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Suzuki Flute Workshop - Day 1 January 25, 2020 9:00 am Saturday-Sunday, January 25 & 26
Suzuki Violin Workshop - Day 1 January 25, 2020 10:00 am Saturday-Sunday, January 25 -26, 2020

Teacher Spotlight on Joseph Spoelstra, Suzuki guitar


Interview by Erin Cano, violin


 Joseph Spoelstra is joining MIC this fall as a Suzuki guitar teacher


What led you to become a Suzuki teacher?

All through my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I had been surrounded by peers who were amazing guitarists and had grown up in the Suzuki philosophy. After graduating with my Master of Music degree from the University of Southern California, I reconnected with colleagues and mentors who were the Suzuki teachers of my peers. Observing lessons with teachers like Alan Johnston in Minneapolis convinced me that this was not only a great path to musicianship for young students, but also a community of professional teachers and dedicated families who believed that the journey of musical mastery fosters the development of a kind, curious, and loving human. And I wanted to be part of that community of families, students, and teachers!


Which of your teachers inspired you the most? What aspects of their teaching have you integrated into your own style?

I have been very fortunate to study with great guitarists who are above all great musicians and people. I include my primary teachers as well as the teachers with whom I studied Suzuki training.  My time with Bill Kanengiser at USC taught me technical control of all aspects of guitar playing. My time with Jeffrey Van at the University of Minnesota instilled in me a deep understanding of phrasing, musical history, and orchestrating with the colors available on the guitar. My Suzuki mentors, and especially Joseph Pecoraro, have shown me ways to break down the most complex tasks into the smallest component parts and practice habits that I model and reinforce for all of my students.


What is your favorite Suzuki piece to teach?

I love teaching the Book 1 Allegretto by Mauro Giuliani. It is a simple, beautiful melody from one of the great guitar composers of the 19th century. It's also our first piece in the Suzuki books that was written for guitar. It's a simple piece that has so many musical possibilities to showcase the tonal range of the guitar.


You’ve performed as both a soloist and in chamber groups around the United States. What is one of your most memorable performances?

I perform a lot of "new music", meaning newly composed classical/art music, and I have been invited to play in several unorthodox performance venues. One of my favorites was an underground "punk classical" concert series in the basement of a house packed with a standing crowd of extremely attentive and curious audience members. I played through a non-stop 50 minute piece of very challenging music (for audience and performer). It was exciting to share new music for a rapt audience that may not have heard some of these sounds before and was excited to hear more.


What’s on your listening list right now?

I listen to a huge array of music that ranges from classical guitarists, such as one of my all time favorites Julian Bream; to experimental guitarists like Derek Bailey; and to jazz players like Joe Pass, Django Reinhardt, and Marc Ribot. I love rock music and bounce around from Tom Waits, to Hüsker Dü, the Kinks, and Sun Ra. I also love Philip Glass and Michael Nyman. My favorite composer of all time (and I’m only a little sad that he never really wrote for guitar) is Igor Stravinsky. I love his creativity, rhythms, orchestrations, and frequent re-invention while maintaining a strongly identifiable voice.

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