"The sound of the cello has always been a draw for me. For years, I felt a strong desire to play this instrument, but was reluctant to begin playing as an adult. Eventually, I decided that, at any age, a person should take the leap into doing what pulls them. Unlike other attempts at various forms of expression in my life, through Cellochan, the cello has worked itself into my life so much so that I now know it will be a lifelong relationship. Suzanne's style of teaching had everything to do with this. I found her lessons challenging and fun. The lessons were so much more than putting your finger here or pulling the bow this way. Among many other things, I learned how my playing was a reflection of the tension I held in my body, how I breathed, thought, and so many external and internal actions that one takes for granted. When I worked these ideas into my playing, I saw it greatly improve. These lessons found there way into my everyday life and soon I was finding the cello to be more than just an instrument. Through Suzanne's teachings, the cello has become my personal instructor and is a daily reminder to breathe, let go and have fun! Cellochan has had a profound effect on my life and I now greatly look forward to time with my cello. I’ve recently relocated and, unfortunately, I know it will be difficult to find a teacher to equal Suzanne's teachings, but I know that I will work with what she has taught me for years to come."
- Mia Jung
"I played the cello for 9 years, and then didn't play for 37. Picking up my bow and adjusting the cello between my knees was like going home after being gone for a long time. The physical memory of how to play was still there. Playing in tune was not.
As an adult, I am used to functioning at a certain level of excellence in my career, but the sounds coming out of my cello were far from excellent. I needed to start over, and from the very beginning. As I learned how to play again, I knew I was going to be making a lot of mistakes. But I wanted to be a good cellist, more than I was afraid to make those mistakes.
Suzanne and her teaching philosophy of Cello Chan is a revelation. She believes playing the cello involves all of one's being. It's not just the physical movement of tapping fingers and a back-and-forth bowing arm. As a young cello player, it was a secret no one ever told me. Suzanne knows how to connect the intellectual to the emotional and spiritual. Her teaching techniques guide you to the music within, to the joy of playing.
I am a documentary film maker, which is just a fancy way to say I'm a story teller. For me, playing the cello is another way to tell a good story. Suzanne is teaching me to rediscover a voice I'd forgotten, and I am beginning to tell new stories through my cello."
- Char DeWolf, August, 2009
Thank you for the greatest teaching experience of my life. I learned more about playing music in 4 months than in all my years of learning/playing trombone. Not to mention playing my first Bach pieces on a new instrument, the cello! The intensity and presence received at each lesson propelled me to heights unimagined when I started. The power of your observations and ability to distill the most important aspect .....needing attention each week was pivotal in my progress. Most remembered are:
- initially working on stress reduction and attitude prepared the way for all else to follow
- giving a focus on one or two issues to work on between lessons. All with an overall strategy for improving my individual understanding and performance improved every aspect of my cello ability and understanding.
- learning to relax and be fully in the moment with the music allowed me to tap into a process allowing muscle memory to happen faster, by slowing bowing down during the learning experience. This has built my memorized repertoire much faster than expected.
- your patience and persistence to take me where I am, even when I was not able practice between lessons, was gratefully appreciated. This created a space for a worthwhile learning experience on some aspect of music, bow technique, tuning, cello playing, cello history making each lesson an enriching, rewarding experience.
My greatest regret moving to Seattle is losing you as my everyday teacher!"
"I was very excited when I found Suzanne and Cellochan. It had been over 15 years since I had played the cello after having burned out as a cello performance major in college. I was eager to rediscover my love for playing the cello but knew I had to find the right fit. I was seeking an enjoyable, encouraging environment that would move at my pace. As a business owner and father of young twins, the time that I have available to dedicate to the cello is limited. I did not want to feel any pressure assosiated with taking lessons. In fact, playing the cello was my time to relax and clear my mind of life day-to-day stresses. I feel very lucky to have found Suzanne and have never enjoyed playing the cello more than I do now!"
"When Pablo prepares himself for a concert he practices and practices and practices without rest. He wants his playing to be as perfect as possible. It is in these occasions when playing cello becomes one of these activities where Pablo is at his best: focused, intense, passionate, eager, hungry...
The day of the concert everything revolves around this little instrument. It is a joy to see him sharing with the audience the fruit of his efforts. Every time he is on the stage I cannot help feeling proud of him, just for the mere fact of being there, trying to bring the best of him.
Suzanne has been more than the cello teacher for our son, and for us. In all this years that Pablo has taken lessons with her we have been enjoying her time, her house, her thoughts, her friendship. Whenever I have been present in my son's lessons, I leave her house with some piece of knowledge, that was originally intended for my son's playing, but that I can identify as useful for my everyday life. To be calm, to enjoy the road of learning, to let the music make you -and not the opposite-, to let the music BE inside you. These are just some samples of those little gems that Suzanne spices her lessons with. As a parent, I appreciate that Pablo hears these advices that have a direct practical application. That Pablo can realize someday the vast application of this way of being and doing in all the aspects of his life is one of my most precious goals as parent. Suzanne and her lessons are helping me a great deal with this goal."
Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in the Master class yesterday. I learned a great deal, and also learned that a great deal is far beyond me. It has already made a difference that I can hear.
It was great to see others play. I studied them carefully and both learned from all of them and saw tiny elements of myself in them as well. I hope someday to be able to approach the cello like they do. The experience has made a profound difference in my understanding."
"The environment that Suzanne has established within Cellochan is one of nurture. My skills as a cellist grew under Suzanne because of careful attention to not only the physical demands of playing, but also to the emotions that allowed me to create music. My lessons with Suzanne evolved into conversations, where we would search for the easiest and most fluid way for me to create music. One of the greatest parts of Cellochan though, comes from the amazing group of students that support and inspire each other to keep making music."
Caitlin Dickinson - a winner in the 2006 Pioneer High School Concerto Competition
"My name is Leslie Lyons and I began studying with Suzanne when I was 15. With weekly lessons and numerous performance opportunities, she helped me prepare for my BM in cello performance at Ithaca College. From there, I pursued a Master's degree in cello at the University of Wisconsin, and I am presently working at Shar as one of the company's new apprentices. I attribute much of my success to Suzanne's excellent guidance and Cellochan's supportive environment."
"I play the cello because I love it! Music has always been a huge part of my life and it is wonderfully fulfilling to be able to play. Suzanne has showed me how to appreciate my talents and I play to improve them and become a musician. I have fun playing and I know that it is wonderful for my mind; making music has just always been something I look to for both fun and intellectual stimulation. It helps that cellochan has taught me to use the cello to help others- I play for that aspect as well. My lessons and my music go hand in hand; I'm happy with the cello."
"I play the cello to learn how to work with myself and others. I play to have lots of fun and to learn how to be diligent. I also play to gain self confidence and self-worth. I play the cello because it brings joy to my family and friends. I play cello to make beautiful music."
"I first met the cello when I decided to join the amateur orchestra Seoul National University Medical Orchestra of my school, School of Medicine, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea, when I was a freshman. I chose the cello simply because my sister, a flutist, recommended me this instrument. Soon I found that the cello was a perfect instrument for me - my ear was already tuned for the cello sound, my inner rhythm was always not as fast as those of the smaller-string players, and I loved to play the lower-sound part of an ensemble piece enjoying the melody of the smaller strings. After a long pause of ten years, now I have children old-enough to learn the violins and I am dreaming of playing music with my children, or with my niece, an amateur cellist. After all, playing the cello made me to meet my husband, who was the concertmaster of our orchestra. I thank the cello for the great family I love so much and I will enjoy playing the cello for my life."
"There are a couple of reasons why I play the cello. One is that I really enjoy playing an instrument; I feel that is an accomplishment. Another reason is that I've learned so much about myself through playing the cello. Without the cello I would have never learned or understood many things about myself. I also like having other people hear the music, especially when we go to the hospital to play. You can tell that people really enjoy it. It makes them happier and this makes me happy."
"I play the cello because after a long day at school it helps me relax and settle down. Music is like a second language to me. I am very proud to speak it through my cello. And now that my mom plays the cello also, it is a lot more fun because now I can play duets with another cello. I also like it because when I am sad, it will cheer me up almost instantly."
"Hey Suzanne, How are you? I'm having lots of fun at camp. I'm in the back of the section and loving it!! I'm learning a lot too (of course.) Hope to see you soon.!
Sydney Talcott ~ Postcard from Blue Lake Arts Camp
"I have tiny cellos swimming around in my head! I want to play ALL the concerts!"
"Suzanne, thankyou for the wonderful year. Sophia has grown so much working with you."
Dan and Deanna Mitas ~ Parents of Sophia
"More than a music teacher, Suzanne is a spiritual guide. If you know that the music already exists in your soul and you're looking for help in allowing it to flow through you, visit Suzanne and let the miracle of music manifest in your life."
"One of the best music teachers I' ve had. I have had a number of music teachers in my life - I have my ARCT from the Royal Conservatory of Music in piano performance, and I also play the flute. Suzanne's cello lessons are a wonderful balance the technical, the emotional and the artistic elements of creating music. She has focused on guiding me to create music on the cello since the first day I touched the instrument."
"Suzanne is the best! She is always nice and funny, I have learned a lot from her, even the attitude to life. I love it when she says"Let go...":)"
"I highly recommend CelloChan to anyone who loves the cello! Suzanne's holistic approach to the instrument has helped to radically transform my son's approach to performing and how he sees himself as a person. Her expertise and knowledge of all of the various little details of correct hand & body positioning literally improved my son's sound after his initial lesson! I have watched my son transform in the past four years under Suzanne's tutelage from a kid who picked up the cello in fifth grade and "liked to play the cello as something to do"; to a matured gentleman who discovered after many years of "something to do" that he loves to play the cello and plans on being a music major in cello performance next year. Suzanne has a direct, honest approach to her students and a fair amount of patience when life events get in the way of practice. She sets her lesson plans and goals based on the goals of each of her student's aspirations. She is respectful and does not force people to do things they don't want to do, yet at the same time she knows when to throw in challenges to help them progress. It has been a real treat to see the improvement of all of her students over the years at the various CelloChan student recitals. These recitals are a real gift to the students and families! My son's confidence and self-esteem as a musician has been greatly improved upon, thanks to these recitals. I guess what I appreciate the most about Suzanne, has been her ability to help my son over the years see his musical potential and ultimately believe in it & achieve his musical goals. She has been a true gift to our family!"
"Dedication, innovation, and patience, are just some of the strengths of Suzanne Smith's CelloChan program. Suzanne mixes body, mind, and practice (key practice!) in order to break through common barriers. As someone who has struggled with the consistency of practicing, Suzanne continuous to push me firmly and kindly. She does not shy away from engaging your stage of playing, at whatever level. A supremely talented and motivating cello teacher, you will improve in ways you didn't expect. I am completely in love with my cello playing now."
"An Unexpected Gift Playing an instrument is something I have wanted to do the whole of my adult life but playing the cello was not something I ever considered. I jokingly tell people that after an uncanny series of events that the cello chose me! One of those events included finding Suzanne's flier in an unexpected place and upon reading it knowing she was the teacher for me. I have been playing the cello for a little over a year now and am continually amazed at how much I get out of the experience. It is about so much more than music for me. It has been about self-discovery, physical awareness, and looking at life-long patterns. The cello has been the tool with which I am making some significant changes in my life as well as the salve to heal old wounds. Suzanne has been so much more than a music teacher through all this. I feel as though every lesson is additionally a counseling session and I always come away with some little nugget to contemplate and work on the following week. Her Buddhist background and practice of meditation is woven throughout her teaching. Her perceptiveness and unnerving ability to see to the root of an issue always make lessons an eye-opening experience. Everyday I thank the universe for bringing Suzanne and the cello into my life."
"Educating the whole child Suzanne is a gifted teacher who is capable of bringing out the best in her students. She has an uncanny way of getting to know her students as individuals, identifying their strengths and weaknesses and honing in on the unique key to motivating each individual. She inspires and helps each child find their own intrinsic motivation to make beautiful music rather than being forceful and regimented. Our son has really blossomed as a musician and we are so grateful to Suzanne for helping him find this means of expressing his creativity."
"cellochan ;) I have been in the cellochan program for about 4 years now, and am enjoying every lesson, recital and cellchan event! Suzanne is a wonderful teacher and knows hot to teach with my learning style very well. I have grown as a cellist, a musician, and a person while learning cello under her teaching. i would recommend cellochan to anyone varying in age from 7-70, it is a great place to begin as a cellist and continue learning as a musician."
"Terrific experience Suzanne taught my children not just to play an instrument but to make music, and it helped them discover that making music is a lasting pleasure. The musical education they received as students in the cellochan program was excellent--equally valuable to their development as people, though, was program's focus on music-making as service. As an adult cellochan student myself, I found a place where playing music is all about fellowship, self-discovery, and service. Performances become opportunities to enjoy music and company of other musicians rather than occasions for anxiety, self-recrimination, or competitiveness. Playing in an ensemble with other adult cellochan students has not only helped me improve my playing but has also reminded me of the most important part of making music: sharing the joy."
"Suzanne knows how to get the best out of her students My son has had tremendous success at cellochan. Suzanne is patient and supportive and knows how to work with each student to get them to perform at their best. She provides many opportunities for students to perform in front of audiences, both within the group and as part of community service activities."