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Reimagining Suzuki—and Music Education

When my son was 4, he began taking violin lessons through a Suzuki program. Shortly after, Ashton began asking me to play along. Nothing could make me happier than collaborating with my child. But I have a confession to make...

I do not have what it takes to play traditional Suzuki Book 1 accompaniments.

True, these parts have cultivated the development of hundreds of thousands of string players. Absolutely, their simple structures beautifully support budding musicians.

Yet as a professional musician, I lacked the discipline or resolve to restrain my vision to notes on the page. Compelled to push my own creativity while challenging his ear and musicianship, I improvised original settings, drawing from eclectic styles, sophisticated harmonies, complex rhythmic patterns, interwoven counterpoint.

As we rehearsed, I emphasized that music—and life, for that matter—is about excellence, but not excellence alone. Equally imperative: Find your own voice.

What distinct vision might YOU bring to the world?

It was finally time for Ashton’s first “show,” a marathon recital featuring some twenty youngsters with varied abilities. He was slated to play one of the Suzuki greatest hits of all times: Go Tell Aunt Rhody.

Before the big day, he confided,

“Dad, I want this to be really special. Instead of a NORMAL pianist, will you play with me?”

I had a good chuckle at his use of ‘normal.’

“Oh, and wouldn’t it be cool if we both wore purple sunglasses?...”

Naturally, I agreed.

While his melody reflected the original, my part involved funk rhythms, energetic gestures, even hints of disco. We suspected the audience might enjoy this surprise, but a mid-show standing ovation caught us off guard.

Something in our unconventional rendition resonated.

Recognizing the potential this approach had to amplify creativity, technique, and commitment to music education, my home-based improvisations grew into a formal project. Called SUPERNOVA: A SUZUKI TUNE EXPLOSION, all 17 tunes from Suzuki Book 1 were recast as wild, virtuosic adventures, inspired by musical genres from around the globe.

The full SuperNova project includes:

  • Violin/piano scores

  • 17 recorded MELODY tracks

  • 17 IMPROV tracks featuring the great violinist Christian Howes

  • 17 PLAY-ALONG tracks with rhythm section only

  • 17 PLAY-ALONG tracks with rhythm section plus click

  • String ensemble arrangements

  • IMPROV transcription book

  • Creativity eSchool comprised of four separate courses

It is my greatest hope that this project positively transforms string music education, placing greater emphasis on stylistic diversity, creative visioning, and rhythmic sophistication. In future blog posts, I will discuss a number of related issues including a revolutionary, meaningful approach to classical music making called Creative Performance Practice.

Developing this project has been both AMAZING and EXPENSIVE! Between creating the music, hiring world renowned players, recording in five states, editing, mixing, mastering, paying royalties, designing the artwork, typesetting the book, setting up the website, manufacturing physical products, distribution, and fulfillment, the full price tag so far exceeds $30,000.

To help recoup this investment while securing funds to further develop and maximize impact, I will be running a Kickstarter campaign from Sep 15 - Oct 15, 202. Here is a video with more information.

If you are so inclined, I’d be grateful for your support. Please visit our crowdfunding page.

Please enjoy SuperNova!


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