Fall Semester of 2021

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Fall semester of 2021, students, teachers and parents were all excited to get back to in-person Suzuki group lessons at our home of more than 20 years, University Park Elementary School. We all followed masking protocols set up by the school district in order to stay safe. It was an awesome year of the Fairbanks School of Talent Education group lessons.

Some highlights include the International Friendship Day concert at Pioneer Park Civic Center in October. Violin, cello and flute students joined to dazzle the audience with our beautiful playing. As always, Jim Spontak was our trusty pianist who set the beat and pulled everyone together. Just a few weeks after that event, we held the annual Halloween recital in the UPARK gym. It was so much fun to perform in costumes and also to hear the creative Halloween special effects from each class.

In December, we gathered again in the gym for the Holiday concert. A wide range of pieces were performed, from the youngest Book 1 students to the advanced violin class, which played a popular Mexican carol, accompanied by our own guitar teacher, Jeff Merkel. The spring semester saw an increased student enrollment, perhaps after families realized that we could meet safely and were pulled back by the FUN of playing music together. In early April we performed at the Mush 4 Kids annual event. Lots of students arrived early to tune, and then played from their hearts. The audience was enthusiastic and many parents commented on how good it was to play publicly again. Afterwards, Audra and I walked across a thick sheet of ice to our cars, grateful that we stayed upright on that walk.

The final concert was the grand finale finish to our group lessons. Everyone wore the official FSTE red T-shirt. All the classes performed alone and then we ended with everyone playing the Twinkle variations together. The audience was thrilled with the recital, from start to finish and gave us a standing ovation. The excitement from both students and parents was gratifying for the teachers. We all went home, eager to practice well and prepare for the upcoming Fairbanks Suzuki Institute.

In early June, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Fairbanks Suzuki Institute. After 2 canceled years, we were finally back together for this event. It was a wonderful week of learning together, culminating in the final concert. We all took the Davis Concert Hall stage for the world premiere of Michael McLean’s piece written for the anniversary, ‘A River Runs Through It’. The institute was a highlight of the year and inspired the students to practice well over the summer. Many people viewed the live-streamed performance and the composer received congratulations from friends all over the world. Three cheers for the Suzuki Institute!

December 2021 NEWS!

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FSTE group classes have spent a comfortable fall semester at UPark Elementary School. In important ways it was back to the “good old days,” at least for the individual violin, cello, and guitar classes plus piano time with Jim Spontak.
Masks, social distancing, and no- touch routines, though not our favorite innovations, became more tolerable as the semester progressed. The teachers are very grateful to the supportive custodial crew at UPark for opening up the front door and all our assigned classrooms in a timely manner every Thursday. This support extended to preparing the gym with bleachers and chairs for our Halloween and Holiday recitals.

Our Halloween recital was a great success in the gym. There was ample room for each class in their fantastic costumes. Listening to each other and then being able to present their own contributions was extremely gratifying. The music was a real treat with lots of spooky renditions of the Suzuki (and other) repertoire. Again, cheerfully, we noted glimmers of the “good old days.”

Our Holiday recital on December 9th ended our fall semester joyfully. It was wonderful to have the (usually zooming) flute class in person for the first time in a very long time. We were fascinated by their plastic head shields and amazed by the high quality of sound they strove to produce under those contraptions. There were lots of “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” and “Jingle Bells,” but, as usual, some unusual pieces to celebrate the season. When all the classes played together for the final pieces it felt highly satisfying.

As families struggle with the threats of the viruses, the number of our classes and most of their sizes have been way down. We hope for increases to group classes in the spring semester, as the sheer joy of being together and the accomplishments of even the smallest groups have been so clearly displayed. Dr. Suzuki believed fervently in the concept of Group Class as a way to encourage a musical community and of course, camaraderie.
Please remember to register for the Spring semester of Group classes starting December 27. Late fees apply after January 13.

Graduation , June 2021

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Suzuki Graduation was a huge success in all ways imaginable. Students prepared their graduation pieces to a high level and submitted video recordings with their application. Experienced teachers and performers listened to each recording and wrote feedback and gave encouragement to each student. Then in early June, we met at UAF in the music department for rehearsals, everyone masked and the flutes behind plexiglass screens. The graduation leaders and students all enjoyed playing together in person and making music in the moment. The return of live music was wonderful! The result was a beautiful graduation recital in Davis Concert Hall on Saturday, June 4, followed by a celebration reception with cake and lemonade. The photos included here were taken by Robin Maher. Many thanks to her for her beautiful photos and for allowing us to share them with you.

The Suzuki spirit was alive and soaring at this graduation event. We hope that you will feel comfortable with resuming in person group lessons at UPARK this fall. Every effort will be made to keep you safe and healthy as we follow the school district protocols and in addition, ask everyone present to wear a mask. Group lessons are just as important as the private instrument lessons you are all taking. We are excited to be open again and look forward to seeing you soon!


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We are remembering moments from the most unusual fall semester in FSTE history and being thankful that music is always available and always a powerful unifying force. Below you will read about highlights from our Suzuki teachers memories and thoughts on this challenging but often rewarding semester. We hope you all enjoyed what we offered and hope to see you again in the spring of 2021.

Registration for spring semester opens on December 31 online. We wish you all the best now and in the New Year!

FSTE Faculty

From Dr. Gail Johansen: 

Dr. Gail Johansen’s violin classes met via Zoom and in person during fall semester. It was interesting to learn about online group lesson teaching and to try out new ideas. I learned a lot! Thanks to Jim Spontak, we were able to alternate weeks with Audra Carlson’s classes at Fairbanks Lutheran Church and safely play together with our trusty pianist. The semester culminated in a video recording of the violin classes playing a polished piece and a Holiday themed song. A fun time was had by all in the production process. Here’s a hearty shout out to Chris Carlson for his expert recording work – Thank you, thank you for posting the recordings on YouTube. You may all check your FSTE emails to see these violin class presentations.

As always, we enjoyed learning new skills, polishing our pieces and playing Zoom duets with student leaders. I appreciate the students’ good efforts to navigate Zoom and their willingness to try new things using the online format. May the new year bring us closer to the day ahead when we’ll meet at UPARK school for in person group lessons. I can’t wait to see everyone there again! In the meantime, we’ll see as many students at the online lessons as can manage to participate. Come join us!

FSTE Book 3 Christmas Recital 2020 and FSTE Book 4 Christmas Recital 2020

Gail Johansen’s Book 3 Group Class
Gail Johansen’s Books 4-6 Group Class

From Audra Carlson: 

Audra Carlson’s Book 1 and Book 2 classes met this fall on Zoom and in person at the Fairbanks Lutheran Church, alternating every other week with Dr. Johansen’s classes. We were able to play together socially distanced in the beautiful church space that our pianist, Jim Spontak, provided for us. It was fun to see each other in person, but even more exciting to be able to play together in person! Our Zoom classes were an excellent testament to the wonderful kids in our program. Everyone was so helpful and polite, each taking turns and being good listeners. We hope to see all of you again next semester!

Audra Carlson’s Book 1 Group Class
Audra Carlson’s Book 2 Group Class

From Nancy Morgan

ZOOM language: “insufficient band width,” unstable connection,” where did you go?”, “I  can’t hear/see you,” “Could you say that again?” 

ZOOM teaching taking us into our students’ homes: dog bounding into the room and  licking student’s feet; dog singing/howling at high notes; showing off new puppies, guinea pigs, Easter  chicks; visiting an out-of-state grandparent and having a lesson there; dealing with bread burning in  oven so lesson moving quickly to another part of the house 

 ZOOM private teaching integrating some fun ideas from reports about group class: 

Etude Tango- finally the student gets it, repeats and all; Martini Gavotte-the rondo form is really  enjoyable; Jingle Bells and Hark How the Bells with harmony! 

From Thom McLean: 

As summer Zoom sessions ran into fall and winter we’ve all learned to adapt. I’ve been so impressed with the resiliency and good nature of students although their lives have been turned upside down with restricted social interaction and virtual schooling. Although I’ve still had the pleasure of seeing some people in person–masked, distanced and with hand sanitizer in reach–I have several students who have been on Zoom for the past nine months. Others resort to Zoom when protocols in their family have changed or out of convenience for that week. One thing I’m always surprised by during Zoom meetings is the novel delight of getting to see ENTIRE faces! I miss seeing those smiles or whatever expression the day brings. I’ve been privileged to be virtually invited into people’s homes and meet other family members and my favorite–family pets. I hope we are all playing together again soon.

From Dorli McWayne:

The flute group class has been meeting via zoom for the entire fall semester, since there is  no getting around the fact that flutes are very windy instruments. Nevertheless, good times were had by  all with monthly recitals, a Halloween program, and culminating in a beautiful Holiday Evening with  decorated Christmas trees, some fancy clothes, and chamber music with other family members. It was  good to exchange verbal and musical pleasantries with each other every week.

Flutists amid the flowers in a light  summer rain

From Jeff Merkel: The guitar group has had a fun semester, meeting at Christ Lutheran Church with social  distancing and masks. We had a Christmas concert to ourselves, and here is one of the pieces the kids  liked the most. It’s called “Ottawa Blues,” composed by Andrea Cannon, who has taught at our Suzuki  Institute for a number of years.

Institute schedule for Sunday, June 2

Michele Jeglum Fairbanks Suzuki Institute


Schedule Change:

Afternoon classes will begin at the following times; 12:45, 1:45, and 2:45.  Our final concert will begin at 4:15.

11:30 Parent Brown Bag Lunch Talk 

Today’s topic will be “Practice Goals for Long-term Success” – Wiegman

3:50 Report to the following rooms for tuning:

M217   Violins, Twinkle – Book 2

M223   Violins, Book 3 – 6 and Violas

M219   Advanced Violins

Davis Hall   Cellos

M211   Flutes

M207   Guitars

4:15 Final Concert

Institute Schedule for Saturday, June 1

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11:30 Parent Brown Bag Lunch Talk 

Today’s topic will be “Meter Matters: Using meter awareness games to achieve musicality” – Perrin

12:45 Student Recital in Davis Concert Hall

5:00  SAA Focus Meeting in room M301

7:00 Chamber Music and Elective Class Recital in Davis Concert Hall 

Institute Schedule for Friday, May 31

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Special reminder that the graduation recital begins at 12:30 today.

Need dinner on Saturday?  Join the Chamber Music and Elective students for a pizza party outside the front doors of the Fine Arts Building on Saturday from 5:30 to 6:30.  This event is open to all FSI participants and their families. The cost is $7 for one slice of pizza, drink, and veggies.  Extra slices are available for $2.  Please sign-up in advance at registration or in the office until Friday, May 31st at noon.

11:30 Parent Brown Bag Lunch

Today’s topic will be “Getting and Keeping Your Child Hooked on Music” – Bossuat-Gallic

12:30 Graduation Recital in Davis Concert Hall

Institute Schedule for Thursday, May 30

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Need dinner on Saturday?  Join the Chamber Music and Elective students for a pizza party outside the front doors of the Fine Arts Building on Saturday from 5:30 to 6:30.  This event is open to all FSI participants and their families. The cost is $7 for one slice of pizza, drink, and veggies.  Extra slices are available for $2.  Please sign-up in advance at registration or in the office until Friday, May 31st at noon.

11:30 Parent Brown Bag Lunch Talk 

Today’s topic will be “Language: Ideas to maximize connection and empowerment” – Smelser

12:45 Student Recital in Davis Concert Hall

7:00 Showcase Recital

Zachary Spontak, a graduate of FSI and the Johansen Music Studio, will perform a recital on Thursday, May 30 at 7:00 pm in the Davis Concert Hall. He’ll be joined by his father, James Spontak, at the piano. FSI participants will be admitted with the institute name badge. The public is invited and we encourage you to spread the word about this exciting performance. Admission is $20 for adults or $15 for seniors, military and students. Tickets are available at the Suzuki Office and at the Box Office prior to the performance. Come be inspired by his artistry, skill and beautiful, expressive tone.

Institute Schedule for Wednesday, May 29

Michele Jeglum Fairbanks Suzuki Institute, Uncategorized


Need dinner on Saturday?  Join the Chamber Music and Elective students for a pizza party outside the front doors of the Fine Arts Building on Saturday from 5:30 to 6:30.  This event is open to all FSI participants and their families. The cost is $7 for one slice of pizza, drink, and veggies.  Extra slices are available for $2.  Please sign-up in advance at registration or in the office until Friday, at noon.

11:30 Parent Brown Bag Lunch Talk 

Today’s topic will be “Suzuki Vitamins: What keeps our musical diets healthy?” – Felsing

12:45 Student Recital in Davis Concert Hall 

Institute Schedule for Tuesday, May 28

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Parking on Campus

All visitors to campus will need to purchase permits to park in campus parking lots during regular business hours. Campus visitors can still park for free on weekends and after 5 p.m. on weekdays. Parking convenient for Suzuki Institute is available by short-term meter kiosk in the Eielson South lot and daily parking permits are available for parking in the Nenana and Taku lots. Permits are available for $5 a day or multiple days up to one week. Kiosks accept cash, coins and credit cards at the following locations: Nenana across from the Student Recreation Center and Taku parking lot off of Farmers Loop.

Shuttles are available from the Nenana and Taku parking lots. Regular decal lot locations are shown on the UAF campus map online at www.uaf.edu/campusmap/. Gold reserved lots are excluded during the workday but are open for visitors after 5 p.m. and on weekends. Shuttle bus schedules are available at www.uaf.edu/fs/services/shuttlebus/

Today’s Schedule

9:00 Teacher Traning Class Gruening 208

11:30 Chamber Music Coaching Sessions

  • Room M301: Alex Apicella, Else Mayo, Audrey Swank, Joshua Swank, Coach Alex Croxton.
  • Room M223: Rosy Kauffman, Sophie Henry, Fiona Secor, Cadence Tozier, Coach Carol Ourada.

12:30 Chamber Music Coaching Sessions

  • Room M217:  Clara Teller, Jonathan Swank, Dylan Candelaria, Cirdan Vonnahme, Coach Everett Goodwin
  • Room M301: Lex Zacheis, Asa Eduards, Kestrel Wigglesworth, Casey Lambries, Coach Alex Croxton
  • Room M223: Sean Raften, Forest Rodgers, Ani Merkel, Ian Carlson, Juanito Richards, Coach Carol Ourada
  • Room G207: Joseph Montalbano, Blaque Secor, Caleb Tolbert, John Haran-Delong, Coach Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Room G310: Noelle, Bertram, Owen Wooller, Hannah Weaver, Luke Buth, Bonnie Marriott, Sophia Benson, Coach Noelle Perrin
  • Room G308: Nicholas Buth, Matteo Kuigenza, Anna Westfall, Talven Wigglesworth, Coach Andrea Cannon

1:00 – 3:00 Pick up schedules in the Great Hall and locate classrooms

  • Students in Viola for Violinists sign out a viola in the Suzuki Office.
  • Please use this time to familiarize yourself with the location of the rooms which we are using this year.

2:00 Graduation Rehearsals

Students who are graduating this year go to these rooms for your rehearsal:

  • Violin and Viola will meet in room M217
  • Cellos will meet in room M301
  • Flutes will meet in room M223

3:00 Orientation and Faculty Introduction in the Davis Concert Hall

  • FSI Official T-shirt Picture for all students and faculty – outside the Great Hall on the steps of the Rasmussen Library facing the fountain.  Join us after the orientation for this historic moment with everyone together.

3:30 Play In

  • Violins: Twinkle to Andantino meet in room 301.
  • Violins: Etude to Book 6 meet in Concert Hall.
  • Flutes: All levels meet in room 223.
  • Cello and Viola:  All levels meet in 217.

4:30 Faculty Meeting in 217

5:30 Picnic at Pioneer Park Playground Shelter

A rain or shine picnic will be held today, May 28, at Pioneer Park. All students, families and teachers are invited to the picnic area closest to the main playground. Parent volunteers have been working hard to make this a delicious Potluck Picnic. Moose burgers, reindeer hotdogs, drinks, and picnic dinnerware will be provided. We ask our Suzuki families to bring picnic foods to share. Let’s treat our clinicians to a bountiful Alaska Picnic! Come and join in on some fun games put on by our parent volunteers.