South Dakota Symphony—Expanding the String Network
Invite a Suzuki string teacher to fill out the violin section
Sioux Falls, the city of residence for the South Dakota Symphony, sits a fair distance from the Twin Cities where many SDS musicians reside. These musicians drive four hours to arrive at Sioux Falls and generally come for only the final two rehearsals before a concert, missing the first three. Although the musicians are fully competent, the empty seats during rehearsals sap the artistic morale of the ensemble, leaving the orchestra in a continual search for stronger string players who are present at all rehearsals.
Two years ago, SDS Music Director Delta David Gier made a trip to the All-State Orchestra, where he became aware of the need for Suzuki teachers in Sioux Falls. At All-State, David listened to a performance by a select group of high-school students—many who had benefited from a strong Suzuki program. Inspired, he reported to the board with an idea to bring Suzuki teachers into Sioux Falls, where very few current teachers were available.
The orchestra takes action:
The SDS developed a single solution to help with both the shortage of Suzuki teachers and the shortage of musicians during rehearsals. A search began for a violinist willing to relocate to Sioux Falls primarily as a Suzuki teacher, but also to perform in the per-service orchestra. The SDS advertised this multi-faceted opportunity through the American Suzuki Journal. With minimal effort and expense, the SDS was pleased to receive interest from Yuko Saito, a 24-year-old violinist hailing from Nagoya, Japan by way of the East Carolina University in Greenville.
In April, 2006, the orchestra flew Yuko into Sioux Falls for a week visit including an audition, a performance with the orchestra, and an opportunity to meet and teach Suzuki students. Having just finished her master’s degree in violin performance and Suzuki pedagogy, she was well equipped for these opportunities and certified to teach Suzuki books 1-10. Following the overwhelmingly successful visit, she accepted a position with the orchestra and the opportunity to develop a Suzuki studio.
The orchestra assisted with moving expenses and placed Yuko in contact with the other local Suzuki teachers, who helped Yuko set up a core group of students developed from the waiting lists. The SDS sent an email newsletter to the board, volunteers, and musicians to assist Yuko with developing a studio. She also met with music teachers in public schools and the director of the youth symphony, who were all unified in their support.
Yuko Saito had several Suzuki teaching opportunities available following her graduation, yet she opted for the move which provided a performance component as well. Upon arrival, Yuko began with six students and in four months grew the studio to 30. She plans to add about five additional students from a town nearby, both expanding her network and giving other children the same opportunities. With such a full teaching schedule, Yuko only earns a little more than 15 percent of her salary from the orchestra. She has successfully performed in four programs since her appointment in the first violin section last April, 2006, and the orchestra couldn’t be happier with her strong artistic support in the violin section. In fact the process has worked so well that the SDS plans to go through it again to find another violin, violist and cellist. CEO Tom Bennett concludes that "this has been an extremely beneficial artistic initiative accomplishment at very little expense."
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