
Man is the artistic director of the Desert Suzuki Institute, which instructs young students in violin, piano and flute.
Its student summer institute is set to begin July 21 at the Alexander Dawson School, 10845 W. Desert Inn Road.
Man has a master’s degree in flute performance. She tutors 43 children ages 3 to 18 in the program. The children attending the summer institute will be learning ensemble pieces, concertos and other types of music.
Most of the students are locals who take private lessons in their tutors’ homes. The Suzuki method focuses on playing a piece with an ear for its nuances, versus merely playing notes from a sheet of music. The method does not teach how to read sheet music until after the student has an ear for playing in an organic manner.
“I saw the ability to start children at a younger age and be very successful,” Man said. “I saw children who were able to play musically, not like little robots but who could really feel music. The real clincher was that it’s a family method, so the parent comes to each and every lesson. And the mother works with the child at home just like the mother would work with their child on their math homework. So, the progress is just wonderful.”
Melanie Schiemer, a member of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, is another instructor. She has 15 private students, the youngest 2½ and the oldest 18. She said that youths learn in different ways, so it’s up to the tutor to discern which way works best for each one.
What if a child comes into the method after being taught the regular way, which includes reading music from lesson one?
“When I have transfer students, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to get ear training,” Schiemer said. “As a professional musician, you need both, to be able to play by ear and to read.”
Las Vegas has had Suzuki programs for nearly 30 years but no institute. Now in its fifth year, the institute is pulling in students from Germany and Canada who will stay a week. It’s more than a chance to teach them to play music instinctively; it’s a chance to present Las Vegas in a favorable light.
“By holding our institute in Summerlin, they get to see Red Rock Canyon, the beautiful sunsets and sun rises, and they get exposed to not just a week of music with us but a whole new part of Las Vegas,” Man said.
Alessandra Vivo, 14, is studying the flute. How does the Suzuki method help her?
“I think it helps with listening to the song, then being able to play it,” she said. “And it introduced me to bigger pieces and … showy pieces for competitions and things like that.”
She said other students who do not learn by the Suzuki method may play just as well as her, but the method makes learning easier.
Zane Pasha, 12, has been taking lessons for four years after his mother determined he should play an instrument.
“It’s a good way to have fun in your head,” he said of the Suzuki method. “Like, you’re hearing things better. I like it 82 percent.”
He said playing was fun because he gets to show off in front of friends.
“It was tough the first two years, then it got easier,” he said.
Phoebe, 9, is the daughter of Jaime Schwartz. Phoebe plays the piano and has been taking private lessons from Man for 5½ years. What does her mother think of the Suzuki method?
“I noticed in the beginning it was great because she didn’t have to focus on note reading. She could listen and then try to copy, which gave her instant gratification,” Schwartz said.
“(It’s) important because she was so young. As she aged, it’s like language. We learn to talk not by finding letters and learning what the sounds are; we learn that later. It comes intuitive … If you see it, then things make sense.”
Man said many of her students would not go on to be professional musicians, but “that’s not what we’re doing. We’re trying to help make better human beings, more well-rounded children, and we’re using instruments to do that.”
For more information, visit desertsuzukiinstitute.org or call 702-625-2374.
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.