Fiddlers from heaven: Suzuki violin student concert

Ati Metwaly, Friday 1 Jul 2011

On Monday 4 July, the Cairo Opera House Open Air Theatre invites audiences to one of the most beautiful concerts of the season:the end-of-the-year concert of violin Suzuki method students

Suzuki concert 2010 / photo: Emad S B Saweeres

Studies have proven that children learning music, with greater concentration abilities, tend to excel in scientific subjects while at the same time having their sense of non-materialistic values positively altered.

On Monday, 4 July, children and young students of the Suzuki violin method will give their annual concert at the Open Air Theatre. These young musicians are the fruit of the hard work and dedication of Osman El Mahdy and his team who, operating under the umbrella of the Talents Development Centre at the Cairo Opera House, are implementing the method of Shinichi Suzuki for learning the violin.

Shinichi Suzuki (1899-1998) was a Japanese violinist and the creator of the Suzuki method (also known as the “mother tongue” method). He believed music could be taught the way small children learn to speak: instinctively, in a quasi-subconscious way repeating syllables and words. In time, sentence structure gradually improves, so does pronunciation; soon they acquire grammatical logic.

First among Suzuki’s concerns was bringing a ray of happiness to Japanese children affected by World War II, but his work would go on to bring joy to children worldwide. Suzuki developed his curriculum for a number of instruments. All gained in popularity as they proved extremely effective in Japan and beyond. Today, the Suzuki method is a term familiar to everyone with an interest in music education.

Evelyn Hermann, author of Shinichi Suzuki: The Man and His Philosophy, explains how Suzuki created, not so much a teaching method as a philosophy of living. “You cannot buy ten volumes of Suzuki books and become a Suzuki Teacher,” she writes. “Dr. Suzuki has developed a philosophy which, when understood to the fullest, can be a philosophy for living. He is not trying to create the world of violinists. His major aim is to open a world of beauty to young children everywhere that they might have greater enjoyment in their lives through the God-given sounds of music.”

The Suzuki method reached Egypt with a Japanese team in early 1990s and was adopted and implemented by Osman El Mahdy, an Egyptian violinist, former konzertmeister of the Cairo Opera Orchestra (1994-2005), professor of violin and chamber music at the Cairo Conservatory (1989- 2005), and currently the first violin of the Cairo Opera Quartet.

El Mahdy, trained in the Suzuki method in both Cairo and Tokyo by professor Takeshi Kobayashi, a former student of Shinichi Suzuki, launched his own violin classes in November 1993.

“Music education plays a major role in developing children's personality and opens up their minds to various cultures and arts. Not all children have to reach a very high level of ability on an instrument, but all of them have to have some basic musical knowledge,” El Mahdy commented to Ahram Online.

The Suzuki method curriculum begins with tunes as simple as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and its variations, compositions by Bach, Beethoven’s Minuet in G, Dvořák’s Humoresques, Handel, Vivaldi. Last year, the most advanced Suzuki-method students performed one movement of Vivaldi’s concerto for 4 violins. This year the concert will include a number of compositions incorporated the first time into the programme. The concert will open with solo performances Handel's Allegro from the sonata in D Major, performed by Doha Eweiss, Bach's Allegro from the a minor concerto, performed by Fady Samuel, Vivaldi's Allegro from the G minor concerto, performed by Ahmed El Sadek and Bach's Bourree, performed by Dara Hashem and Leonardo Ramsis; followed by students performing tutti.

The Talents Development Centre is holding Suzuki method classes in Cairo and Alexandria, with El Mahdy giving lessons to Cairo students and monitoring Alexandria developments. Every year, the two groups gather to make the final preparations for a single concert, which takes place at one of the venues of the Cairo Opera House.

Concerts usually took take place in Cairo yet last year it was the Sayed Darwish Theatre in Alexandria (Alexandria Opera House) that hosted the young violinists. This year, on 4 July the concert will take place at the Open Air Theatre.

Almost two decades of El Mahdy’s work have given hundreds of children and young people invaluable experience. Not only are children acquainted with music as El Mahdy helps them develop their talents, some of them also decide to pursue further an career in the field of music. Many of El Mahdy’s students continued their education in the most prestigious international music schools and conservatories, and many of them have joined renowned orchestras.

Still, there are students who choose a career other than music, becoming business administrators, doctors, engineers… All however carry music in their souls and many have remained in contact with El Mahdy over the years.

Not only do Suzuki lessons provide unparalleled musical benefits, they also create strong bonds between the children and their families. All persons involved feel that they share something beautiful that can be cherished for years. They have also created the Suzuki Music Facebook group, in which they share their impressions of music and various developments.

As such, the Suzuki students and their families formed a community; they meet on regular basis and most importantly share the same musical and educational values.

The 4 July concert will be a wonderful opportuniy to meet all with the young diamonds of Osman el Mahdy’s Suzuki violin lessons, and experience a moment of hope for a better and more creative future of Egyptian children. The Suzuki students are a proof that there are families to whom musical education is still important,

Each year, Talents Development Centre welcomes new children interested in music education. For information related to the enrollment for the year 2011/2012 please contact the Cairo Opera House


Concert on Monday, 4 July at 8 pm at the Cairo Opera House Open Air Theatre


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