group-classAbout the Lessons

  • Suzuki instructional levels range from an early beginning, starting with a Suzuki Early Childhood Education Program through to college preparatory, and college cello instruction.
  • Beginning with a highly skilled approach to physical set-up, Valdine teaches each student to “Play Book 10 in Book 1”.  Each new technique/skill is taught as a building block to a more advanced skill, taught with attention to musicality and facility.
  • Note and Rhythmic reading are taught from the first lessons at age and skill appropriate levels.
  • Students move at their own pace.  Mastery of the lesson material is achieved through: 1) daily practicing with the “practice parent”,  2) daily listening to the recording and a musical environment, 3) peer motivation and enrichment in group classes/ensembles, 4) a positive attitude!
  • Each student has a weekly individual lesson, weekly group class or other ensemble class, monthly studio performance class, and recital/public performances.  Students are expected to polish at least one piece a month, and perform it in studio class or recital.
  • Parents attend every lesson and group class with their child under the age of 9. Suzuki parenting is a substantial job requiring hands on involvement and time to spend with the student. No prior musical skill is required.


Mathis at Student Recital with Daniela Leontescu, Andrea Hawkins, Kenji Bunch, and Valdine Mishkin 

Book 1 Skills: How to Play the Cello

The fundamental set-up is taught in the “Pre-twinkle through Twinkle” phase, including emotional/behavioral skills (how to be a student), correct instrument set-up routines, balanced bow technique, good tone, L.H. intonation and balance, pitch sense/ ear training, rhythmic sense, playing with a leader and in a group, and memorization.  This arduous journey is celebrated with a “Twinkle Graduation”, performed for the studio or at a student-hosted event.

The rest of Book 1 builds on the basic skills from Twinkle.  Bowing techniques are expanded, 1st position is mastered, and several scales are introduced throughout Book 1.  Musicianship is cultivated through exploring musical genres, ensemble playing, memorization, and public performances.  Sight-reading is formally introduced near the end of Book 1.

Lastly, a Book 1 Graduation Recital is prepared.  The entire Book 1 is reviewed and re-memorized, refining the student’s ease of cello technique, tone, and musicianship.  6-7 pieces are selected for performance, a time & place for the recital is selected, and the invitations go out!  The Book 1 graduation student is the featured cellist of a Thursday group class, performing their solo recital with piano accompaniment, followed by a cake celebration.



Book 2 Skills: How to Read Music, Introduction to Shifting and Vibrato

I Can Read Vol. 1 is completed, followed by I Can Read Vol. 2, and Position Pieces Vol. 1 is introduced as their first etude book for cello technique. Cello positions 2, 3, and 4 are studied.

Vibrato is introduced, bow techniques are expanded.  All “open-string” scales are learned, certain minor scales are introduced.

Some students prepare auditions for area orchestra programs.  Students may choose to prepare a Book 2 graduation recital.



Book 3 Skills: Introduction to Independence

I Can Read Vol. 2 is completed, Position Pieces Vol. 1 is completed.  More scales/keys are introduced, three octave scales introduced.

Students are expected to both read their new repertoire assignments as well as continue listening to the recordings.  Practice routines and finding balance with homework and other activities are fine-tuned.  Parents manage the at-home practice, but are no longer expected to direct practice sessions or assist with note-reading.  The student’s independence and confidence in musicianship are nurtured.

Some students prepare auditions for area orchestra programs.  Students are placed in a cello ensemble with peers of similar age, where non-Suzuki music is studied with one-person-per-part.  Students may choose to prepare a Book 2 graduation recital.



Books 4-10 Skills: Becoming a Cellist

Book 4-10 comprises of standard “traditional” cello repertoire in the Suzuki literature, with the last two books comprising of one complete concerto each.  Practice time is self-directed, (but daily routine accountability is monitored by parents).

Position Pieces 2, Thumb Position, and Thumb Position Thumbs of Steel are completed.  All scales/ key areas are learned, as well as arpeggios, 3rd, 6ths, and 8ves.  Standard etude books (Schroeder, Dotzauer, Popper, Franchomme, Piati, etc.) are introduced.  Development of general musical skills are continued, including sight-reading, ear-training, music theory, and ensemble playing.

Students participate in an area orchestra program.  Some may enter competitions and/or festivals through the Music Teacher’s National Association, the Oregon Cello Society, and area Young Artists competitions.  Student may pursue graded examinations through the Carnegie Hall Royal Conservatory Achievement Program.



Beyond Book 10: Pursuing Excellence in Music

The myriad of advanced cello repertoire choices open up after Suzuki Book 10.  Although students are taught at their own pace, minimum practice time requirements and solid foundational technique yield a college-paced repertoire selection for each year of study.  This includes the study of one complete Bach Suite, one complete Sonata, one complete Concerto, and a contemporary concert piece.  Alongside cello repertoire, a strong focus on cello technique is continued through the study of scales/arpeggios/double stops, etudes, and orchestral excerpts.

Students prepare their pieces for recitals, competitions, and examinations.  Some students may audition for college entry as a music major or minor.