Winter Newsletter 2023




SAO Logo next to text reading Winter Newsletter

| Letter from the Chair | SAO Online Conference 2022 Recap | Board News | Area News | Upcoming Events | Conference 2022: Waterloo |


Dear SAO Members,


As we come to the end of 2022, I have taken a little time to reflect on all the activities of the past year. This has been an incredibly busy year for the SAO piloting new programs, hosting the annual conference in person, and continuing with online events to build the Suzuki community in Ontario.


The new Suzuki family education program, Planting the Seed, welcomed more than 90 Suzuki families to online presentations talking about everything from Suzuki philosophy fundamentals to a deep dive into the process of learning and ideas for creating effective practice games. We hope you will join us for the final session on Saturday, February 4 with Christine Goodner. Registration is available here.


The 2022 Conference: Sparking a Renaissance in Kingston was a wonderful weekend. This marked a return to an in-person conference for the first time since 2019. The creative energy of the students and teachers participating in this event was a soul warming experience!


This winter join us for our community building events. On Saturday, January 28 at 7pm, we open the SAO Café for all teachers to come together to share stories and ideas. Register for the the zoom link here. This is a free event for SAO members.


On behalf of the SAO Board, we wish all of you a happy and healthy holiday and sparkly new year.


Debbie Hammond, Chair
Suzuki Association of Ontario


Board News

The Board is reflecting on an eventful 2022. We are proud of our new online programming and are happy to have hosted some in-person events as well.


The 2022 SAO Conference, Sparking a Renaissance took place November 12th and 13th in beautiful Kingston. Our conference team put together an inspiring in-person Student and Teacher day for the first time since 2019. The SAO Annual General Meeting took place at the conference as well – the Board thanks you for your online votes. Our 2023 SAO conference planning has started and we are looking forward to introducing an updated, reimagined format for the event – more details coming soon!


Our Fall Full Board Meeting took place on December 3rd. Our committees have been doing great work and we are looking forward to continuing with that momentum in the new year. We are especially excited to be working towards a major website update and developing a new strategic plan. Keep an eye on your inbox early in 2023 for a membership survey.


Our SAO: Planting the Seed online event series has been a great success. Approximately 90 families registered to participate in this series. We have hosted 3 fabulous events so far, with the final session with Christine Goodner still to come on February 4th, 2023 at 7pm. You can register for this event here. We are also planning a bonus session all about “Going to Suzuki Institute”. Stay tuned for more information!


The Board is actively looking for proposals for our next SAO: T.E.A. (Teaching, Education, Action) session. Do you have an idea for a session? A topic you would like to discuss or a recommendation for a presenter? We are always accepting proposals for T.E.A. events. Please contact


Have you ever considered joining the SAO Board? Are you interested in supporting the Suzuki community in new and exciting ways? Are you passionate about building community with teachers? Have you ever wanted to host an event for students from across the province? With so many possibilities, you can bring your passion and skills to the SAO in many different ways. Contact Rebecca, or Debbie, for more information.


Conference Recap

The SAO held its first in-person conference since 2019 in Kingston on November 12 & 13th. The conference theme Sparking a Renaissance was an opportunity to bring together sixty one young violinists, pianists and cellists from across Ontario with close to thirty teachers attending the Teacher Sunday, with others joining in virtually from Quebec and Manitoba.


Keynote speaker, Carrie Reuning-Hummel gave an inspiring and appreciated Parent Talk on Saturday followed by an inspirational and reflective keynote titled Sparking A Renaissance on Sunday. Dr. Sian Frank and Julie Salverson (Queen’s University) presented a fun interactive session sharing concrete ways we can look after ourselves as educators by making sure to include play in our own lives.


Guest clinicians Mélanie Grenier, Gail Lange, Witold Swoboda, David Evenchick and Greg Wanless brought their collective energy and expertise to the students who were so happy to create music together after two plus years of being apart. Special thanks to Debbie Hammond & Geneviève Schirm-Joyce for stepping in at the last minute to teach two enrichment classes.


The SAO Kingston organizing team of Jodie Compeau, Venetia Gauthier, Kiri Hauck, Karen-Michele Kimmett and Julia McFarlane would like to acknowledge the exceptional support of volunteers from Canta Arya School for Strings and the Kingston Music Suzuki Association who helped ensure that the weekend ran smoothly and supplied delicious treats for the clinicians and organizers too!

SAO Kingston Conference team




Area News



Jennifer Martyn – 416 Area Representative

Big Accomplishment!

Congratulations to Hazel Evans for reaching an epic milestone of 1,000 Days of Practice this past October 4! Hazel is a violin student of Gretchen Paxson Abberger at the Miles Nadal Suzuki Program. Hazel also just performed her Book 2 graduation not long after this monumental achievement.


Studio Recital Season!

Two festively dressed violinists enjoy their candy canes

after Jennifer Martyn‘s studio review recital

Gretchen Paxson’s studio recital was an inspiring afternoon with solo performers as young as 4 and as old as 84 and all ages in between! Gretchen’s oldest student agreed to perform Handel’s Bourrée on his viola. At 84 years old, Fred Rosen is still learning and an inspiration to us all!


Below please see photos and video clip from Elizabeth Sherk’s studio party (North York Suzuki School of Music). The video is a group singing and dancing while Marcus Chau played the Minuet in G Major from the Klavier Suite in G Minor BWV 822.


The lyrics for our Minuet Song and Dance were salvaged from a Kingston Suzuki Institute long, long ago.

We’re dancing all in a row,
Moving so gently,
Dance to the music,
Dance to the music,
Bow down our heads low.

Partners stand in a row,
Moving so gently as we go,
Dance to the music,
Dance to the music,
Bow our heads.

Feet gliding so gently along,
Dance, turn around,
Dance to the music,
Dance to the music,
Curtsey and Bow Low.


Elizabeth Sherk’s Studio Party


In Celebration of the Cello

We have a large cello pre-twinkle class this year at Etobicoke Suzuki Music and we’re thrilled to be learning alongside these 8 wonderful families! Pictured here is our pre-twinkle group class with Anne Rankin (ESM co-director) and Natasha Zado (ESM’s newest cello faculty member), as well as two of Rachel Gauntlett’s pre-twinklers with their bow hand charts!


Bowhold Excitement

Jennifer Martyn (NYSSM) captured the moment when her student/daughter Hermione made this great bowhold during their Zoom practice while she was out of town for work.


Article Recommendation

Lenni Jabour, Director of Little Music Suzuki Method Learning in Toronto, recommends reading Adam Gopnik’s November 7 2022 New Yorker article on the latest book about Dr. Suzuki’s story, “Suzuki: The Man and His Dream to Teach the Children of the World”.



Taryn Chaykowski – 519 Area Representative

Suzuki Talent Education of Waterloo

STEW had their semi-annual book graduation recital on Wednesday November 23rd. They had 24 graduates over two recitals ranging from twinkles all the way up to book 8. To top off an excellent evening of beautiful music, every student received a trophy with their name and graduation level!


Suzuki String School of Guelph

SSSG had their annual Snowflake concert on December 4th, back at the River Run Centre! This fall, Alyssa and Danton Delbaere-Sawchuk worked with the senior violin, viola, and cello students along with their teachers, teaching them about Métis fiddling. They all presented their hard work during the concert, with a medley that included some students playing the spoons! Thank you for sharing your music and traditions with us.



Vacant – 613 Area Representative

*Do you live in the 613 area? If you would like to volunteer as our 613 Area Representative, email us at*

Hammond Suzuki Studio

The Hammond Suzuki Studio, in partnership with several community groups, was excited to host the Hogtown Brass Quintet for a recital titled “Old, New, Borrowed, Blue” in support of humanitarian relief in Ukraine. The HSS senior ensembles and Hogtown Brass quintet combined to perform Dona Nobis Pacem, and brought a tear to the eyes of so many in the audience. The concert raised more than $1800! It was a magical evening of music for all.


Rideau Falls Violins and Improvisation Studio

We are on the cusp of our first in-person studio concerts since February, 2020 with a group concert and solo recital this month. The group concert will feature Suzuki favourites with advanced students playing accompaniment parts. Students will also perform the Prelude for Two Violins and Piano by Shostakovich. Paula Lin will join the students at the piano. The program will also feature improvisations: a student-led cross-imitation, prehistoric animal-themed quartets, improvisations on Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and the Newfoundland folk tune, Mussels in the Corner. The pre-twinklers have been loving Alice K. Kanack’s new set of play-along recordings, Playing from the Heart.


The Two Books/Years Back Duet Recital, is coming up in January. Each student will play a piece they learned two books or years ago. It’s a huge highlight of the year.

The annual I Violin Workshop is coming up in February, 2023. It will once again be held online, giving students the opportunity to work with Arie Verheul van de Ven from the Netherlands and Lauren Smee from Newfoundland. The teens and tweens are working on compositions based on the theme Wind.


The Studio of Paula Lin

One of my piano students aged 5 & 1/2 years attended the piano masterclass on Student Day at the SAO Conference in Kingston. Although there were not many students in his session, he enjoyed playing for the people who were not familiar to him, and received good tips from Ms. Gale Lange. In addition, there was a group session with about 12 other piano students during which students shared five pianos playing the same pieces. Group class is not a usual scenario for Suzuki piano lessons, and was definitely a great treat for the students!


The National Capital Suzuki School of Music

Some of our students attended the Student Day in Kingston at the SAO Conference and enjoyed the chance to get a different teacher’s perspective for a day.

This November there were lots of smiles at our first in-person Play In since 2019. Students at all levels, from Head Start to senior, collaborated with each other within and between instrument groups to the audience’s delight. Students are now in the thick of rehearsals and performances for our winter studio recitals. We wish everyone a happy holiday season!



Dr. Matthew Gould – 705/807 Area Representative

The Sudbury Symphonic Music Conservatory

In the fall, the Sudbury Suzuki School, one of three divisions of the Sudbury Symphony Music Conservatory, had several recitals: On October 1 was the Sudbury Symphony “crawl” at Science North. Mayley Song performed her Book 1 recital and many other Suzuki students (cello, violin, guitar, and piano) tag-teamed performances throughout the day to the amazement the Sudbury community who was eager to once again see and hear live music! Valentina Bentancourt performed her Twinkle Graduation recital, accompanied by her dad Andrew on classical guitar, at her home amongst friends and family. Our November recital included a performance of our first bassoon student at SSMC as well as several vocal, guitar, piano, and cello students.


As part of our 3-year plan, we sent Nicole Glover to study ECC with the intent of developing an SECE course. This will be delivered in French and English, and is an extension of a French Language Project developed at SSMC for area schools.


We rounded up the term running a pilot program with the City of Sudbury at the Walden Youth Center to provide guitar instruction to at-risk and underserved communities as well as providing the instruments. We hope to fine tune this drop-in lesson idea to include violin next time.



George Cleland – 905 Area Representative

Suzuki Niagara

This year’s December season has turned out to be an incredibly busy one. What a difference from the last few years! The performing arts are back in abundance. Concerts are up and running as are student recitals and other functions. The Festivals are aiming to be in person events and our students can look forward to performing in them again. On a personal note, I conducted the Niagara Youth Concert Orchestra on December 3rd and it was a really fun concert. I am hoping to become the regular conductor for this position. The students in the orchestra conducted themselves admirably. I am sure that other 905 organizations had great holiday season concerts and recitals. I hope that we can continue to offer our programs in person and that we can regrow to our pre-Covid statures.


Scholarship Recipient: Rachel Hatt

A couple months ago, I had the opportunity to enroll in an online teacher training course for Suzuki Violin Book 2 taught by Nancy Jackson. I learned so much but my biggest takeaway from this course is the importance of regularly reviewing pieces. This is fundamental to the Suzuki approach but this was not something that was a regular part of my own musical upbringing so I’ve had trouble prioritizing it as a teacher and musician. However, Nancy put it this way and it really struck me: “If you’re always playing on the edge of your abilities then playing the violin is always a struggle.” Review can take many different forms, for example: incorporating new techniques into review pieces, polishing a review piece for a recital, developing tone through review pieces, gaining confidence through reviewing a piece that used to be a challenge, or even reviewing an old favourite just for the joy of playing. I look forward to continuing to learn how to slow down and incorporate more review into my own personal practice as well as my teaching, and I’ve already noticed a positive change from doing this. Finally, I want to thank the SAO for providing the scholarship that I was able to put towards this training, it has made a big impact on my development as a teacher, musician and human.


Upcoming Events


On Saturday, January 28 at 7pm, grab your favourite snack and join us on zoom for an evening of stories, laughs and community.


Feature Article

The Southwestern Ontario Suzuki Institute (SOSI) is excited to be celebrating their 40th anniversary this summer. There are lots of exciting plans in the works for teachers, students and their families. On top of the regular institute that is happening August 13-18 in Waterloo, SOSI will also be offering early bird Teacher Development courses. Starting at the end of January there are a total of 5 courses: Every Child Can (ECC), Violin Unit 1, Cello Unit 2, Cello Unit 3, as well as an enrichment class in May on Positive Psychology and Suzuki Teaching. These courses will all be offered Hybrid style with the option to either be in person in Etobicoke or online. More information on these courses can be found at

Institutes are a great way for families to connect with other like minded Suzuki families, to develop long lasting friendships and to learn from a variety of teachers while having fun. Students will have the opportunity to have masterclasses, group classes and enrichment classes along with many performance opportunities throughout the week. We are looking forward to seeing many of you this summer.


Consulting editors:
Debbie Hammond, Rebecca Ashworth, Jennifer Martyn, Susan Wooltorton
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Deadline for Spring Edition:
March 5, 2023

SAO Board and Representatives Contact Information

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