2023 Benefit Concert! Saturday, December 16 @ 3p

2023 Benefit Concert! Saturday, December 16 @ 3p

Benefit Concert for the Oak Park

Early Childhood Collaboration

Saturday, December 16, 2023, 3p

West Central SDA Church

1154 Wisconsin Ave, Oak Park, IL 60304

Support the Collaboration for Early Childhood today!


Dr. Shinichi Suzuki Oak Park River ForestDr. Shinichi Suzuki was a Japanese violinist and humanitarian. Witnessing the destruction of his homeland due to the Second World War, he formed a vision to help nudge the world toward peace through its children. Through music, Dr. Suzuki hoped to build noble hearts in children all around the world.

With this in mind, we produce an event each year that connects our students from Oak Park and the surrounding areas to the larger world they live in. In previous years, our students helped to raise money through their music for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), the Heartland Alliance’s unaccompanied minor program, Hephzibah Children’s Association., and A House in Austin. Videos of past concerts can be viewed here

OPSA students and faculty will create a moving concert to include violin students of all ages and levels. In previous years, we performed music from Syria, Lebanon, China, Romania, and more. This year, students will present several of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with a full string ensemble and even a holiday sing-along. Students will join to play music together and hopefully make the world just a little more peaceful and beautiful.

The Early Childhood Collaboration will be the recipient of the funds we raise. In past years, OPSA has raised almost $2,000 for our recipient organizations. We hope to do even better this year! You can make a donation right away!

Support the Collaboration for Early Childhood today!

Baby playing


Kindermusik with Pat Larson

Kindermusik with Pat Larson

Calling all budding musicians 0-7 years old!

Kindermusik with Pat at OPSA has classes for infants through age 7 years.

Kindermusik is a great way to start out with music education for your child. As an experienced Suzuki parent and Kindermusik instructor, Pat Larson will guide you and your child through the start of your musical journey.
The first level, Foundations, is for children up to 18 months.
This semester, parents are invited to come to two different infant classes when they register for one class (depending on space availability).
There’s still space in the Saturday class at 11 a.m. for children up to 3 ½ years!
Click here for the schedule and more details and contact Pat Larson today to reserve your spot in class: pplarson@msn.com
Finding the Suzuki Recordings

Finding the Suzuki Recordings


Laurie Niles, founder of the amazing Violinist.com website.

Our esteemed colleague, Laurie Niles, over at Violinist.com has compiled a very helpful list of links to help you find the official Suzuki recordings made by some of the best artists in the world. As a method based on listening, it is IMPERATIVE that you play the Suzuki recordings as often as possible for you and your child. The most successful students are the ones who LISTEN the most!

You can find them all here!


Summer Small Group Lessons for 4th & 5th Grade Violin/Viola Students

Summer Small Group Lessons for 4th & 5th Grade Violin/Viola Students

Attention Parents of 4th & 5th Graders!

Join our Summer Small Group Violin/Viola Lessons for Young Musicians!


Is your child currently learning the violin or viola in school and looking to continue improving their skills over the summer?


We have a fantastic opportunity for them! Join our summer small group classes. Classes start next week, June 20th.


  • Dates: Tuesdays June 20th, June 27, July 11, July 18, July 25, and August 1 (no class July 4th)
  • Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
  • Location: Oak Park String Academy 350 Harrison St. Oak Park, IL 60304
  • Instrument: Violin or Viola
  • Age group: 4th and 5th graders
  • Cost: $185 per student for the entire session
  • Students should bring their current size instrument. Please DO NOT size up until after the first class if needed. 

This small group lesson program has been designed to provide young musicians with a supportive and interactive environment where they can develop their skills, enhance their musical understanding, and have fun playing their chosen instrument. The sessions will be led by our highly experienced and dedicated music instructors, who are well-versed in working with students at this stage of their musical journey.

Here are some key features and benefits of the program:

  1. Small Group Setting: By participating in a small group, your child will have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from their peers while receiving personalized attention from the instructor.
  2. Skill Development: Our lessons will focus on building a solid foundation in technique, note-reading, musical expression, and ensemble playing.
  3. Engaging Activities: The lessons will incorporate various engaging activities, games, and exercises to make the learning experience enjoyable and enriching.
  4. Performance Opportunities: On the last day of the session, we will organize a small recital for the students to showcase their progress and boost their confidence.  

By enrolling your child in our summer classes, you’re providing them with the opportunity to continue their musical journey and build a strong foundation on the violin or viola.

To enroll your child in this program, please complete this registration form and submit the payment of $185 by June 18. 

If you have any questions, or concerns, or require further information about the program, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to assist you and provide any clarification you may need.

We look forward to helping your child grow as a musician this summer!

Summer Concerts!

Summer Concerts!

As we approach the summer season, it’s a great time to explore the many concerts and events happening in Chicago and the surrounding areas.


Taking your child to hear live music is an important part of keeping them motivated and inspired, and there are many wonderful festivals and concerts to choose from.

Attending live performances is an excellent way for students to witness the mastery achieved by high-level performers and to gain valuable insights into the technical details they practice daily. Seeing the dedication and attention to detail that the world’s finest musicians put into their performances can inspire young performers to create their own artistic vision and approach.

We encourage you to take advantage of the many wonderful concerts and festivals coming up this summer.


Here are a few that we recommend:

  • Grant Park Music Festival: This is one of the biggest and most beloved events of the summer, offering free, outdoor classical music concerts all summer long. We recommend checking out Augustin Hadelich, who is the violinist on the most recent Suzuki book 4-6 recordings, on August 11th and 12th. You can find more information about the festival’s lineup here: https://www.grantparkmusicfestival.com/music/2023-season

  • Thirsty Ears Festival: This 2-day classical music and street food festival takes place on August 12th and 13th in Chicago near Wilson and Ravenswood. You can find more information about the festival here: https://acmusic.org/events/thirsty-ears-festival-2/

  • Ravinia Music Festival: North America’s oldest summer festival brings local and international artists of all different genres, including classical and jazz concerts. It’s a great place to bring a picnic basket and eat while listening to music. You can find more information about the festival here: https://www.ravinia.org/Information

We hope you and your child enjoy attending these concerts and festivals and have a wonderful summer filled with music!

Musical Momentum in March

Musical Momentum in March

It’s easy to get a bit overwhelmed with school schedules as the winter months drag on. The goals we made in January might be overlooked. Or, we are simply in need of a bit of motivation.

Here are some tips on how to stay motivated when it comes to the daily work of music.


When students and parents ask how they can learn things faster I always say listen! It’s like getting at least 3 free lessons. Listen to the current piece or the entire book your child is currently learning, every day, at least 2x. This can be active or passive listening. Listening is the easiest thing to do, but sadly the easiest thing to forget to do as well. For more tips on how to make listening easier to do, please see our January 2, 2022 blog entitled January: Renew your listening habits! 


Attend a concert

We are so lucky to live in an area that has an abundance of performing arts right at our fingertips. I guarantee that you can find some type of live performance every single day of the year within 25 miles of your home. Did you know that many professional orchestras have free or heavily discounted tickets for students and children? Please ask your private teacher for input on what you could go see this very weekend. Your very own OPSA teachers perform around the Chicago area regularly–go and see/hear/support their ensembles!


Play for loved ones

There is always someone who will happily listen to your child make music. Put on mini concerts often! Grandparents, neighbors, cousins, and friends are all excellent potential audiences and will love to be a part of your journey. This can be simple, like playing 1 song over Zoom to a far-flung loved one, or a more formal event such as a house concert for family and friends. Consider making and sharing your child’s favorite food after the concert!


Start planning to attend a summer institute.

Every summer there are dozens of Suzuki institutes held across the country. You can find one in practically every state and every week. Suzuki institutes are a fantastic way to get some external motivation that can carry you forward for months to come. You can find different types of institutes based on what works for you and your family. Want a rustic camp-like experience? That institute can be found. Would you prefer more of a resort feel? Or maybe you want to expose your family to what it feels like on a college campus? Want to look at mountains as you practice? All of these things are possible. Please check the Suzuki Association of America’s website to find a list of institutes, or speak with your private teacher to get more information on what they recommend. 


Seek out creative performance opportunities

Can your child bring their violin to school for a talent show or informal concert? Can they contribute to the music at your place of worship? Do you have loved ones in an assisted living community? Ask if you can bring your child to play during their dinner service. There are many ways to get creative about finding other opportunities to perform. 

Do a practice challenge

Commit to practicing every day for a certain length of time. Start with 30 days. Often, 30 days can easily turn into 100 days. If this is working for your child, keep going! It’s possible to keep going for a year or many years once you make the commitment. Don’t assume that this will not work for your family! Keep in mind that while we want to have a focused and productive session most of the time, sometimes we only have 10 minutes. That still counts as practicing! The point is to maintain the habit. Don’t aim for perfection–just do something every day.

Suzuki Summer Institutes 2023!

Suzuki Summer Institutes 2023!

Summer Suzuki Institute Line up–plan now!


While we are all dreaming of warmer days it is time to start thinking of summer Suzuki Institutes!

Many families and teachers look forward to Summer Suzuki Institutes every year! Institutes are events held all around the country (one in almost every state!) where teachers, children, and parents get together to learn and play music together. Held for 1-2 weeks throughout the summer, you and your child will attend master classes with highly experienced and skilled teachers, participate in group classes, and get to hear and participate in concerts and other fun activities such as talent shows or improvisation classes. Each institute has its own unique specialty and flair.

As there are many institute options all over the country (and the world!), some families even plan vacations around institutes in order to travel and get to know new places.

Whether this is your first experience or you are going back every to see old friends, summer institutes are a great way to immerse your child in a week of music, learning, and laughter. The connection and motivation provided by attending a week at a Suzuki institute are worth the time required. Memories, as well as new friends, are made sparking new energy to sustain a family’s practice throughout the school year.

Check out the links below for more about institutes in Illinois and surrounding states. Click here for a full list of Suzuki Institutes. Be sure to let your teacher know as they can help offer lots of useful guidance on selecting, preparing for, and thriving at an institute that’s right for your family. 


Chicago, IL July 1 – 7


Stevens Point, WI July 17- 23 and July 24 -30


Twin Lake, MI

https://bluelake.org/suzuki/  June 11 -14 and June 15 – 18

Louisville, KY June 11 – 16



10 Gift Ideas for Young Musicians!

10 Gift Ideas for Young Musicians!

This holiday season we have a few suggestions to help parents who are encouraging their children’s musical studies with gifts that support their efforts. Enjoy!


1. Music stand

Having a sturdy music stand available in your child’s practice area is a great way to show support for their music studies. A solid stand will hold all of their music books and because of its solid desk, it will support any writing you or your child might need to do during practice. (And who can resist these fun colors?!).


2. Practice Space makeover

If you already have a stand like the one above, try adding a few inspirational messages or images for your child in or around their practice space. You could consider framing images of famous violinists such as Joshua Bell,  Hilary Hahn or Sarah Chang and/or printing some nice quotes about practice such as,   

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good, it is the thing that makes you good.”—Malcolm Gladwell

“Only practice on the days that you eat.” -Shinichi Suzuki

“The slower you go, the faster you get there.” -John Link

Joshua Bell Oak Park string academy

3.  Accessories

Metronome. Every music student needs a metronome. While there are many metronome apps available, I am a fan of the ‘old school’ metronome placed on a stand or shelf nearby for several reasons. First, it is loud. And second, there are no distractions from other apps or excuses to wander into social media during practice. 😉

Pencil Holder. Don’t be caught without one!

Page markers.  A fun way to mark the pages of assignments in your music books.

Highlight tape. Students enjoy using this tape to mark the “map” or form of a piece or to use it to mark spots that need extra practice.

4.  New Case strap

Having a new accessory for their instrument could not only zhuzh up their violin case, but also perhaps their enthusiasm for it (and even the practice it demands). These straps at Strapsy are fun and unique!

5.   Fun Games and Practice items 

A great way to bring some humor and play into a hard working practice session is to use little trinkets and games to keep things light and the corrections impersonal.  Can you balance a friend on your violin while you play your review piece? Can you move a bead for every “keeper” achieved  in a phrase? Along the same lines, try adding a fun music game to your practice or for a family game night. Michiko Yurko, a Suzuki piano teacher in Washington D.C, developed these fantastic materials. Many of our students order the puppy pack. Try playing traditional card games like War, Solitaire, or Go Fish with these music note cards.

practice help at Oak park string academyMusic Mind Games Oak Park string academy

6.  Concert Tickets

We are so fortunate to live in an area where there is an abundance of live music ready to be heard almost anytime. OPSA teachers perform in a many different places around the Chicago area. You can hear them in a chamber concert, downtown in an orchestra performance, in River Forest in a Bach cantata, and more. The Chicago Symphony has lovely children’s concerts like these. You can also find inspiration together by attending a Chicago Youth Symphony concert.

Here is a concert opportunity with OPSA violin faculty, founder & director, Meg Lanfear, and cellist and chamber music coach, Jean Hatmaker, performing at Grace Lutheran in River Forest. They will perform as part of the excellent Bach Cantata Series offered here every year.

7. Subscription to Spotify

Having access to music anywhere, anytime as well as the ability to share songs between devices and people (such as your teacher!) makes a Spotify subscription a great choice for music students. And, as you may know, the Suzuki albums are all available here. We prefer the Suzuki Evergreens playlist as this offers the Suzuki version of the violin pieces as well as the original version (e.g. a German children’s choir singing O Come Little Children).


8.  A personal musical history file 

I recently saw a great idea a parent had to collect their child’s funny sayings, some photos, messages from family, childhood artwork, etc. and emailed it to an email address in their child’s name. They turned over the account to their child when they graduated high school. I thought that a similar idea would be lovely for a child growing up playing an instrument. Keep a Dropbox folder of their images from concerts, a few videos, and a list of the repertoire studied and accomplishments achieved through the years. I also love the idea of briefly viewing this folder together in a time of low motivation to show your child how far they have come with their skill development.  

9. Support building a routine

Students enjoy playing their instruments, but sometimes struggle to find a practice rhythm to their day. Sitting with your child at a time other than practice time and helping them sort through some of the obstacles to practicing can be time well spent. Are there a few moments before school that have previously gone unproductive that could be used to work through an etude or review pieces? When can listening happen? On the way to school? During dinner? Help to navigate these opportunities with your child. This support to develop and maintain a routine can make the difference between a frustrated student and one who feels they have strategies to help them conquer their day.

Planning at Oak Park String Academy

10. Time

Some of my most vivid memories of my own young violin studying years involve my childhood home in Virginia. I recall being in our living room, practicing with my Suzuki Dad. He is sitting right in front of me perched on the edge of the wooden rocking chair, holding his notes from that weeks lesson in his lap. He watches me do an exercise several times in a row while checking to make sure that my repetitions meet the criteria set out in the assignment notebook. He is tired, having worked all day. He has an older daughter who wants to tell him about her day at school and a young son begging him to come and play catch with him outside. He also has a wife in the midst of starting a business, tired herself this evening and cooking dinner for our family in the kitchen across from the living room. And yet my Dad is there—giving it his all as a Suzuki Dad. I am forever grateful, both for the memories as well as the skill those moments helped develop.  



Give the Gift of Music

Give the Gift of Music


Climate change…

Experience gifts…


…many great reasons to give the gift of music lessons this season!


At OPSA, our specialty is beginning children on their musical journey around the ages of 4 to 7 years old. If you have a child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or other loved one around this age, consider offering music lessons with OPSA as a gift this year. We have a fantastic music program that starts children out in both a private violin lesson as well as a group lesson. The ability and opportunity to make music with friends is truly the gift of a lifetime. Attending concerts where you can see all of the skills that your little one has developed through music will be such a thrill! With our Equitable Tuition Program, music lessons are accessible to all. Contact us today to inquire about our combined program of private lessons and group classes and to learn about class schedules. Now, enjoy this video of some of our current students performing in our annual benefit concert from December of 2019.

Equitable Tuition Program

Equitable Tuition Program

Welcoming a more economically diverse student body to OPSA.


In 2021, OPSA began what we call an Equitable Tuition Program. We believe that music education should be available to all families, regardless of income. In commitment to our values, we have structured tuition based on an equitable sharing of resources. When you pay tuition to Oak Park String Academy, you are not simply paying for your child’s music education. Your tuition is pooled with what each family can offer in order to keep the work of our Suzuki community going and growing. We all benefit from a school that reflects and serves those in and around our community.

We depend on this equitable distribution to continue our school’s mission, pay for our lesson and class spaces, and provide fair pay to our amazing and highly qualified teachers while keeping the cost of violin lessons within reach for all members of our community.

Families can take a look at the details of our program here.