Started at age 3 and now a concertmaster.

Interview & demonstration with David Kim, Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Elevators, firemen.

What do they have to do with the violin?  Watch this video below to find out.

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes!

Violinists love their violins especially when they are built by Guadagnini, one of the best luthiers (violin makers) in the world. Perhaps only Stradivari is better known. Or Guarneri.

David Kim tells us is that his violin was made in 1757 by J.B. Guadagnini in Milan. He describes the parts of the violin and the positions on his beautiful violin.


He uses an image of moving on his strings from  first position and on up as  taking an elevator to a different floor.  Watch how he “opens the elevator door and closes it on the next position.”   However, in some cases, he shows a little style and slides to “show his elevator move,” creating a different sound.


Kim explains that as the concertmaster, he tries to read the mind of the conductor and communicate to his colleagues in the orchestra.  How does he communicate to the other orchestra members while he is playing the violin?  He can’t simply wave at them to tell them what to do next.  Kim says he uses facial expressions, body language, the tilt of his head, the way he moves his bow. Something to look for the next time you and your child attend a concert!


What could Kim have in common with a fireman!  After all, he is only sitting in an orchestra hall. Could entering a burning building be anything like playing a solo?

Explaining how he approaches a solo, he says he has it circled in red in his score, and as he sees it coming up he thinks, “Go for i-i-i-it, go for i-i-i-it!”  

His comments in this video are good for our children to hear as they prepare to play for recitals. Seeing how professional violinists are regular people who continue to work at their craft. 


Related blogs:  How a Violin Gets Its Voice,

Let’s Celebrate 51 Years of Suzuki in N. America

The Suzuki Method “Ten Children” Group Tour

In March 1964, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki visited North America with 10 children from his Talent Research Education Suzuki School in Matsumoto, Japan.  The 10 young children played so well that the violin teachers who watched and heard them play were very surprised.  Since that first tour, “The Ten Suzuki Children” tour group continued making tours for the next 30 years in 20 countries.  This spring marks the 51st anniversary of the first “Suzuki 10 Children Group Tour.”

In 2014, the Suzuki Association of the Americas invited Miss Yukari Tate to participate in the conference in Minneapolis to celebrate the 50th anniversary.  Miss Tate was one of the 10 children in that original first group of students from Japan who toured in 1964. She is now head of  Talent Education Research Institute in Matsumoto.

Suzuki in Canada

One of the teachers in attendance in 1964, Tom Rolston, helped to create the first Suzuki Talent Education program in Canada in 1965 in Edmonton.  Two Japanese teachers trained by Dr. Suzuki taught in that school in Edmonton.

Suzuki in the United States

But how did this all begin? We can thank John Kendall whom the New York Times called a “tireless evangelist” for the Suzuki Method.   Kendall was interested in Suzuki and in 1959, he went to Japan for six weeks to study Dr. Suzuki’s methods. He returned to Japan in 1962 to continue his study.  John Kendall was the teacher who planned for the first US Suzuki conference in 1963 and organized the first Suzuki tour of Dr. Suzuki and 10 students who toured 19 cities in 21 days in 1964.

If this tour had not occurred, we might not have the Suzuki Method in the United States.  And considering that string education was mediocre in the United States in the middle of the 20th century,  Kendall’s foresight came at the opportune time.  During those days, American children did not begin string lessons until about the age of 10 with “scales, arpeggios, and soul numbing exercises.”(1)  In contrast, Suzuki’s students began as young as 2 or 3, with parents immersing them in a life of music. Today many Suzuki trained violinists play in American orchestras and world-renowned American soloists have been trained by the Suzuki Method.

Click on the image below to hear the violins from the

“50th Anniversary Concert of the Suzuki Method’s 10 Children”

March 31, 2014

I have set this video to begin at 1:36.  The younger children join the group and start at 1:47.

50 years suzuki



1. New York Times article  (1-23-2011) about John Kendall

50 Years of the Suzuki Method Opening Movie

Letter (1-21-2014) from Hiroko Suzuki, Dr. Suzuki’s niece and president of the Talent Education Research Institute in Japan

New York Times article (10-25-2014) about the Suzuki Method, Japan’s best cultural export

Brain Awareness Week!

If anybody knows, Suzuki parents know the impact on the brain that their children gain by learning to play the violin.  I have written blogs about the brain development that occurs during the pre-school years and how learning to play an instrument at that early age impacts brain development.  The Dana foundation sets aside a week in March every year to draw attention to the brain.

Brain Awareness week, an international event sponsored by the Dana Foundation, is scheduled for March 16-22.  The purpose of this week is to increase public awareness of the value of brain research.  The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives established Brain Awareness Week in 1996.  The Dana foundation was founded by Charles A. Dana and his wife Eleanor Naylor Dana to foster interest in health and higher education. Cancer research received their support initially. Since then, the foundation has branched out into many areas.

Local Events

The Ashburn Library will hold a “Brain Awareness Day” on Saturday, March 28, at 1:00 pm.  It is their second annual Brain Awareness Day. Bob Slevc, Ph.D. of University of Maryland’s Language & Music Cognition Lab and Michael Guidi, Ph.D. of Noldus Information Technology Inc. will talk about their role in understanding how the brain works. There will also be “brain-tastic” crafts and activities!



The Dana Alliance has updated their informational booklet about research on the brain. It is available  as PDF:  Answering Your Questions about Brain Research

  • How do brains work?
  • How do genes shape the brain?
  • How does the brain develop?
  • How does the brain connect us to the world?
  • How do we learn and remember?
  • What does technology do to the brain?
  • …And more questions…
  • Ten ways you can become a brain advocate.

Below are two Dana Alliance publications for young children. However, there are many more available here.

The Mind Boggling Workbook–A fun-filled activity book in PDF format here about the brain for children in grades K-3 (ages 5-9). Provides an introduction to how the brain works, what the brain does, its importance, and how to take care of it. – Can also be ordered as a booklet.  See more at:






It’s Mindboggling –Two word search puzzles based on “The Mindboggling Workbook,” for grades K-3. DOWNLOAD ONLY.  – See more at:




Other resources for children are available below.

Facebook page for Brain Awareness Week

Kids Pages-Fun & Games from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

On-line games at Neuroscience for Kids from Washington University

I hope you find the resources in this post valuable for both you and your child.  Happy Brain Awareness Week!

Source for brain image in post: click here.

Tomorrow is Epic!…March 14, 2015

Even Scientific American calls tomorrow, March 14, 2015,

Irrational Exuberance! Pi Day of the century!

Momentous!  3.1415

And at 9:26, it will be 3.1415926 (pi!)

And if you have a digital clock with seconds, you can take it one step further at 9:26:53–3.141592653.

Why is it celebrated tomorrow only in some countries?

  • Only the United State and Belize write the dates in this order: month-day-year.
  • Other countries which may write it several ways including month-day-year are: Canada, Micronesia, Kenya, & the Philippines. (Can you and your child find these countries on the globe or map?)  Source

What is pi?

  • You remember from high school- something about circles. Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.
  • Circumference is, of course, the distance around the circle, just as perimeter is the distance around a polygon such as a triangle, square, rectangle, pentagon, etc.
  • Pi is always the same no matter the size of the circle.
  • And the area of the circle is also involved:  Area of circle = pi times radius(squared).

Who discovered pi?

The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians had an idea about pi.  The Babylonians approximated it to be a little more than 3 (3.125).  The Egyptians were a little further off on their guess: 3.160484.


This is the Greek letter for “pi” which stands for perimeter in Greek.

Numbers are cool,  pi included

  • Pi goes on for ever and ever.  You can’t calculate the end.  It’s got infinite numbers to it.
  • Pi never repeats a pattern of numbers.
  • Because it never ends and doesn’t repeat—-wait!  wait! –it’s called irrational! (Not like an irrational argument — but irrational in that it can’t be written as a fraction.)
  • A fraction is a ratio of two numbers.  Pi can’t be written as a fraction.  Therefore, it is irRATIOnal

How will you celebrate Pi Day of the Century!

Added interest:  Tomorrow is also Einstein’s birthday! (3-14-1879)

Wonderful Wednesday: Lady Gaga & violin?

Young Violinist Wows Her High School!

Sixteen year-old Yuki Beppu was a guest on Good Morning America in May 2014.  She played the violin and talked about her impromptu concert of Lady Gaga’s hit songs during lunch at Lexington High School, in Lexington, Massachusetts.  Her mashup of Lada Gaga songs mesmerized the students.

Yuki began violin lessons around age 4 and has been a student at the New England Conservatory of Music since she was about six years old.

In December 2008, Yuki’s chamber music group, Trio Con Brio, played at a From the Top performance at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.  The trio is comprised of  students at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School.  Yuki Beppu (nicknamed “Zucchini” by her trio-mates) is the violinist, Daniel Kim (nicknamed “Master of Disaster”) is the pianist,  and Harry Doernberg (who used to be nicknamed “Short McShort Short” until a recent growth spurt earned him the new nickname “Average McAverage Average”) is the cellist.  It sounds like they have a good time playing together!

“Sometimes I’ll play loud just to get on their nerves, but most of the time I just like to play loud because my part sounds so nice,” says Daniel in an NPR interview.  Yuki, not a shrinking violet, has a few words for him!

Enjoy listening to Yuki play the violin and to her wonderful personality!

Bach: A Passionate Life



Bach, Cranky old man?

Look at that little smile– He has a secret in that music!

Why does Bach hold this sheet of music in his hand?  That should give you an idea of some of the clever tidbits you will find out about him.

This film about Bach remains interesting throughout. The quality of the visuals are excellent with beautiful German scenery. And the music is masterfully performed.  We play so many pieces by the composer in the Suzuki books.  Children will enjoy learning about the real person who composed them.

Your young children can play alongside and listen in the background, so they can hear excerpts of the beautiful music.

Older children can watch the video with you, and knowing what to expect will give them something to look for. (See below)

Conductor, John Eliot Gardiner is an expert on Bach and the right person to lead the viewer on the journey from his childhood to his death.  He makes him a real person, not a stone statue of an old man.  Gardiner tells us about his stressful, but feisty childhood, his frustrations in school, his challenges on the job, and his wrangling for a better position, as well as more money, with each professional move.  Then he builds us a new statue of Bach!

Here is an old-school treasure hunt for you and your child to use as you watch the film.  See how many questions you both can answer.

      1. Just like in a small city, there is often one family that dominates certain professions.  In some towns, some families provide most of the lawyers.  Another family might be a “family of doctors.”  Bach’s family was a family of
      2. How many brothers and sisters did he have?
      3.  What was his elementary school like?  Is your school like this?
      4. Bach had to live with whom after his mother and father died?
      5. How did that man treat him?
      6. Why did he spend time in jail?  How long was he in jail?
      7. How many children did he have?
      8. What did the narrator of the film say about the  sheet of “music” in the portrait (at the top of the page)?
      9. We hear about singers or actors getting big breaks in Hollywood.  What was his “big break?”
      10. Each week he had to write how many cantatas?  What is a cantata, by the way?
      11. What is the Saint John Passion?
      12. Describe the Saint Matthew Passion?
      13. Sometimes when we do something wrong, whom do we blame?  When he was an adult and was told he did something wrong, whom did he blame?
      14. Some people like to write their names in places that maybe they shouldn’t be.  Where did Bach hide his name?  What was so clever about it?

Maybe you can make your own treasure hunt filled with Bach information!

Image source:

A Violin: How It Gets Its Voice

In this short 1923 video, watch how a violin is made by James Carlisle and Rembert Wurlitzer!

Who are these men?


Wurlitzer. That name may remind some of you of the Wurlitzer organ. There are even collectible Wurlitzer jukeboxes which played “records” in restaurants in the mid-20th century. However, Rembert Wurlitzer was the greatest American violin expert who established and operated his business in New York City from 1948 until he died in 1963.

But then there was James Carlisle, a noted violin maker.

James Carlisle, American Violin Maker, 1886-1962

This film is no talkie!

Made in 1923,  The Violin Speaks has words to read–you and your child can enjoy some special time reading them together.  Is this his or her first silent film?

It takes us  back to the American violin maker James Reynold Carlisle— and the young Rembert Wurlitzer— who make a violin.

Seeing each step about how a violin gets its “voice” helps to explain how such a beautiful sound is created on a violin.



Next time you look at a violin, you will see it with different eyes.

Although a violin is just made from wood, this film shows in great detail the artistry of making a fine violin.

  • The front of the violin is made from spruce, which is a light but very strong wood.
  • Maple is used for the neck, ribs, back, and scroll because it is a harder wood.
  • Pegs are made from a harder wood because of the wear on the peg holes from softer woods.
  • The fingerboard  is often made from ebony because it is very hard.
  • Perhaps less expensive violins use wood painted black to resemble ebony.

The steps he takes

  • The violin maker, Carlisle, tests the wood to see what type of tone it has.
  • Does he rub his nose down the seam?
  • The maple wood is glued together to make the back.
  • The thinly carved arch must bear 95 pounds of pressure from bridge and strings.
  • The bridge communicates the vibrating strings to the resonance of the body.

After seeing this film, you may notice things about the violin you hadn’t known existed.

Watch a modern luthier in action!

Although I have not seen William Mason’s workshop, a good family field trip might be to Fredericksburg, VA, to William Mason II Violin Shop.  The website says you can tour the shop and see how violins are made.  If you and your child watch this short video, The Violin Speaks, you will have good questions for Mr. Mason.