An Evening of Community

An Evening of Community

Giving Artfully at Oak Park String Academy

On October 16 at 6:30p, our Monday night group class students will be visited by a speaker from Heartland Alliance. Students will learn about why we are having a benefit concert, who we are helping and how they are supporting. After we hear from the Heartland Alliance representative, Giving Artfully Kids instructors will lead the children in making friendship bracelets and cards for the children we are supporting. Students who are coming into the studio for their piano rehearsals with Melissa on this same evening may stay awhile before or after their rehearsal and make a gift as well. All are welcome at this enlightening and fun event. Please join us for an evening of community!


OPSA Benefit Concert to raise funds for Heartland Alliance

OPSA Benefit Concert to raise funds for Heartland Alliance

2017 Benefit Concert

Dr. 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 surrounding areas to the larger world they live in. Last year, our students helped to raise money for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) through their music. This year, our music students are collaborating with Heartland Alliance and Giving Artfully to help immigrant children currently in limbo and being held in detention centers in Chicago. OPSA students will be making keepsakes for the children there, writing cards of encouragement and also performing several events to help raise awareness of and funds for immigration challenges, especially with regards to children. Heartland Alliance will be the recipient of the funds we raise.

For the benefit concert, we will be collaborating with other Oak Park area musicians to create a global concert featuring music from around the world. Last year, we performed music from Syria, Lebanon, China, Romania, and more. This year, the concert will include special faculty performances, global music, and even a holiday sing along. Local Suzuki students from neighboring studios will join to play music together and hopefully make the world just a little more peaceful and beautiful.

Here are two pieces from our concert last year.


Flatbush Waltz

Work Specifically For Each Child

Work Specifically For Each Child

My Name Is Tom. I’ve Been a Teacher for 10 Years and I Still Get My A** Kicked Nearly Every Day.

(The following article was written by Tom Rademacher and re-posted from here. We hope you enjoy it!)

No, it won’t be easy.

It won’t be easy during your first year or your second. It won’t be easy in your 10th year or your 20th. It won’t be easy in fall, and definitely won’t be easy in winter, and absolutely won’t be easy in spring. Summer is pretty easy, but teaching won’t be easy and being a teacher isn’t easy.

The danger of pretending it’s easy, of pretending we have the right answers is that struggle too quickly feels like failure.

I WENT HOME EVERY NIGHT WITH A POCKET FULL OF LOSSES AND A FEW WINS SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS.I spent my first few teaching years sure that it wasn’t right for me because I was tired every day, because I went home every night with a pocket full of losses and a few wins slipping through my fingers. Everyone around me seemed to be doing fine. Everyone around me had the same sort of easy answers we wish were true.

We say silly things like, “Set high expectations and the students will meet them.” But we skip all the things between setting and achieving expectations that are the real work of teaching.

What we mean is, “Set high expectations, communicate them effectively and while simultaneously communicating concern and love and respect, and reinforce all those things while not enforcing your high expectations in a way that will damage your relationships or that tries to be too much of a buddy. Also, check yourself constantly to make sure your expectations are focused on students, are not reflections of your own Whiteness or experiences, and then some of your students will meet them, but not all, and not on all days.”

WE TELL OURSELVES THIS WEEK IS JUST OFF, BUT WE’RE CLOSE, SO CLOSE, TO WHEN THINGS WILL CALM DOWN.We lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves it’s the full moon, or too close to a long weekend or the weather is weird. We tell ourselves this week is just off, but we’re close, so close, to when things will calm down. Any day now, “Calm City,” that’s us.

We lie to new teachers. We tell them that teaching is the sort of puzzle there are answers for. We are given what is meant to be answers in the form of new curriculum and online reading nonsense and district initiatives and classroom engagement strategies. We are given uniform approaches for complex problems that are not constant between schools, between classrooms, between days.

Here’s an unsolvable equation, the variables always change. Get it right, it’s easy, and don’t forget to show your work. But those big answers don’t work enough. Nothing works well enough for all kids except working specifically for each kid. That’s not easy. That’s never easy.

It’s not easy, it won’t be, no matter how often we tell that to new teachers, no matter what inspirational speech or email or professional development tells us how easy it can be if only we all just did this one thing. No matter how much our district and national leaders wish there were easy answers that made teacher ability matter less, it’s not easy, it won’t ever be.

THERE’S NO BETTER SIGN THAT THINGS ARE GOING POORLY IN A ROOM THAN A TEACHER WHO ALWAYS THINKS EVERYTHING IS GOING JUST FINE.The struggle isn’t just inevitable, it’s important. It shows us where to get better, where to adapt, where to throw out the old answers and come up with some new ones. There’s no better sign that things are going poorly in a room than a teacher who always thinks everything is going just fine.

My name is Tom. I’m a teacher and I get my ass kicked nearly every day. I get too angry, too disappointed. I have to learn to wear my urgency a little further from the surface. Also, my class is probably too boring still and I can’t seem to talk for more than thirty seconds without getting interrupted. Some nights I struggle getting to sleep or staying asleep because I’m worrying about that one kid, or that one class, or what next or what better. I’ve started my 10th year in the classroom, and it won’t be easy.

It will, on balance, be worth it.

An original version of this post appeared on Mr Rad’s Neighborhood as It Won’t Be Easy. Check out this interview with Tom about his new book.


3 Suzuki Podcasts Everyone Should Subscribe To

3 Suzuki Podcasts Everyone Should Subscribe To

Christine GoodnerSuzuki podcasts at Oak Park String Academy is a Suzuki teacher, parent and now author of the new book for Suzuki parents, Beyond the Music Lesson. It is a wonderful resource for parents practicing with their children. Here is one of her recent posts. Visit her blog for more great tips.

I listen to a variety of podcasts including shows about writing, creativity, business, books, and of course Suzuki teaching and parenting.

Listening to Podcasts is one of my favorite ways to learn new things and get inspired. Especially while exercising, cleaning or driving.

Today I wanted to share a few of my favorite Suzuki podcasts. They are great resources for parents and for teachers looking to fresh ideas and new perspectives about teaching and the Suzuki philosophy.

I am not getting any perks for sharing these resources, although I do know a few of the podcasters who make them. My goal is to share great resources with readers of the blog. I also hope to hear from you (in the comments below) what podcasts you would recommend!

Here is a list of my favorites:

Building Noble Hearts  is a podcast produced by the Suzuki Association of the Americas. The production quality of this podcast is amazing. Each episode includes great stories about Suzuki himself and amazing Suzuki teachers in our community. My favorite episode is the one about Suzuki ECE. The episode includes the history of this program and how it benefits families –you can find that episode Here.

The Teach Suzuki Podcast is another great resource and is produced by Suzuki teacher and blogger Paula Bird. I love the information the podcast shares for parents to use in order to work with their children effectively in practice and to better understand the Suzuki method. In each episode Paula shares her wisdom and many useful resources for parents and teachers alike. Here is a great episode about how to beat burnout – click here to listen.  

 Chili Dog Strings podcast is another great resource. This podcast is actually hosted on the Suzuki teacher duo’s Youtube Channel where you can find all sorts of teaching and Suzuki parenting inspiration. I really enjoy Neil and Rachel’s style and their love of teaching shines through everything they do. I had the pleasure of being interviewed on one of their podcast episodes – you can listen to that episode here. 

Another podcast worth checking out is Rachel Barton Pine’s Podcast Violin Adventures. The most recent episodes are from 2013 but you can still find all 80+ episodes online. They are really good! You don’t have to be a violinist or be the parent of a violinist, to enjoy this podcast. It’s worth checking out.

What podcasts (Suzuki or related) do you listen to regularly? I hope you’ll share your recommendations in the comments below!