The New Way: Introduce Music as a Language

Cello Beginnings | Ages 5-8 | Mason Community Arts Academy | George Mason University

Posted on August 28, 2019 by Zi Wang

New experiences can be exciting but also somewhat fearful for young children. By observing her students’ emotional changes, Ms. Joan Burdette adapts her teaching methods to navigate her students through these uncertainties.

“My philosophy is to help the children become tuneful, beatful, and artful,” said Ms. Burdette, cellist and music instructor, who will teach Music Discoveries (Ages 3-5), Cello Beginnings Level 1 (Ages 4-7), and Cello Adventures (Ages 8-14) this fall.

A Suzuki-trained teacher, Ms. Burdette has more than 10 years of teaching experiences. She believes in teaching music as introducing a new language to a child. Based on a student’s learning ability, the teaching method should be customized to fit in a specific student’s need, from very basic steps and then build upon those over time.



For students in Cello Beginnings, where the students and their families have no cello playing experience, Ms. Burdette says the class will emphasize music recognition via listening assignments and introduce the repertoire by the order of techniques and their difficulties.

Student cellists who are currently in beginning and intermediate playing levels will have different experiences.  Ms. Burdette said the Cello Adventures will help students to form learning habits when they set and reach their own goals.

For Music Discoveries, an introductory class for young-aged children, Ms. Burdette will use methods built upon from John Feierabend and Orff, who, like Suzuki, bases a lot of early repertoire in folk songs and movements.



Currently certified through Suzuki Book 3, Ms. Burdette continued her Suzuki training this summer, where she had the opportunity to learn teaching techniques, tips, and new activities from other educators and receive first-hand feedbacks from student and parent participants.

“Every time I go, I return refreshed, inspired, and ready to teach,” said Ms. Burdette. “The experience of going to a Suzuki institute is like paradise. All of the families there are committed to their children’s musical experience. The teachers are experts on the subject and love sharing their knowledge with other teachers and students.”

The Suzuki method emphasizes the importance of learning environment, and Ms. Burdette is an advocate for family involvement in teaching young children music.



“The Suzuki method is about helping to create good, well-rounded people, not musical prodigies,” said Ms. Burdette. “It treats music as a language, with an emphasis on listening and memorization skills. My students who have parents involved in their musical journey tend to come to lessons better prepared and move through repertoire at a faster rate.”

Knowing that not all parents have any musical experience or the knowledge, Ms. Burdette breaks down every step in lessons and makes sure that both parent and child understand what needs to be done at home.

“I make very specific assignments for each parent and their child,” said Ms. Burdette. “So they know exactly what to do together at home. The best thing the parents can do is to make the commitment to set aside 20 minutes a day to practice with their child and know that this time will be filled with songs, games, and activities that they can bond during.”