Graduation

At Westminster Suzuki Strings we carry on Dr. Suzuki’s Graduation System. We celebrate book completions in addition to the milestone graduation levels outlined by Dr. Suzuki.

Graduations are celebrated in October and April as a Grand Concert (whole studio group concert). Familles need to attend the concert, regardless of ability or eligibility to perform.

History of the Graduation System

Dr. Suzuki woke up around 5:00am every morning to listen to hundreds of tape recordings sent to him from all over Japan. He created a Graduation System in which upon reaching certain playing levels, students would record several polished review pieces and in return receive his constructive comments about their playing. This was a celebration of accomplishment. It was never a “pass/fail” system as he trusted that teachers would only have a student prepare and submit a recording when they were musically ready. Dr. Suzuki also knew it was the process of preparing recordings that the real learning and progress took place as students reflect on their own playing.


The purpose of the Graduation Process:

  • To recognize and celebrate students who have achieved high standards of playing
  • To maintain our commitment to mastery and excellence
  • To place a high value on review and the process of polishing
  • To provide a character development journey for students to work toward goals and be recognized for their achievements
  • To educate students in the self evaluation and goal setting process
  • To provide group performance opportunities

Dr. Suzuki’s Graduation Pieces:

  • The Sunflower Song, Pre-Twinkle* (Twinkle Var. C)
  • Twinkle Variations, Book 1* (Go Tell Aunt Rhody)
  • Allegro* ( Andantino)
  • Etude* ( Minuet 3)
  • Gossec Gavotte, Book 1 (LLA bk 2)
  • Minuet in G, Book 2*(Gavotte G minor bk 3)
  • Bach Bourree, Book 3 ( Seitz 5, 3rd Mvt. bk 4)
  • Vivaldi Concerto in G Minor 1st movement, Book 5 ( Fiocco Allegro bk 6)
  • Bach Concerto in A Minor 1st movement, Book 7 ( Tambourin Grétry bk 8)
  • Mozart Concerto in D Major, Book 10 (When ready)

*Dr. Suzuki’s original list did not include pre-twinkle and multiple book 1 levels. They have been added to provide motivation to our beginning students and to introduce them to the graduation process. (Pieces in parenthesis indicate the level at which a student is playing before they may begin the graduation process).


The Graduation Process

The process begins well after a student has completed the level from which they wish to graduate. When the student is eligible for graduation due to completion of the eligibility piece; they begin the graduation process for the current level. As students move through the repertoire, they receive credits towards completion of each piece (song). Pieces are complete when all credits are received. The final credit for each piece is earned following the creation of a successful video recording. The official graduation piece (listed above) must demonstrate both technical mastery and artistry.

Student and Sensei work together in the lesson to polish the graduation piece to a high standard. When the student feels ready, we make a video during the lesson. Sensei and student watch the video and decide together if the recording meets the graduation standards. If not, a plan to further review and polish is put in place and the student may try recoding again at the next lesson. This process repeats until student and Sensei we satisfied with the performance quality.

To graduate a level, students must demonstrate mastery of the teaching points for the graduation piece. In addition, all previous pieces in the level must be in good condition. Once a graduation quality recording has been achieved, the video is uploaded to our studio YouTube and will be shared on the studio Facebook page on Friday (our home concert day). There is no time limit on how long a student has to complete the process once it begins.

Graduation Requirements:

Students must be eligible to begin the process. This is based on two requirements:

  • 1) Student must be well into the next level before they may begin the process. Graduation recordings are not made until the third learning of the piece or until the student has entered the ‘Ri” stage of mastery. Ex. Twinkle graduation begins after beginning to study Go Tell Aunt Rhody.
  • 2) All pieces in the graduating level must have received all required credits towards completion. Students will need to demonstrate correct posture, accurate intonation, good tone, correct rhythm, correct bow directions, dynamics and musicality for each piece.

The Group Graduation Concert (Required)

The last step of the process is to perform. Students play the graduation piece plus all previous graduation pieces below their level during a graduation concert. Ex. if graduating Allegro, students will play Allegro, Twinkles and Sunflower song in the concert. After the concert performance, a student officially graduates the level.


Solo Graduation Recitals (3 required, additional recitals are optional)

Students give one solo recital as a final project for each larger level of progress. Upon completion of book 3 (elementary level), book 6 (intermediate level) and book 10 (advanced level). Students will perform all graduation pieces within the level and any other pieces of their choosing (in or outside of suzuki repertoire). Piano accompaniment is required. Solo recitals may be scheduled between graduation concerts if a student wishes to complete the graduation process faster. Additional solo recitals are organized and funded by the students family.

Group Graduation concerts are held in October and April.

Graduation Concert

Roughly four months prior to the concert date, students begin preparing for the concert. The goal is to reach a new graduation level once per year (every other concert) or at the very minimum; to perform more pieces than in the previous concert. This is achievable with regular practice. Students will need to review pieces to be played for the concert. Sensei will approve of each piece-to make sure it’s in good condition before student will be invited to perform it during the concert. Just because a student played a piece on the last concert, does not mean they will play the same piece on the next concert- this happens when the student does not commit to regular review of previously learned material. How far students move ahead in the repertoire from one concert to the next, is a good indicator of progress. If students are not making effort, they will not add more pieces to their concert program and/or have less pieces on the program than previous concerts.


Concert Dress

Students wear a specific color during the performance to celebrate their promotion, much like the colors of Karate belts (see below). Concert dress is black bottoms with the colored top representing your graduation level. Pre-Twinklers who have not yet graduated may still participate and may choose to wear whatever they like as long as it’s not white or a black on top.


Our Graduates

The following list recognizes students that demonstrated mastery of Dr. Suzuki’s graduation milestone pieces. This list is by no means comprehensive of all the students I have taught over 19 years. I have done my best to create this list from memory of more recent students. Former students that are not listed below, are welcome to contact me and I will add your name.

It is extremely difficult to achieve graduation of milestone pieces, and the honor increases the closer one gets to the final level of the Mozart Concerto.

Sunflower Song (Pre-Twinkle)*

  • Abram
  • Alexander Le
  • Monroe Smearman
  • Christopher
  • Naomi Webber
  • Aaliyah Richardson-Arthur
  • Maddox Merwitz
  • David Parke

Twinkles*

  • Aubrey Piazza
  • Grace Frank
  • Ming Huang
  • Mica Webber
  • Lydia Reinhardt
  • Alex Reinhardt
  • Jasmine Kerr
  • Lucie Kelley
  • Alexis
  • Sarah Conway
  • Annabelle S. Lam
  • Ella Jones
  • Susie Gupta
  • Lucia Gupta
  • Landon Brady
  • Morgan Wiles

Allegro

  • Lily Redman
  • Max Reinhardt
  • Cambria
  • Tori
  • Lucie Kelley
  • Emma Conway
  • Annabelle S. Lam
  • Hannah Caswell
  • Anna Black
  • Michael Cruz
  • Kevin Herrmann
  • Gabby Herrmann
  • Graham Loeffler
  • Callen Fitzroy
  • Sophie Simantel
  • Camden Zepp

Etude*

  • Joshua Frank
  • Brigid Barkley
  • CambriaRussell
  • Emma Conway
  • Annabelle S. Lam
  • Michael Cruz
  • Gabby Herrmann
  • Camden Zepp
  • Patrick McConnell

Gossec Gavotte, Book 1

  • Harlee Heaton
  • Kylie Newell
  • Arianna S. Lam
  • Theresa P.
  • Parker O’Neil
  • An Huang
  • Juliana Lopez
  • Dylan Andrews
  • Tori Russell
  • Elena Black
  • Claire Ryland
  • Mollie Branum
  • Maia Weber
  • Elizabeth Pereira
  • Kyle Colquhoun
  • Nathaniel Loeffler
  • Sofia Hermann
  • Lily Simantel

Minuet in G (book 2)*

  • Stephanie Heaton
  • Julia Vesotsky
  • Melissa Krause
  • Sarah Meyers
  • Madi Black
  • Cora Belgrave

Bach Bourree, Book 3*

  • Patricia S.
  • Emily B.
  • Juliana Ritter
  • Emily Wixted
  • Amelia Worsley
  • Jenna Benjamin
  • Sara Colletti
  • Cora Pelletier
  • Brody Fitzroy
  • Rowan Fitzroy

Vivaldi Concerto in G Minor 1st movement, Book 5

  • Grace Boyd

Bach Concerto in A Minor 1st movement, Book 7


Mozart Concerto in D Major, Book 10

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