Teacher Spotlight on Julie Bickel, violin

Interview by Erin Cano, violin

Julie Bickel joined MIC as a Suzuki violin teacher in 2021.

What led you to become a Suzuki teacher? 

I was a pre-medical student at the University of Notre Dame and applying to med schools when a young Suzuki student with whom I was working cut her finger right in front of me. I was unable to help her because I couldn't deal with her pain. It was at that point that I realized I might be going into the wrong profession. I had already been taking Suzuki teacher training for three years at this point and realized that teaching was my true passion. I was immediately hired by Wheaton College and taught there for 21 years up until the pandemic.


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

Almita and Roland Vamos were the teachers who inspired me the most along with Rachel Barton Pine, who was assisting their teaching at the time I took lessons at the Music Institute of Chicago. I have attempted to combine their two styles of teaching that naturally occurred in two hours into one hour. I have a unique vision for each of my students built on a foundation of respect, responsibility, and a strong work ethic. It is through this shared vision that they come to learn that I expect musicality to come over time. Each student has their own timeline, but through persistence and high expectations they push their own boundaries and can excel at anything. As I've matured, I am also deeply indebted and grateful for my very first Suzuki teacher, Betty Monahan. We continue a beautiful relationship through hand-written letters to this day. The patience of my first teacher is what I aspire to for my youngest students.


What is your favorite Suzuki piece to teach?  

Hmmm... this is a really tough question!  I might have to say Handel's Chorus from Judas Maccabaeus. After you have accomplished the Gossec Gavotte monster, you get to dive into the majestic, spiritual, tone-filled, beauty that is Book 2!


You have performed extensively as both a soloist and chamber musician. What is one of your most memorable performances?  

My most memorable performance was when I performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto for Catherine Cho at a masterclass in the middle of Kansas. It was the environment that made it memorable! I was performing in front of my best friend, accompanied by a dear friend, four video cameras going all at once, with a young Sirena Huang and many other young great violinists in the audience that I deeply admired, and they were so very interested in what I had to learn that day. Not to mention all the Suzuki teachers in the room as well. That is the closest I've ever been to having an out-of-body experience.


What do you enjoy doing in your free time?  

In my free time, I love quilting for Lutheran World Relief.  Creating and sewing are so very therapeutic for me.


Do you have any upcoming performances about which you would like to share some information?  

I would like to encourage the MIC community to come hear the Music Institute of Chicago Virtuoso Strings at our tour kick-off concert on Saturday, June 4, 2022, at 7:00 pm at Nichols Concert Hall. Free will offerings will be accepted.

I brought this group of advanced Suzuki students to MIC to provide an opportunity for students who aspire to travel and make music. This summer the group will be touring and performing in Hawaii.  Auditions for the 2022-23 season will be coming soon.