2024 SAU Parent Teacher Convention

"Connecting Utah's Music Communities"
SAU Parent Teacher Convention
January 20, 2024

The 2024 SAA's Conference has the theme "Expanding and Connecting Communities." As a way to build off of those ideas, the Suzuki Association of Utah decided to title this year's convention "Connecting Utah's Music Communities." You'll see that the keynote as well as the different presenters are from all over Utah. We're looking forward to learning together from some wonderful teachers and professionals who work all over in our area.

Register by clicking here!

There will be sessions on many styles of learning and teaching including Dalcroze, Kodaly, Wee Violin and more!

Presenters include professionals of mental health, communications, stage fright and music teaching. See below for the schedule followed by a bio of the keynote speaker, session descriptions and some presenter bios.


Keynote: Lucas Darger - Building a Culture of Excellence

Join Lucas Darger as he reflects on the transformative journey from pre-twinkle student to professional conductor and violinist. Darger explores the pivotal lessons drawn from his experiences, emphasizing the principles essential for success. He will discuss ways to foster a culture of excellence by embracing a collaborative approach, adaptability, and an unwavering commitment to personal growth, providing a roadmap for creating a thriving environment for your students.

Now in his eighth year with the Southwest Symphony, Maestro Darger is honored to continue to work with this amazing group of musicians and be part of this community. The Symphony has flourished with his leadership and continues to reach for new heights every season. The Symphony has won the “Best of State” award for the past 5 years in a row, and in June Darger was featured in St George Lifestyle Magazine as one of five influential people “making a difference” in the community.

The orchestra performs very diverse repertoire, with a range that includes the venerated masterworks of Mozart and Beethoven, the movie soundtracks of John Williams and Hans Zimmer, and the hits of Billy Joel and Aretha Franklin. In 2021 the orchestra recorded a special concert for national TV with Marie Osmond, and in 2023 recorded a soon-to-be released video featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in the spectacular red rocks of Southern Utah. This season, Maestro Darger and the Symphony collaborated with symphonies all across the country and will participate in the 50-state premier of Peter Boyer’s Rhapsody in Red, White, and Blue on a concert that will celebrate American Composers on the 100 th anniversary of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Darger has also been a huge advocate in helping the Symphony find a home, and is a founding board member of the Southern Utah Performing Arts Foundation—a group that has been instrumental in getting the funds to renovate the Cox Auditorium. This project is expected to break ground in 2024, and is expected to fix the acoustics, add lobby and reception space, modernize the building and equipment, and add balcony seating. Most importantly, it will provide the Symphony with a guaranteed, state-of-the art facility to perform in for years to come.

Maestro Darger began his journey with conducting when he was only sixteen years old as the Assistant Conductor for the All City Children’s Orchestra. He continued to study conducting while pursuing a degree in Violin Performance, studying conducting with Dr. Robert Baldwin and violin with David Park, and at the same time conducting the Lincoln Youth Symphony. He went on to earn a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Iowa. There he conducted both the Philharmonic Orchestra and the UI String Orchestra, and studied conducting with William LaRue Jones. While in Iowa he played professionally with several area orchestras as well as freelancing for several touring acts, including Wayne Newton and the Mannheim Steamroller.

After graduating, Darger received a conducting fellowship at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors in Maine, where he studied with the late Michael Jinbo. Afterwards he moved to Texas where he joined the Valley Symphony Orchestra, and conducted the South Texas Youth Symphony. The Youth Symphony went from a small group to being so large it needed to split into two different orchestras, each performing at an elite level.

As someone who loves the mountains and the outdoors, when the opportunity came to move to Southern Utah he jumped at the chance. He loves teaching young musicians and maintains a thriving violin studio here, and loves getting out whenever he’s able to mountain bike on the incredible trails of Southern Utah.


Convention Sessions

Dr. Jon Skidmore - Conquer Stage Fright Perform with Confidence
Are the jitters, shakes, and fear of mistakes getting in your way as a performer? Typical advice—take a deep breath, practice a lot, imagine the audience in their underwear, maybe eat a banana— not much help. This workshop offers effective and practical tools, proven to get stage fright off your stage and move you forward with confidence. Having a tool box full of mental skills makes performing fun, exciting, and satisfying!

Dr. Jon Skidmore - How best to support your young performing artist: A workshop for parents and teachers
As a parent you want your child to have fun with and enjoy learning a musical instrument. You may have hopes, dreams and even expectations for your child and their adventure with music lessons. You have probably encountered more than a few ups and downs, power struggles, disappointments, and successes as part of your journey. This exciting opportunity to receive some expert instruction and coaching to support your child’s musical success.

In this workshop you will learn about:
How to create a team atmosphere
The four types of students
Strategies for motivation
How to support, not pressure
How to help your child deal with disappointment
How to stay in the great parent "Zone."

BriAnn Christensen - "Beautiful tone. Beautiful heart." ...Born from a Beautiful Mess
Are Dr. Suzuki's ideals still achievable in the year 2024? Can we expect our children to achieve excellence even in-less-than-ideal circumstances? Come discuss practical ideas for implementing the Suzuki method in our modern home and family lives.

Crystal Boyack - Teaching Wee Musicians: Joyfully and Musically from the First Lesson to Twinkle
Celebrating the release of her newest books, Wee Viola and Wee Cello, Crystal Boyack will offer practical applications of how to use world music to joyfully and musically go from the first lesson to Twinkle. In this interactive presentation, participants will bring out their inner child - singing and moving -- while organically building focus, engagement and yes, even technique.  Come ready to fill your toolbox with new ways to engage young beginners, build technique, and make beginning lessons more musical and joyful. 

Jenny Wadsworth - There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon: If Your Child Calmly Practices Perfectly Happily Every Day, This Class Isn’t For You
As Suzuki parents we all have the best intentions as we parent day to day but as we watch patterns of poor motivation struggle or strife between us and our children happen we’re tempted to exclaim “what’s wrong with you!?!?” When possibly we need to be saying, “What happened to you?”. This class will focus on the growing number of children who struggle with being anxious, scattered or unmotivated.  A child doesn’t need to be full blown diagnosed with a mental health disorder to benefit from the progress in understanding childhood.

Kari Spicer - Harmonizing Abilities: Strategies for Parents to Empower Neurodivergent Musicians
This session will explore innovative strategies and best practices for parents to support their neurodivergent child in becoming a successful musician. Parents will gain valuable insights into adapting teaching methods to meet the unique needs of their neurodivergent child, fostering a better practice environment with practice resources to engage the student.

LaReita Berky - Intentional Connections for Improving Music and Musicians
LaReita Berky holds a Bachelor of Cello Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and a Master’s of Social Work from Winthrop University. In this presentation she will combine her experience as a professional musician and teacher of 20 years with her knowledge of mental health and being a therapist the past 2 years. Attendees will learn about the power of words and their direct effect, including how to get your daily D.O.S.E. of happy hormones.

Logan McKinney - To Sing On Their Instruments: Considering Kodály Musicianship in the Suzuki Philosophy
In her pioneering article "The Suzuki Approach," Louise Behrend makes the following admonition:

"Since we cannot assume that our students are learning to read music in school, we, the Suzuki teachers, must start well ahead of the Book 4 level preparing the students to read.  We must do all the introductory and preparatory work of teaching the children to recognize and realize music notation.  And we must do it ourselves.  Many Suzuki programs in this country are taking care of this by offering Dalcroze, Orff, Kodály, or a mixture of the three to their beginning students. . . . Since not every Suzuki program or teacher has a general-music program to reinforce the training of reading, it seems to me that Suzuki teachers must be prepared to do this training themselves."  
The focus of this session will be helping participants find ways to better prepare their students for meaningful music reading literacy through exploring aspects of the Kodály philosophy of music education and its application to the Suzuki approach.
Marcus Hardy - Difficult Conversation Dodgeball
How to find and stay on message when all you want to do is run or yell
"I don't like confrontation," is a catchphrase we hear often, but it also implies the existence of überhumans that naturally like tough conversations. Homoconfrutatianus is a myth — our brains are wired to avoid confrontation, danger and discomfort — but we can learn to be better in these situations and even enjoy the process of navigating them. Come learn some tools, practice techniques, and make some friends.
Marilyn Dodson - Helping Students Transition from Harp Ensemble Playing to an Orchestra
This session is designed primarily for harp teachers.
Mira Larson - Moving the Music: Dalcroze Eurhythmics as Musicianship Training
Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865-1950) was the father of modern music education. His method, Eurhythmics, uses body movement as a process for internalizing musical concepts. Come discover how Dalcroze methodology can complement Suzuki training.
*This is a movement class. Since the room has slick floor, it’s best not to wear socks, but socks with grippy souls or ballet slippers could be great options.

Molly Cowley - Build Community: Attract Your Dream Studio Families
Our studio communities will be as unique as each of us. In this breakout you will hone exactly what kind of students/families you are looking for and how to design a culture that will draw them in. Accept your role as the leader of your community and build it in a conscious way, and you will be amazed at the impact you can make! Once you have your vision, follow four steps to make it a reality: Assumption, Modeling, Recognition and Expansion.

Molly Cowley - Harness the Power of Your Child's Environment 
It's been said that the environment is the first teacher. Your child is amazing and naturally absorbs everything around them! And you can harness that ability to support your musical efforts with your child. In this breakout, we'll discuss setting up your child's physical, emotional, social and intellectual environments to make your job easier and more effective.

Peter Romney - Adapting to Learning Disabilities: You Already Have the Resources
Medical science is identifying and giving names to an increasing number of learning disabilities in both children and adults. While visual, auditory, and motor difficulties might present diagnosed students with challenges, they also provide an opportunity for students to discover their own unique learning path.



Presenter Bios

Dr. Jon Skidmore, Psy.D. is a performance psychologist, educator, researcher, author, and singer. For decades he has helped performers from around the world step out of stage fright and into “flow.” He has worked with performers of all ages and stages, from the Junior High to Juilliard. For over 30 years he has been on the faculty of the Brigham Young University School of Music and teaches The Psychology of Music Performance. In March 2020 he co-authored Conquer Anxiety: How to overcome anxiety and optimize your performance.  His goal is to share the psychological tools of peak performance so performers can find freedom on stage and in life.

LaReita Berky holds a Bachelor of Cello Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and a Master’s of Social Work from Winthrop University.

Marcus Hardy is a communications professional specializing in corporate, internal and crisis communications. He taught in the BYU School of Communications for 12 semesters, and like you is still learning to deal with confrontation.



Convention Sponsors
Thank you so much to our 2024 Convention sponsors and donors: