The Gift of Suzuki Voice Celebrated at the 14th International Songs for Sharing in Vantaa, Finland
On July 19, 2018, we were overwhelmed by the beautiful sound of dozens of voices coming together as one at the Gala concert concluding the 14th International Songs for Sharing. We opened with “Our Gift for You” by Jerry Estes. As the voices of students and teachers rose together repeatedly quoting “This is our gift for you”, we couldn’t help but reflect on the events of the week and the “gift” that Suzuki Voice has become in our lives and studios.
When Dr. Päivi Kukkamäki began the process and research of developing Suzuki Voice in 1986, who could predict that she would excite the world of voice teachers with this vocal method based on the principles established by Dr. Suzuki. Yet on this night in July, on the Martinus stage, teachers and students from 18 different countries-including Japan, Australia, Finland, Poland, England, Spain, Moldova, China, Philippines, Mexico, USA, Argentina, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Peru, and Puerto Rico-joined their voices together. Along with our diversity of nations, our diversity of ages was represented. Suzuki Voice students from pregnant mothers and babies as young as 10 months to adult aged students were apart of this great event. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Suzuki Families Association exemplified the principle of the Suzuki triangle-parent, teacher, and student. From the planning to the clean up, the Suzuki Families Association enabled this celebratory conference to work so smoothly. Families form all countries felt cared for and included in a bigger circle that extended beyond their country’s boundaries.
“We belong to one big Suzuki Voice Family.” Dr. Päivi Kukkamäki, ESA and SAA Suzuki Voice Teacher Trainer, Founder of the Suzuki Voice Program
These are some of the gifts that Suzuki voice has given to the world of Suzuki and vocal pedagogy:
“Peace never ending”
Many of us have had the privilege of living in relatively peaceful countries and peaceful times, but this is not true of all nations and generations including that of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki. In his lifetime, he saw many wars and many conflicts between nations. Yet he also saw how music can unite and strengthen the bond between people and nations. This was so beautifully demonstrated at the Songs for Sharing conference in Vantaa, Finland. The first All Groups class came together on Monday, July 16. Students of all nations and ages joined hands together and began the exciting warm up time! This was the first sound of international singing that would set the stage for a fantastic week of concerts, recitals, and classes. The students performed together at the Vantaa Art Center, Gala Concert, and during the various classes and song day excursions. Yet the spirit of unity was bonded even greater with the encouragement that parents, students, and teachers gave to each other during the solo recitals. Even when people did not speak the same language, there were many nods and smiles of encouragement. We were all one big team, one big Suzuki Voice “country”! Part of learning to be unified is experiencing what makes us different. Each country had an opportunity to present unique features of their country in our Country Presentations. How exciting it was to see the beautiful traditional dress of countries like Finland and Japan, to hear and sing the lovely music of Mexico and Australia, to learn interesting dances from Poland and Spain, see beautiful pictures from Argentina, and even join a good old American cowboy cattle roundup! We were all ready to get our passports back out and explore all of these Suzuki Voice countries!
"Singing is a gift that connects people around the world. Through these songs we learn to understand more about different cultures and habits and songs help us to learn different languages.” Annukka Larkio, Cultural Director, City of Vantaa
Nothing says joy like smiles and giggles! With balls bouncing, feathers flying, scarves swirling, and crazy wigs coming out, there was no lack of joy! Everyone had great opportunity to laugh as we worked to speak and sing each other languages. One of the gifts of the Suzuki Voice Songs for Sharing conferences is each country “sharing” their music with others. That means learning new languages-which can be quite a challenge! Everyone worked hard to master the beautiful national songs of Finland, including “Finlandia Hymn” by Sibelius, and diversify their knowledge of Suzuki repertoire in different languages. At our final Gala concert, we sang in Finnish, English, Japanese, Spanish, Latin, French, Italian, Peruvian Spanish, Argentinian Spanish, and German. I found an even deeper joy in seeing students work to learn each other’s multi cultural names, follow teachers’ instructions that were not in their mother language, and form bonds with as little as a “hello” and “thank you”. This only reinforces the Suzuki principle of listening, imitating, and repeating. As a result of this rich multi language exposure, students and teachers left with a deeper understanding of pronunciation and inflection for multi language Suzuki Voice repertoire. There was also great joy for the younger students to learn from the older students. Older students came alongside to help guide younger ones in warm ups, formations, lining up for concerts, and repertoire review. Many younger students had great joy in seeing the more advanced repertoire, and yet having a level 5 student perform “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” with just as much care also spoke well for the care of Suzuki Voice training and behavior.
“To me the joy of teaching and sharing Suzuki Voice has been particularly in the collegiality and camaraderie of sharing with like-minded souls our mutual joy of singing with beautiful tone and with joyful hearts. The fact that Suzuki Voice also makes a concerted effort to share and reach across diverse cultural milieux is 'icing on the cake'.” Amelia Seyssel, Suzuki Voice Teacher (New York, USA)
As is a teacher’s heart, the gift of love in educating each other and students was in many ways paramount to all other gifts. Teacher trainers gave their time to continue to grow each student’s vocal awareness in the different classes and groups. Students and teachers alike had the chance to work privately with the different teacher trainers in order to further their skills. Whether it was sitting around a table eating salmon soup, walking around the streets of Helsinki, or bustling about backstage before a performance, teachers were actively serving and sharing from their experience and wisdom to encourage each other on the journey of Suzuki Voice teaching. On Saturday and Sunday, July 14 and 15, teachers came together to discuss what they love about Suzuki Voice and how they would like it to grow. Out of each teacher’s mouth was heard over and over the care and love Dr. Päivi has put into forming, facilitating, and training Suzuki voice to her students and to teachers. Nothing was more inspiring than a long time student of Suzuki voice, who was preparing to become a Suzuki voice teacher, say that no matter what happens, the core values of what Suzuki Voice has always been and has always operated by must remain! In that core is the love of students, families, unity, Suzuki philosophy, and natural vocal development.
“You come from many countries and from different cultures, but all of you share a common mission and a goal, to learn how to sing beautifully!”. Marjukka Mäyry, Suzuki Families Association Chairwoman
On our final day of the conference, we ended as we began- hands united, mouths smiling, and voices raising in song one last time together. Some things were different, though. There were new friendships never ending, there were hearts overflowing, there was a great love for the unique teaching of Suzuki voice that is everlasting and true. The week exemplified how the simplicity of our first instrument (voice) and a focus of its development can be used to unite and grow people in their skill and relationships. To the Suzuki world, Suzuki voice Songs for Sharing 14th International conference demonstrated the success of the Suzuki philosophies.
“And though the days go by, yet our gift will still remain”
Dr. Päivi Kukkamäki began Suzuki voice over 30 years ago, possibly not knowing what kind of gift she was giving to the world of Suzuki and the world of vocal pedagogy. Standing on the stage for our Gala concert, we were proud and excited to have voice so wonderfully represented with 152 participants singing together. The Suzuki Families Association gifted us with a wonderful stay and well-organized event. The city of Vantaa, Finland gifted us with opening its arms to the world, and the world hugged back! Finally, Dr. Päivi Kukkamäki gifted us with Suzuki voice and the care to training teachers and students in the careful, natural development of voices in the spirit and philosophy of the Suzuki method Our love for our instrument and our dedication to its development and influence in the world in the philosophy of Dr. Suzuki is “Our gift to you”!