6134 Penn Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55419

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©2016 BY LAKE SYLVIA SUZUKI FLUTE AND RECORDER INSTITUTE. PROUDLY CREATED WITH WIX.COM

David Gerry has mastered the art of teaching young children and he is an absolute joy to behold from my perspective as both a flute teacher and a parent. I have endless pages of “ah ha!” notes from his training sessions. I use his brilliant tips and teaching techniques in my studio as well as into the very parenting of my precocious 7-year old who absolutely ADORES “Mr. David.” 

Sessions begin with body warm-ups and stretches, finger wiggles and reflex games, breathing/panting and mouth/ lip exercises (hissing, exaggerated chewing, horse lips). “Everybody grab a feather! Blow! Blow! Keep them in the air!” What’s not to love about this? One gets to move around, limber up the body, work the lungs, LAUGH, and it’s an instant ice breaker for children and adults of all ages. In a one-on-one session he worked on an “air game” of “flute soccer” with young Julia by blowing cotton balls across the table, soliciting cheers for scoring points (paper wads would also do the trick). I know we all wished we were playing, too! 

Dr. Gerry also capitalizes on use of group musical games – circle games, clapping games, using various “body percussion”. For Suzuki teachers such musical play is invaluable in promoting socialization, confidence, and emotional security to build cohesiveness within the Suzuki group. These games also enhance music skills such as counting, dynamics, and articulation through kinetic and movement experiences and are excellent at building coordination. Other games, such as “What’s wrong with my position” game help a student focus on observing proper body, face and finger positioning. Parents can easily adapt these games to be played with the family at home. 

 

One cannot underestimate the use of his “bag of tricks” that usually come in the form of small toys or animals of some kind (and they nearly all have names). 

  • “Meet Andre”, he says to my daughter as he introduces a teeny rubbery wolf. “Let’s let Andre sit on your flute while you play” (to help her keep her keys level and facing the ceiling rather than turned too far in). 

  • Winston, or his recently acquired cousin, are small birds that he flies around to check the “flight path” to insure cor- rect upper body posture. “Let’s see if Winston can fly under your chin, and under both arms.” 

  • A rubber ball was great for demonstrating how to “bounce” the sound of notes.

  • A panda bear castanet is used to help students mimic a “panda breath” as opposed to the too large “whale breath” or the inadequate “ladybug” breath; he holds the panda at eye level and asks them to breath cool air with the panda (a second benefit of this is that it helps coax students to make longer phrases).

  • He used dice to give students a goal for the number of “spits” (note attacks) on a given breath.

  • A tiny clip-on koala attached to the bar was assigned the task of “watching” the pinky of a student who neglected to keep it depressed.

  • Mary, the shoulder cow is lovingly placed on a child’s shoulder to “just check and make sure” the shoulder is down as Dr. Gerry reminds observers we can do this by touch, with a toy, or by touching our own shoulder but that to be non-verbal is more effective.

  • A small stuffed shark or a teeny weeny dog was placed in the right hand to help kiddos maintain that lovely rounded position

David ingeniously employs these toys to “help him” with his work. They distract from “failure” and deflect attention so the child wants to work with these playmates. The toys are clever, endearing and most importantly they DO THE JOB! 

Yet there is more! Dr. Gerry emulates fantastic little psychological tactics that are simply second nature to him. He will periodically whisper an instruction – secrets are always more fun when we get to show something to an audience. “Ask your fingers to......” whatever--here there is no judgment or negativity about a child forgetting a fingering or a position. He asked a child their favorite color, then alternately their least favorite color and use those to describe a note; then asked them to intentionally play him one or the other colors. Tada! Students work doubly hard to make beautiful or nasty sounding notes. He gives them “magic words” to say (“Must look good to sound good”) in a mantra like comical way to enforce all manner of concepts. And probably most importantly are how he consistently uses sentences that start with “I heard...Can you...I noticed...” followed by “I would like to hear...” His comments after such a request are regarding the outcome of whatever that goal is. “What worked well do you think?” is a favorite question. All positive and motivating – basic human conditioning. 

There is no short way to describe how effective, skilled, and frankly lovable this superb teacher is. Students find him irresistible, humorous, and encouraging and as a parent I almost envy his ability to bond with my daughter. Even if you are not a “Suzuki” family, or a full-fledged Suzuki teacher please treat yourself next year and spend a few days at the Lake Sylvia Suzuki Flute Camp observing a true master at work. 

David Gerry, Wunder Teacher

by Cindy Farrell