May 27, 2018

The Hub: Violinist shares ‘joyful’ music

Local resident and violinist Martha Bruce recently began teaching Suzuki violin lessons in Williston. (Observer courtesy photo).

Local resident and violinist Martha Bruce recently began teaching Suzuki violin lessons in Williston. (Observer courtesy photo).

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

After years studying music and teaching in Maryland, Williston native Martha Bruce has returned to the violin community she grew up in and is hoping to share her love of music with her fellow Vermonters.

Nearly seven weeks after opening a studio in Williston, she has 10 private students, all of whom found her through word of mouth. Her students, all beginners, range from 3 to 30, though most are 6 or 7.

“I love kids and I love teaching and I want music to be a joyful thing for them, and that tends to be true of a lot of Suzuki teachers,” she said.

Named for its founder, Japanese music teacher Shinichi Suzuki, the Suzuki teaching method takes a novel approach to teaching music. Suzuki noticed that children pick up their native language with ease, and thought the same principles could be applied to music.

“He thought that if we surrounded children with music, it would make teaching music a lot easier,” Bruce said.

Like children learn to read after they learn to talk, Bruce first teaches her student the basics of playing before they learn to read music—a task that would be extremely difficult for a 3-year-old.

Bruce sends home Suzuki CDs of “beautiful” violin music that parents play for kids as often as possible so they internalize it.

“They don’t have to pay attention, but they’re hearing it all the time,” she said. “You can’t listen to it too much. I tell them to listen to it until they’re sick of it and then keep listening.”

The students spend the first few months learning to hold the violin, keep good posture, rhythm and more.

“If they already know the pieces in their minds and hearts, it’s easier to make it all come together,” Bruce said.

Parents take a role in the Suzuki method, attending the lesson each week and helping with practice, though the parents themselves don’t need any musical experience.

“I always say I’m the teacher one day a week and parents are the teachers the other six days,” Bruce said.

Bruce began playing at age 6, and has long been involved with nonprofit group Vermont Suzuki Violins.

“I’ve always loved violin. I don’t even remember asking to play but my parents swear I started asking when I was 3 or 4…I love connecting with other people through music. It’s one of the best ways I feel that I can make a difference in the world,” she said.

Along with private lessons and group lessons through Vermont Suzuki Violins, Bruce plays with the Burlington Chamber Orchestra. It was a simple choice for her to teach using the Suzuki method.

“I think that, fundamentally, good violin teaching is good violin teaching, but the Suzuki method certainly gives me a lot of wonderful tools that I wouldn’t have if I was a traditional teacher.”

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