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Studio Policy and Philosphy

Willey VIVACE Suzuki Studio

Denise Willey

Suzuki Strings Instructor

880 East Grove Creek Drive
Pleasant Grove  UT 84062
(801) 368 2590

 Music Training: Bachelor of Music, magna cum laude, University of Utah, 1975; Utah teaching certificate in composite secondary music with elementary music endorsement; graduate music classes, Brigham Young University and University of Utah; Intermuse Kodaly training, BYU, 2011.

 Suzuki Teacher Training: with Registered Teacher Trainers:

  • Violin: Books one through ten: Books one through ten: Hiroko Primrose, Ellie Albers LeRoux, Jeanne Grover, Jacqueline Mauer, Pat D’Ercole, Linda Fiore, Allen Lieb, Barbara Barber, Cathy Lee, Ed Sprunger,
  • Viola: Books one through seven: Elizabeth Stuen-Walker, William Preucil, Julia Hardie
  • Cello: Books one through three: Carol Tarr, Susan Gagnon, Charlene Wilson.
  • Bass: Book one: Daniel Swaim, Virginia Dixon, Kate Jones
  • SAA Teaching Practicum: Christie Felsing
  • Suzuki Principles in Action: Pat D’Ercole

Supplemental Suzuki Teacher Training: Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, William Starr, John Kendall,   Rhonda Cole, Susan Kempner, Alice Joy Lewis, Doris Preucil, Ed Kreitman, Linda Case, Liz Arbus, Tonya Carey, Timothy Durbin, Joseph Kaminsky, Julia Hardie, Janet Andersen, Judy Offman, Deborah Moench, Richard Hoyt, Carey Cheney, Rodney Farrar, Richard Aaron, Rick Mooney,

Professional Experience, Distinctions, Memberships, & Responsibilities

  • Registered Teacher Trainer, viola & violin, Suzuki Association of Americas
  • Member, Suzuki Association of Utah, Advanced Active Status; Suzuki Association of the Americas, American String Teacher Association, International Suzuki Association, Utah Music Educators Association
  • Vice President, Board of Directors, Suzuki Association of Utah, 1996-present, violin, viola, bass.
  • Utah Studio Teacher of the YearUtah American String Teacher Association: 1997
  • Instructor of Music Pedagogy: School of Music, Brigham Young University, 1996.
  • Best of State, Utah:  Best children’s string quartet, best children’s orchestra/camp.
  • Artistic Director, 1987-present: Vivace Youth Orchestra and Orchestra Camp, Lyceum   Orchestras, Utah Valley Youth Symphony, Payson Chamber Ensemble.
  • Guest conductor, Utah Valley Symphony, 1997 & 1999; American Fork Symphony, 2020; Lamb of God, 2021
  • String Teacher: 50 years 2019
  • Orchestra conductor: 45 years
  • School Orchestra Teacher: 1975-1988, Davis, North Sanpete, and Nebo School Districts, American Heritage, 2008-18, Willow Creek Middle School, 2018-present.
  • Suzuki Mother: 30 years; all of my six children studied Suzuki strings, (violin, viola, cello, and bass,) toddler through high school.  All six finished every Suzuki instrument book; all six took piano; four also took Suzuki organ. All have taken teacher training; several are fully trained.



We both agree to one year of private string lessons and two months paid notice.

Terms: September 1 to August 31 (52 weeks).
Trimesters: Sept-Dec.; Jan-May; May-Aug.
Number of lessons not including recitals: usually 48.
Number of Holidays: tbd
Payment: 12 payments of $____for 15 min. infant beginner lessons;  $____for 30 min. lessons;  $____for 45 minute lessons @ or before bk two;  $____ for 60 minutes lessons, @ or before bk 4;  $____for 75 minute lessons, two instruments.


“Music speaks what cannot be expressed,
Soothes the mind and gives it rest,
Heals the Heart and makes it whole,
Flows from heaven to the soul.”



(effective June 2021),


Dr. Suzuki taught that musical ability can be fully cultivated in ALL children.  Musical ability is not necessarily an inborn talent, but an ability that can be developed. By creating the musical environment, you can actually GIFT your child more talent.  All children who are properly trained can develop musical ability just as all normal children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue.  Every child can! is the SAA motto.  I firmly believe this. 

Monthly lesson tuition will be paid by the first lesson of the month, Pay Pal recurring payment system or checks preferred. You receive an “early bird” discount if you pay by the exact first day of the month, or a $15 late fee if you remit after the first scheduled lesson day. There is a $50 fee for returned checks.

The fee usually includes three private lessons and one group class per month, and covers hall rental, concerts, programs, extra rehearsals, group class accompanists, administrative/ secretarial bookkeeping, phone calls, scheduling, etc.  It does not cover other accompanist fees, guest teachers, chamber coaching, workshops, SAU activities or fees, string festival entry fees, etc.  The monthly fee reflects lessons scheduled, not lessons given.  You will have occasional vacation days during the year, e.g., two weeks in December, and summer music camps.  Some others may be scheduled.  If you must miss a lesson, you may change lesson times with another student to avoid forfeiting the lesson fee, though YOU must do the rearranging.  However, please email before you miss or exchange lesson times.  Occasionally someone has cancelled, and I can slip you into his lesson time slot.  If not, just use my current teaching schedule to call someone and “swap” times or days.  I don’t teach make-up lessons.  For extreme emergencies such as hospitalization, funerals, natural disasters, etc., call and I will work with you. If you have to miss and I don’t have an open slot, please be sure to call other families to make the exchange; thus, I can serve you all better. On months with five lessons, you still pay the basic monthly rate, and we will apply it for times when I must be gone for family vacations, training, or music camps, or in December when there are three lessons. If you feel you must stop lessons, I require two months’ paid notice to fill your lesson slot. I will help you find alternate teachers if that is what you would like.

     What I Expect:   I require six days practicing a week, and two to three days a week doing studio activities; one for the private lesson, one for orchestra (Book 2 to advanced,) plus an occasional recital, concert, Suzuki activity, etc., all of which I expect you to attend.  In my studio, we support the other students and parents in their recitals and workshops. Being a success at Suzuki music requires deep dedication.

You as parent will practice with your child EVERY day but Sunday, attend lessons, be in charge of having your child listen to the CD recording, and fulfill other requirements as listed here. These requirements ensure that your child enjoys his/her lessons and has continuing success.

     You May Expect:  Your child will receive high quality Suzuki music training from an experienced, registered teacher, consistent, efficient lessons, fabulous progress, consistently superb performances for festivals & recitals, time, love, personal attention, commitment, dedication, and marvelous opportunities in the music field.  In addition, students learn to read music exceptionally well and become superb orchestral performers.  I participate in teacher training every year, on multiple instruments if possible, and attend national conferences annually, all at my own expense.  I am firmly committed to giving you my absolute best.

All parents in my studio join the SUZUKI ASSOCIATION OF UTAH.  The initial membership fee is $35 per family, and you renew annually in September.  I also require/highly recommend attendance at the Intermountain Suzuki String Institute in June. If the cost seems prohibitive to you, save a small amount each month until March.  Institutes and other high-quality music camps expose your student to some of the finest teachers in the country and world.  The motivation to practice and progress that comes from music camps is incredible.  At $400+, it’s a bargain in the Suzuki world.  All students will audition and attend the Vivace Orchestra Camp in summer.  Also, I expect EVERY mother in my studio to attend the Suzuki Parents’ Convention in January or February in SLC, and our bi-annual Suzuki Mothers’ Tea.

     PRACTICE with your child/ren every day, six or seven days a week, even if just for a minimal amount of time.  Strive to motivate children so they will enjoy practicing correctly at home with you.  Times might range from two minutes to two hours in one to four different sessions, depending on the student’s age; for advanced students, at least double the lesson time.   Don’t worry about watching the clock.  Just go through the lesson notebook instructions each day.  Try creative ideas, such as charts, incentives, stickers, etc. to keep the practice time positive and enjoyable.  Children will learn to enjoy their practice time with you if you are consistent and cheerful when you practice but understand that it is a rare child who loves to practice and work ALL the time. Be patient and persistent.  It CAN be done; I know because I did it for 30 years.  Avoid at all costs: sarcasm, negative attitudes, scolding, pushing ahead in the literature, and ESPECIALLY comparisons against other children, students, siblings.

Families practice one hundred days in a row within one year of starting lessons, or I will consider referring to another studio.  You may omit Sundays if you wish.  In a very busy time, you may count a day of practicing if you have done just the listening and the review.  On an impossible day coming up, if you plan ahead and practice the night before (twice in one day), you may count that day, but you may not “make up” practicing after the day has passed. After and during the 100 Days in a row, you will see the benefits of regular, consistent practice.

     LISTEN to the artist recordings every single day to develop musical sensitivity.  I have found that rapid progress depends on this listening more than on any other one factor except consistent parental attention.  The more a student listens to the recordings, the easier it will be for him to learn new pieces.  Suzuki says that the “cheetah-paced” students (fastest land animal on earth), listen all day and all night. I’ve found 8-10 hours a day of listening to be wonderfully helpful, especially just before going to sleep and some is just upon awakening.  Play the recording about ten times a day and listen to current pieces 20-50 times a day.  Especially helpful are programmable CD players, ipods, or MP3 players for this concentrated listening.  In addition to the Suzuki repertoire, our family also loves to listen to chamber and symphonic music at night, and to KBYU Classical FM 89.1 radio during the day.  If you want your practice sessions and lessons to go more smoothly, LISTEN MORE!  I REQUIRE 8 hours a day or night.

Spend more time practicing pieces which children know well), than on new pieces.  This REVIEW WORK is an integral part of the Suzuki method, and is essential for developing fine players.  Practicing familiar pieces is also much more enjoyable for children than struggling with new ones; it is the parents who might be “bored.” Like magic, the child learns new skills and pieces much faster and with more precision than if he had spent most of his time practicing those new pieces. After the middle of book one, I expect a full review of already-learned pieces, about 20-30 minutes, every day.  Suzuki says, “Ability breeds ability,” i.e., when we work at what we do well, we will do better at what we don’t do well yet.  If you are having a busy day, choose to practice REVIEW, not the new piece.  If I hear a review piece that has not been maintained, I will spend the lesson on that, and not a new piece.  Please, do not push your child to start new pieces until I assign them. Suzuki says, “Never rush; never rest.”

     CONSTANT attention should be given to accurate intonation, correct posture, and the proper bow hand.

     TONALIZATION, or the production of a beautiful tone, should be stressed in every practice and lesson.

One parent, always the same one unless there is any emergency, should ATTEND the lesson with the young child and beginner, and should practice at home with him/her every day.  Follow my lead in language, terms, order of practicing activities, etc. If you are not sure about something during the lessons, be sure to ask questions until you understand.  This will facilitate correct practicing at home.  The parent is the teacher at home, so she/he is expected to take copious notes at the lessons and follow through in daily practice.  I’ve found that the mother/parent is the key player in the famous Suzuki triangle of teacher, student, and parent.

Every year parents should READ the book NURTURED BY LOVE by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki.  Other books of interest are TO LEARN WITH LOVE by William and Constance Starr, ABILITY DEVELOPMENT FROM AGE ZERO also by Dr. Suzuki, THE SUZUKI CONCEPT by Mills-Murphy, WHERE LOVE IS DEEP by Suzuki, and TEACHING FROM THE BALANCE POINT by Kreitman.  You can borrow these from me or from the public library.  The articles in your lesson manual are the best I’ve ever read. I also recommend subscribing to The Suzuki Journal. The articles are fabulous and motivating.

     GROUP LESSONS are an important part of the Suzuki method.  Our performance classes are taught once a month as one of the four lessons and are included in the monthly lesson fee.  Usually no private lessons are given during the week of group class.  Please be certain that your child gets the benefit of every month’s group lesson.  You will find them an integral part of the Suzuki philosophy, and also very enjoyable and motivating for the students.  In addition, students usually receive more learning time at group class than at the private lesson.

During the year, your child will perform in various STUDIO RECITALS, usually two a year.  In addition, your student will have one individual book recital a year in Books 2-6, and sometimes faster after that.  Individual book recitals will have a charge of $10.

     OBSERVING other students’ lessons is extremely beneficial, especially for the beginner.  I require observing 8 hours before a child begins lessons for a 5 to 7-year-old, more for younger children, a full year for a one or two-year-old. I require observation of at least one other lesson a week for one year for all new students. Also, plan on attending other students’ book recitals.  Don’t miss them!  All families are expected to attend other students’ recitals.  Book recitals are not to be scheduled on Mondays or Sundays.

All students will play in the ORCHESTRA when the opportunity exists, particularly my own orchestras, in the Vivace Orchestra Program.  The musicianship and social motivation gained in orchestra and chamber groups is impossible to duplicate in private lessons.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  I also expect all students to attend the summer Vivace Orchestra Camp.  The Vivace Chamber Music Society is required for advanced students to play in string quartets which rehearse once or twice a month and perform twice+ during the season.

     ARRIVING AT YOUR LESSON:  Students arrive five minutes early for lessons to wash hands with soap, clip nails, rosin bow, put on shoulder rest, and get instrument and music ready.  Open books on the stand to the correct page, and in the right order of the usual lesson routine.  Use paper clips in books.  Put your Suzuki book, review trail and flash cards at my right foot.  Do quiet bowing exercises on your own and begin tuning the instrument when it is lesson time.  I will continue to teach my other student until I see you are ready.  Late comers cannot be given extra time.  Use your lesson time for questions. I do not work with you during my personal time.  Please try to understand that with this many students, only one five-minute call or email explanation a week from each family adds up to HOURS a month.  Use texts ONLY in emergencies, e.g. “We are broken down. I will be late to lessons” not for questions. Use email to change lesson times. Limit questions to the beginning of YOUR lesson time. Write checks ahead of time and put them in your account folder, which you should check often.  Families remove their shoes when they come in for lessons, but must wear socks. Do not park in the driveway, unless you have a sleeping child in the car, in which case, pull into the second bay.  There will be no candy, gum, food, snacks, or drink during lessons (except water, and do bring a full water bottle for your child.)  Children remain in lesson area, never in any other part of my home. Turn off your phone, and if you MUST make or take a call, kindly step out on the porch, and I will wait for you to finish the call.  Finally, be sure to gather up ALL of your belongings before you go, and check the lost and found box next to the sofa occasionally.


BEGINNERS   To get on my waiting list:

1. Observe my teaching for least 8 hours, both parent and child. For best results and fastest progress, 4-years olds should observe four months; 3-year-olds, six months; and 1 & 2–year olds should watch for a year.  An older sibling’s lesson is ideal.

2. Read Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki and watch the DVD you may borrow from me.

3. Interview at least 5 studio parents by phone and report your findings to me by email.

4. Listen to the Suzuki CD 100 hours.

5. Read all articles in the Parent Education Handbook.

6. Attend the Suzuki Mothers’ Tea & the Parent Convention.

7. Join SAU, the Suzuki Association of Utah.

8. The first lesson will be a parent training day.

9. You will also need to read the soft cover book, Easy Steps to Music Reading, and watch the DVD, available on the website below.

10. I usually start beginners at 2-7 years of age.


You will need the following for lessons.

1. An 8 ½ X 11” spiral notebook (not loose sheets of paper) for the mother to write practicing instructions during lessons, and for me during group class. You will also want a binder or music pouch or sturdy bag to hold your books.

2. A programmable CD player, ipod, or MP3 player.  Get the BEST you can afford on this equipment.

3. Volume 1 and CD of the “Suzuki Violin School” (or viola, cello, or bass) and the recording to go along with it.  You can purchase these at most music stores.

4. A set of I LOVE to Read Music!  Flashcards, the Music Reading Primer,  and the Sight Reading for Strings. You can get these on  Some local music stores carry these but call first.

5. An instrument sized to your child BY ME.  Please do this before going to the music store, and then take this list with you.  There are many sizes, and music stores tend to size too large.  With the instrument you will receive a bow, case and rosin.  I prefer a good wooden bow, but if you have to decide between a cheap wood bow and fiberglass or carbon fiber, specify a Deluxe Glasser with horsehair.  Get a Wittner tailpiece, Dominant strings, and EBONY fittings, pegs, fingerboard, and chin rest.  Wittner perfection pegs are fabulous. Celli and basses get a “Stoppin,” strap, or credit card rock stop, and violins and violas, get the PolyPad shoulder rest from Young Musicians, or a “Shoulder Cradle,” not a Resonans, Everest, Kuns or their look-alikes.  By the concerto stage in Book 4 or 5, you will want to upgrade your instrument to a lovely, handmade, professional quality, ($2000-5000) with a Pernambuco wooden bow, ($350+), and by 9th grade plan on about $6000+ for your full-size.  In between the 1/16th and 4/4 sizes, a Pygmalius is a WONDERFUL student instrument; it costs more but is well-worth it and doesn’t lose its value as fast as the more economical varieties.   Please get the best instrument you can possibly afford, never, NEVER a cheap UVSO (Unidentified Violin-Shaped Object) from the internet.


Group Lessons: a plus for the private student

Group instruction has many advantages.  It gives the students an opportunity to share some of their learning experiences in a group situation.  Classes provide a welcome change in the routine of regular lessons and practice. Peer stimulation encourages a better performance. Students have an opportunity to play together to review old literature. They give students regular opportunities to perform and develop his poise and self-confidence. Students learn to LISTEN TO MUSIC actively and imaginatively, specifically Suzuki repertoire being played together and by their peers.  Listeners should be as attentive as the performers so that all are always having a musical and educational experience.

More than half of the group classes during the year will be Master Classes; another portion will be Big Group, i.e., playing together in unison; a third portion will be pre-formed ensemble rehearsal, a most valuable and enjoyable pastime. We also rehearse for state and regional Suzuki activities, graduation, Institute repertoire, and Celebration during group class.

Group lessons produce a generation of performers who play for others with more confidence, ease, and enjoyment, anxiety-free, and who also can LISTEN to music intelligently and imaginatively.

     Class Organization:  Payment for group lessons are included in the private lesson fee. There will be one group lesson every month for each student at his or her level.  Usually no private lessons will be held the week of class.  Parents must attend group class with their children.  Please don’t drop off your young child at group and expect me to “tend” children instead of teach.  Each student will perform for 3-15 minutes and the remainder of the class time may be spent in other activities, such as listening, group playing, evaluating, and ensemble playing.  Students are expected to play all pieces memorized, and the goal for class is, of course, NOTE PERFECT.  Children must arrive on time for their class and stay the full time.  Parents should stay the full time unless there is an emergency.

If students leave early or come late, it must be for an emergency, and I should be notified in advance, if possible.  Do not leave in the middle of the class unless you are a parent, and then only between pieces, not during a piece.  If students leave early or come late to group class, they will not be allowed to perform.  Also, NO other children (non-performers,) especially noisy toddlers, may be brought to group.  The room is too small, and they are too distracting.  Besides nursing babies, siblings in a later or earlier class are the only exception, and they must remain in the studio and listen quietly, NOT go into the other areas of my home.  Please observe the rule of absolutely NO talking during performances.

Arrive no more than five minutes early & come in the studio door all together as a class.  Bring your Suzuki book, trail, and your lesson notebook for you or me to take notes. Remain in the class and do not enter other areas of my home nor play with toys. Be flexible with the occasional changes which I must make in the schedule to maintain a more educational group.

After teaching group classes for nearly twenty-five years, I can say unequivocally that I would not teach private lessons without them.  The only way to become a good performer is to perform frequently.  Come prepared and enjoy each other.  There will be no exceptions.



The Suzuki Association of America says:

“About younger brothers and sisters at the lesson…they are always welcome to come, to listen, and to learn, but this must never be at the expense of the child receiving instruction.”

I have found the best students are siblings who have attended the family lessons since birth, but these children must be taught to respect the situation.   Unfortunately, siblings brought to the lessons have created quite a distraction for the students, for the parent, and for me.  If siblings do come, they must sit quietly and listen to the lesson, perhaps reading a book or doing homework, or playing quietly with small toys. PLEASE don’t ask me to let your children go into the other room alone or play outside.  Please respect the privacy of my home and family.  If babies or extra sibs are not cooperative, try to make arrangements to leave them home or have them picked up after their lesson, so all of your (and my) attention can be centered on your student.  Of course, nursing babies are ALWAYS welcome.

     More suggestions from the Suzuki Parent Training:

Remain silent during lessons unless I ask you a question.  Don’t “coach” or harass your child or make sign language to him/her.  Please allow ME to teach the lesson.  Dr. Suzuki says, “One teacher [only], please!”  The child should not talk during lessons unless asked.  Please reinforce this direction and “practice” it at home.

Write down your questions, and then ask until you understand, at the beginning of the lesson. Also, if you are the last lesson of the day, don’t stay and talk; kindly leave immediately at the end of your lesson.

Try video recording a lesson or a practice session.

Read all you can on the Suzuki philosophy and other parents’ suggestions.

Join parents’ organization and attend workshops, institutes, and play-ins.  The motivation these give you and your child is WELL worth the cost.

Give ample performance opportunities, including weekly recitals for Papa.  These are helpful and FUN.  Our family counted them as Sunday practice sessions on the 100 Days in a Row program.

Attend concerts and recitals.

Do more listening to the Suzuki CD. This is your best tool to help your child learn faster and better, and to increase their self-esteem, because they find they are “good” at learning music.  It is a painless, inexpensive gift you can give to your child, this gift of “talent.”

Pay close attention at lessons.  Sit where you can see what I’m doing.  Please don’t read, text, or work on other materials.  You are the teacher at home, and you learn how to do it by watching me at lessons. Follow my procedures at your practice sessions, use my terms, practice order, and language, use the bow with “Good morning, Mrs. Willey” or “Mother,” “Thank you, Mother,” etc.  It is very obvious to me when you do not practice the way I teach, wasting our time and your money.

Come prepared.   Kindly do not explain to me how practice is going.  The child’s performance will reveal the results of the practice. Each parent makes (or breaks) her child’s lesson according to the daily practice.  The best cure for a poor lesson is better, CONSISTENT practice, even a minimal amount each day.

Please number the measures (left side of page) and lines (right side) in each piece when you start a new book.  It saves much time during lessons.  Have paper clips for each book, so we can turn immediately to the page the student has practiced.

If you have requests, concerns, problems, etc., with our lessons, please know the door is open to talk about them.  Just leave your child home one week and we can discuss. There will come a day when it is time to move on to a new teacher.  I’d like to be part of selecting him/her.  You need to give me two months’ paid notice to fill your spot.

Daily practice makes for happy students. Unprepared students have an unhappy time at lessons, despite my best efforts, and practice time is the parent’s responsibility. The parent is the key player in the Suzuki triangle. If a parent is not following the program, I will consider referring her/them to other teachers.  I cannot be effective in my teaching without the parent’s cooperation and efforts. It is essential for your child’s self-esteem and ultimate success.

Our goal is to produce beautiful human beings, not to train musicians or get ahead of another student.  Please, always make your child’s experience a positive one, regardless of how much musical or technical progress he or she may seem to be making.  Remember, it is not your child who is “trying out” the violin, viola, cello, or bass, but rather, it is YOU and YOUR dedication and persistence AS A PARENT that are being “tried.”  The child CANNOT fail if we do our part.  I guarantee it.

     More about the Suzuki Philosophy:  As you have seen, Suzuki music lessons require a considerable time commitment.  If you are unable to invest the required time, or if your child is considerably older, it might be best to find a more traditional music teacher.  There are several excellent ones in the area to whom I can refer you.  If you don’t feel you can follow the Suzuki program, traditional lessons would be less frustrating to your child, to you, and to me, and perhaps would be a better investment for you.

While lessons are a major monetary outlay, they are invaluable in the lives of children for character development, good study and work habits, intellectual development, memory skills, feeling of accomplishment for a job well-done, self-worth from being prepared and doing ones best, poise, appreciation of fine music, and more.

I believe in the Suzuki method for training children.  I’ve done it for over 30 years with my own children.  I feel the Suzuki music experience is one of the best things you can do for your young child’s mind and heart.  It is my wish that, working together, we can make this one of the most rewarding times of your family life.

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