Meet: Tina Su, Manager of Music Studies
Music is a joyful and essential part of our days at Momentum. Our students typically spend an hour each day experiencing music-based learning, including appreciation listening and storytelling, as well as singing, dancing and playing instruments. Our Manager of Music Studies, Tina Su, creates an exceptional program where children have access to a variety of strings, percussion and wind instruments, such as the recorder, flute, xylophone, bongos, tambourine, guitar, ukulele, violin and more! She began her music studies at an early age and brings equal parts enthusiasm and expertise to Momentum Montessori.
Tell us about your musical background.
I was exposed to music at an early age. My mother is a Guzheng (Chinese string instrument) teacher and I watched her perform and teach lessons growing up. When other children my age were going to movie theatres, my mother was taking us to Eastern and Western Classical concerts.
I started with piano group lessons at age three. My family immigrated to Canada from Taiwan when I was five, where I continued to study piano and picked up the flute at age eight. As a teen, I became more serious about pursuing a music career and decided to apply for a flute performance major at universities and academies. I studied with excellent teachers and entered many competitions throughout high school. In 2010, I won first place in the BC Provincial Festival Intermediate Woodwinds section. In 2011, I was accepted by the University of Toronto Music Faculty and graduated in June 2017. I teach music and Mandarin at Momentum Montessori and teach private music lessons on weekends.
Why is it beneficial for children to have exposure to music learning from an early age?
There are numerous studies around music and children that show how music education can improve one’s overall performance. Music can help establish better listening skills, finger coordination, brain power stimulation, improve literacy and numeracy, and the most important, to express emotions and gain happiness. Music also helps build confidence through performing and develop patience through practice. You can learn music at any age, but learning music early allows children to use and practice these skills earlier in life.
Describe a typical music lesson at Momentum.
Music lessons at Momentum are all about exposure in a stress-free environment. The idea is to teach children how to appreciate music and understand that music can happen anytime, anywhere and in many ways. We begin with music appreciation, where I will introduce a musician, such as Mozart or Bach, and tell their story. I’ll choose a couple of interesting compositions to share with the children. While listening to the music, I’ll ask them questions such as “How do you feel about this music?” or “Can you tell me a story about this music?” This activity is designed to connect music with emotions and images; there are no right or wrong answers.
I appreciate and acknowledge every emotion and story they share. Children’s imaginations are so fascinating. During one lesson, listening to Vivaldi’s “Summer” from the Four Seasons, a fast and agitated music piece, one of the friends said they felt like “All the garbage in Toronto is coming down!” The teachers and students laughed and so did the child.
In the second half of our lesson, I go to the piano and do vocal warm-ups with the children and sing nursery rhymes and songs. We finish with dance and movement where students and teachers dance to music and develop body coordination.
Do students have opportunities to perform and play together?
Every Friday, the students get to pick their instrument of the day and play in a band. These instruments include the violin, recorder, percussion and other many other instruments. Children will learn to play as a group, pluck the string or blow into an instrument with a unified rhythm and dynamic.
Momentum Montessori staff and students also perform a December holiday concert. The performance includes instruments, singing, dancing and other activities we’ve practised during music class since September. Some students will also perform a solo on stage if they feel comfortable doing so.
What do you like about the Suzuki Method of music teaching, and how do you incorporate it into class?
The Suzuki Method focuses on acquiring music skills in a natural way, just like a baby learns their mother-tongue. It’s a great method for younger children because it allows them to learn music without pressure and stress. When music learning isn’t enjoyable, kids learn to reject it before they’ve learned to love it. I design fun, interesting lessons and understand that every student learns at a different pace.
At Momentum, nursery rhymes are the key to acquiring music. Throughout the school year, we sing and play nursery rhymes repeatedly because the children are familiar with them. It’s natural for them to pick up an instrument and to be able to play along. Each time they play, the children discover something new, either from the teachers or by themselves.
What do you love about teaching at Momentum?
Momentum Montessori is truly the best graduation gift I could have hoped for. I love to share my favourite musicians and compositions with the little ones, and they also share many songs with me. We learn together and we appreciate one another’s music preferences. I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to develop a fun and rich music environment for the children at Momentum, and to have supportive colleagues who appreciate and trust my decisions in creating our music education program.
Momentum Montessori is a private pre-school located in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood, providing before and after school childcare. Our exceptional educational program embraces diversity, discovery and child-led learning.