Ann Montzka-Smelser

Violin and Viola Faculty and Suzuki Violin Teacher Trainer
Program Area: 
Suzuki Education
Group Lessons
Private Instruction
With Music Institute of Chicago since: 

Northern Illinois University, Bachelors of Music Education – 1985

Talent Education Institute, Matsumoto Japan, Summer School – 1985

Northern Illinois University, Masters in Performance and Pedagogy – 1987

All Units of Suzuki Violin Training including Book 1 five times!

Significant teachers and mentors: 

Dr. Suzuki, Nancy Lokken, Pierre Menard, Sally Valette, Arthur and Marilyn Montzka, Kay Collier Slone, Rebecca Sandrock, Kazuko Numanami.

Teaching philosophy and areas of expertise: 

My goal in teaching is to explore a deeper level of communication. Connecting with others via this wave length called music is such a privilege. We learn more about ourselves and our learning styles through studying music. I have had the good fortune to be raised in a Suzuki environment as well as raise two Suzuki children who are now pursuing musical careers. I feel more committed than ever to Dr Suzuki's philosophy that every child can learn and deserves a musical education. Now after teaching for 30 years I feel comfortable with all ages and stages in the Suzuki journey, and I feel strongly that the struggles are worth it. When there is love, much can be accomplished. There will always be a positive outcome when the child's heart comes first.

Awards and achievements: 

Solo performances with KSO, IVSO, Rockford Chamber Orchestra and Chicago Camerata - 2006 and 2008

Chairperson of Suzuki Youth Orchestras of the Americas for the SAA conferences and Violin Coordinator for the Suzuki Association of the Americas conferences - 2014 and 2016

RYSO Concerto Competition winner - 1981

1st Place winner of the Chandler Starr Miller Scholarship Competition, Senior Strings - 1981

1st Place winner of the Chandler Starr Miller Scholarship College Division - 1986

Byron Hester Excellence in Teaching Award - 2003

Legacy Award in Sycamore Music Boosters Hall of Fame - 2014

Professional affiliations & activities: 

Registered Suzuki Violin Teacher Trainer with the S.A.A. - 2005 to present

Violist/Violinist of the Ruggieri and Catalina String Quartets -1987 to present

Concertmaster of the Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra - 1990 to 1995

Principal Violist of Camerata Chicago - 2003 to 2010

Principal Second Violinist of Camerata Chicago - 2010 to present

Concertmaster of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra - 2003 to present

Director of the Sycamore Suzuki Strings Program -1987 to 1997

Director of the Community School of the Arts Suzuki Strings -1998 to present

Faculty member at Northern Illinois University - 2001 to present

Faculty member at Wheaton College -  2007 to present

Private Student load ranging from 25 to 50 students from 1983 to the present.

Regular Faculty Member of the following Suzuki Institutes and Festivals – American Suzuki Institute, Stevens Point Wisconsin, Colorado Suzuki Institute, Greater Washington Suzuki Institute, Virginia Falls, Virginia, Inter-Mountain Suzuki Institute, Salt Lake City, Utah, Chicago Suzuki Institute, Institute of Costa Rica and the Advanced Suzuki Institute at Stanford.

Guest Teacher and Teacher Trainer at the 2010 International String Conference in Singapore and the South and Central Suzuki Festivals in Lima Peru, 2010 and 2016 and Mexico City, Mexico in 2011.

Interests outside of music: 

I love to read, dance, hike, travel, cook and eat and mostly spend time with my husband and children and Golden Retriever, Chloe.

Favorite quote: 

"If at first you don't succeed then you will know you are aiming high enough." Adam Grant

Favorite practice tip: 

I love Yo Yo Ma's four step approach when learning a new piece.

1. Listen to every recording you can find.

2. Sing the piece through to see if it is internalized.

3. Research everything you can about the composer, the piece, and the inspiration that created it.

4. Start learning the piece based upon steps 1-3.

Favorite composer or piece to play: 

I love almost all music prepared well and played from the heart. Some favorites are sonatas by Debussy, Prokofiev and Brahms, Mahler Symphonies, Latin music and Jazz. If I were forced to choose a favorite violin concerto it would be either Sibelius or Barber and my favorite viola concerto is the Walton. That is how I feel today...tomorrow could bring a different response!

Favorite musical moment: 

When I was 9 years old hearing the "Swan" played on a record. It changed my life... I knew I wanted that sound around me forever, so I married an amazing cellist.