At the end of a week of learning Bass Book 2 at the Stevens Point, Wisconsin Suzuki Institute I was having breakfast with the rest of the New Ulm Suzuki School contingent prior to making the journey back home. We had a group of violin players and one bass player (my student) in attendance. Our Suzuki School director asked the students what their favorite part was about the camp. We heard some of the usual, “great teachers,” “hanging out with other musicians,” and even “all you can eat food!” When it came time for my bass student to give his take, his answer was “I really liked the community the bass players had.” In that moment he summed up what my teacher trainer Virginia Dixon has been preaching since my first bass book training class.
The community of bass players is very important. Few people play bass than other instruments like violins, cellos, and violas. During my first book of teacher training, Ms. Dixon stated how important it was for us to come together as players and create the community. That year I trained with seven other bass players from across North America. The relationships formed at the Institute still exist today through social media where we trade jokes, encouragement, and answer each other’s questions. We might not all be in the same place or state or even country but I feel a great amount of support from the teachers that I trained with.
When I got home from my first Suzuki Institute I tried hard to create the same community for my bass students. I incorporated fun bow games, song competitions, and the favorite of teenagers everywhere, food! While completing a group practice one evening, I was telling a student how much I loved the viola purple ribbons. If you are not familiar with a “viola purple ribbon,” the viola players have purple ribbons for their instruments so the teachers know to tune the instrument like a viola.
While I was waxing poetically about this and the community they have created, my student picked up a black ribbon from a package of cookies I had for the kids (it was a special pack of cookies) and announced while tying it to her bass scroll: “so, they know to tune it like a bass.” I loved her idea. So when this year began, with two new students, I had them all tie black ribbons to their basses. This has proven to be helpful since my youngest student is age 5 and due to there being no basses small enough for her she is learning to play bass on a small cello. Therefore it is important that her instrument be tuned like a bass. When asked by other students in our program what the deal is with the ribbons, we simply tell them it’s to know to tune our instruments correctly and well, “it’s a bass thing.” I hope one day to see a legion of black ribbons on basses as kids walk by me at music camp.
Recently the Minnesota Suzuki Association asked me if I would be interested as serving as the Bass liaison for the state. I jumped at the opportunity to help create a community where Suzuki bass players and teachers can go to ask questions, seek advice, and gain ideas for planning lessons. Let’s create a space together where we can join forces to bring more people over to bass and feel like they are the part of a larger whole. I look forward to meeting and working with my fellow bass players in the future. In the meantime, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/923599007726061/ to join our group so we can begin our new community together.