Mount Royal Conservatory’s newest music program for children is the first of its kind in North America.
Suzuki trumpet for children aged three to 10 is starting this fall, and both Calgary parents and students will be making history testing the method’s first official book. Conservatory instructor Natalie DeJong is North America’s first accredited Suzuki trumpet instructor.
DeJong is part of a prestigious international team collaborating and testing out the official method book. The group includes DeJong and 10 other teachers from Sweden, Poland, Ireland and Spain. Project leaders from Sweden are planning to arrive in Calgary in two years’ time to offer teacher training.
“We’ll be making history and having some influence in what goes into further development of the method,” said DeJong. “It has the potential to change the way we teach the brass instruments and the perception of age capability. It’s a revolution in that the trumpet can be taught to very young children.”
While children typically start learning to play piano, violin and percussion as early as three years old, students must often wait until age 11 or 12 to begin playing brass instruments. The size and weight of the instruments aren’t suited for young players.
But DeJong says that’s leaving young musicians behind. “When kids start playing brass at a later age, they’re playing Mary Had a Little Lamb while their friends in piano and strings are already playing Beethoven. I started thinking for social and musical reasons, why wait?”
The Suzuki Method teaches children to learn a musical instrument in the same way they learn how to speak their native language; with a natural process based on listening, watching and playing. To learn trumpet, children start with pitch and rhythm training by sining and moving, learning good posture, work on breathing exercises and playing on the mouthpiece of the trumpet. They work up to playing on “pocket trumpets,” which are real instruments scaled to fit small players.
Participants — both students and parents alike — will play a key role in to shaping the future of the Suzuki trumpet method, and embark on an exciting musical journey.
DeJong holds a Master of Music degree from Rutgers University. She began her studies at the University of Calgary, earning a Bachelor of Music degree, before pursuing further studies at the Vancouver Academy of Music. She is a regular guest teacher at junior and senior high schools and she performs with a variety of ensembles, including Altius Brass, the new Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble, and occasionally with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. DeJong performed as principal trumpet with the Philadelphia Camerata National Symphony on a month-long tour throughout China and most recently performed on the baroque trumpet in Stockholm with the Swedish Baroque Orchestra.