When his middle daughter was just 7 years old, Lloyd took her to a rehearsal of the Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra for encouragement in her violin studies. Little did he know the thought of a community youth orchestra and the dream of a program to train young musicians would be birthed there in Atlanta Symphony Hall.
The young performers they met were students of Suzuki violin programs, a training method developed by Schinichi Suzuki in the 1940s and 1950s. The Suzuki method is based on Suzuki’s own difficulties in language acquisition as an adult. His method of teaching music was built on the observation of children picking up language from being immersed at a young age.
“Within 30 years [of the Suzuki method spreading through Europe and Asia], all of a sudden, the best players in the world have come through this program — just a staggering percentage,” Lloyd said. “In the United States, it is exploding still and I tried to do this in the late ’90s, but we only had our Suzuki teacher about seven or eight months. When we lost him, I started searching for someone that was certified to teach Suzuki, but I could not find anyone that was willing to do it.
“That’s why I’m so pumped, because the vision has been there for a long time. Now, we have the resources to do it and it’s all starting to happen.”
Finding a Suzuki-certified violin instructor was Lloyd’s biggest challenge. On the cusp of metro Atlanta, Bartow County has residents willing and able to support the program, but teachers have historically been unwilling to leave the reliable demand of students in heavily populated areas to begin a new program in Cartersville. Nearly a year ago, however, in search of a violin instructor for private lessons, Lloyd stumbled upon Brian Fredericks. Without giving thought to his long-forgotten dream of developing a Suzuki violin program, Lloyd brought Fredericks, a 2011 graduate of Kennesaw State University, onboard at Great Southern Music in Cartersville. It wasn’t until Fredericks passed his exams this summer to become a certified Suzuki instructor that Lloyd resurrected his vision for music education in Bartow.
“The people in Atlanta or Marietta or Gwinnett County, why should they come to Cartersville to start a program when they’ve got people lined up around the corner to do a program in their neighborhood,” Lloyd said. “But this is a real need. The reason the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra in Cobb County works so well is it’s built into the school system and that won’t work here because of funds and the economy — but we’re big enough now. We should be able to do that here and our community is solid enough that we could handle having such a youth symphony program even if it’s not in the schools.
“Within a week of starting this, I revised my goal of having 12 students to having as many as 32. My only barrier is getting the word out to all that might be interested. It’s starting to spread by word of mouth and every day someone else signs up.”
The Suzuki violin program hosted by Great Southern Music will teach children ages 4 to 6 although the program has been taught to children as early as 3 years old. A specialized violin is used for young learners to practice at home and once a week in a group session. For optimal success, the program dictates that an adult attend classes and learn along with the student to enhance practice at home.
“We wanted to encourage the mom or the dad or somebody in their family to actually join the class with them that would commit to learn with them in the class so they could keep them on task during the week,” Lloyd said. “This is at the heart of the Suzuki program and Suzuki stressed that although you don’t have to learn the instrument, he required a parent to be in the lesson, taking notes on everything they did and trying to understand everything that they’re learning to do.
“We’re encouraging the parents in so much that we sell the violin for the parent at next to cost because it is so important that the parent be involved.”
The program costs $50 a month for four group lessons each month including a fifth free lesson every third month. To get started, the specialized children’s violin costs about $130 and the adult violin will cost about $100. The weekly group sessions will last at least six months at which time students enter private lessons to continue for about two years.
With the entire Suzuki violin program lasting about two and a half years, Lloyd’s vision goes well beyond the immediate musical education of a few students to something he hopes can benefit the community as a whole. After students go through the program, Lloyd wants to transition the young musicians into an avenue for performance by creating ensembles, chamber orchestras and eventually a youth symphony orchestra.
“The vision is to take that ensemble, let them practice for approximately a year, and then after that year add wind instruments,” Lloyd said. “Now we have a chamber orchestra. ... We’ll charter that group as a nonprofit, a 501c3 organization, and we’ll call it the Bartow Youth Chamber Orchestra or it may be chartered as Bartow Youth Symphony Orchestra.
“And basically what we’ll do is give that to the community, create a board of directors and we’ll have ourselves a youth symphony orchestra — much like Cobb County has GYSO, which is Georgia Youth Symphony, and Atlanta has the Atlanta Youth Symphony.”
Opportunities for local performance will aid students in their learning and provide special music for churches, organizations and venues throughout the county.
“[The Bartow Youth Symphony Orchestra] needs to be a community thing. The store doesn’t need to be proprietary with that. It will be a community youth orchestra and the only tie it will have to us is an arm-length situation that allows it to drive this feeder program. Once this starts, the Suzuki program could really flourish because parents will then be able to see what their kids can flow in to,” Lloyd said. “That’s the problem with private lessons, you’ve got to have a whole lot of passion to get through that boredom for the next 10 years. You’ve got to have a performing outlet. You’ve got to have something in front of you that entices you to get better.
“I think this will add a lot to Bartow County’s cultural offerings and it’s exciting to start something like this in a community of our size.”
Citing studies linking music education to cognitive aptitude, Lloyd referenced a quote from Suzuki to further define his vision.
“I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth, then learns to play it himself, he or she develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart,” Suzuki said.
Lloyd is still building on the local program and hopes to initially launch four classes, the first of which will begin Sept. 1. Classes will be held during the week and on the weekend to accommodate differing schedules with one class possibly taking place within a local private primary school.
An open house for interested parents will be held Tuesday, Sept. 28, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Great Southern Music, 650 Henderson Drive, Suite 105, in West End Commons. For more information call 770-606-9009 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.