Many parents are eager to find enriching activities for their children. Some want to find such outlets for creativity when their kids are young, and one of the more popular activities is music.

LaDonna Smith, an instructor in UAB’s Department of Music, has been teaching the Suzuki method of violin playing for more than 25 years to children ages 3 to 18. The Birmingham Suzuki Violinists Spring Concert, featuring all of her young performers, will be Sunday, May 20 at 3 p.m. in the Virginia Samford Theater, on 26th Street South at Caldwell Park

LaDonna Smith, an instructor in UAB’s Department of Music, knows firsthand how children benefit from learning a musical discipline. Smith has been teaching the Suzuki method of violin playing for more than 25 years to children ages 3 to 18.

“The biggest thing is it is building basic skills with children at such a young age,” Smith says. “They get a sense of rhythm, pitch, body language and enhanced listening. They begin refining these skills and disciplines. It really makes them ready for school, because they’ve been in an instruction environment that’s very effective.”

Smith will showcase illustrious student concerto performers during their annual Birmingham Suzuki Violinists Spring Concert Sunday, May 20 at 3 p.m. The concert, which is $10 for adults and $5 for school-age children, will be at the Virginia Samford Theater, located on 26th Street South at Caldwell Park. The event is the annual fundraiser for the Birmingham Suzuki Violinists Association, and proceeds will help provide guest teachers for students and buy musical equipment.

Included in the program is Mendelssohn’s “Concerto in e minor,” the “Accolay Concerto, Hungarian Dance” by Brahms and a selection of Irish and American fiddle tunes in the style of Barrage.

“We will be introducing our new class of 3-year-olds, as well as some of the most accomplished teens in our area” Smith says. “It’s a very eclectic and diversified program of Birmingham’s extraordinary youth violinists.”

Smith developed her own interests in music at a very early age. She began playing piano at age 7 and later moved to violin. Thirty years later, as a solo artist specializing in free improvisation, Smith has cut a number of original CDs and toured Europe, China, Japan and even Siberia.

In fact, next month, Smith will be performing with Russian guitarist Misha Feigin during concerts in Germany, Holland and Poland.

“I started touring this music in 1978,” she says. “It’s spontaneous composition in the moment. I listen to my musical partner, and the music is created on the spot.”

Smith credits her parents for opening the door to music to her when she was young. She says that’s when she began to develop her own musical style and tastes.

“I enjoyed tinkering around and making up my own stuff,” Smith says. “I had an inclination for improvisation, which now is my artistic specialty. I majored in composition in college, so I’ve also written and recorded a number of instrumental and choral pieces.

“My vocation is teaching young people to enjoy music,” she says. “Aside from teaching violin, I enjoy teaching Music Appreciation at UAB.”

Every teacher has his or her own method of teaching. Some like group instruction; some prefer one-on-one teaching. Smith says there are many different approaches to teaching violin, but for beginning young students, she prefers the Suzuki method. It is named for Shinichi Suzuki, a violinist, educator, philosopher, and humanitarian who believed the purpose of music was to “develop a fine heart.”

The Suzuki Method has the distinct advantage of starting children early when they are most receptive to learning a language, their motor skills are developing, and they have the time and necessary parental support.

Of course, teaching younger children isn’t always easy, but it’s a task that doesn’t bother Smith.
“Some of the youngest ones aren’t quite ready, but you learn to be patient and wait,” she says. “Each child develops at a different rate, but once they’re ready to go, you’re ready to take them. They’re nurtured by love, the love of music and the love of being with each other.

“It’s a love of a family that creates a love of music.”

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