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Teacher Spotlight on Tanya Carey, cello


Teacher Spotlight on Tanya Carey, cello


Interview by Erin Cano, violin


Tanya Carey joined MIC in 2005. 


What led you to become a Suzuki teacher?

I was teaching cello at Western Illinois University (WIU), and did my doctoral residency at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.  That same year, Doris Preucil (one of the pioneers of the American Suzuki movement) went from Iowa City to WIU to be professor of violin and begin a Suzuki violin program there. When I returned to WIU, my university cello students asked, "What is in Suzuki for cello?" The answer to the question brought me to the innovative cello teachers Margaret Rowell and Irene Sharp at the early Suzuki institutes in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. This led me to write my thesis on the beginnings of Suzuki cello, develop my teaching, and establish a pedagogy program at WIU. My thesis begins with an explanation of how I came to Suzuki teaching and can be found on celloplayingiseasy.com.

I went on to have the privilege of leadership in the Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA) and the International Suzuki Association (ISA). I was chair of the committee that produced Suzuki cello books 7 to 10, I chaired the committee that developed the current teacher training program, and was president of the SAA among other assignments. Being in a position to serve others has been a profound experience in my life.



Which of your teachers inspired you the most?

My mother and father. My mother was the first woman in her county to graduate from high school and go to college. My father was an immigrant and was the first in his family to graduate from high school and go to college. I saw them live their passion for teaching and serving others on a daily basis.

My mother was my first teacher in music and learning. She had no music background, but was a brilliant teacher. I was four when I started piano and four-and-a-half when I started cello. One of my favorite stories is when the four-year-old Tanya did not want to repeat something, my mother said, "Oh, I loved what you just played! Can I hear you play it again? It was so beautiful." I remember how wonderful it was to share something I had created with someone who loved it. I still have that feeling today when I perform. Thank you, Mom.

My dad was a music teacher of some note. He was the solo cornet in John Phillip Sousa's Band at Great Lakes in 1919. He was a pioneer in music education and affected hundreds of lives. He was one of the original teachers at the National Music Camp at Interlochen, he wrote method books when there were none, and he invented and patented musical devices. He eventually studied cello with me to the point where he could play The Swan by Camille Saint Saëns before he went blind. He and I wrote the Sight Reading is Easy books for violin, viola, cello, and bass.



What is your favorite Suzuki piece to teach?

My answer is the same as the question, “What is your favorite piece to play”; it’s the one I am playing or teaching at the moment. I appreciate knowing the pieces so well that all of my attention is on the unique person in front of me, absorbing the music in his or her own special way.



You have taught at Suzuki workshops and institutes across the world. What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a workshop or institute?

There are so many wonderful moments I’ve had across the world. In Korea, I played a recital of potential pieces to include in the Suzuki books. The Japanese teachers said the pieces were too difficult, but the Japanese children loved Squire’s Tarentella. They heard my recital, picked it up by ear, and played it during the convention! The Japanese teachers said, “Okay, so now it is in the books.”

In South America, two teachers attended my Book 1 class for 10 years. When I asked why, they said, “It is never the same, and we have changed each year.” The biggest joy is that they are now the first Suzuki cello teacher trainers in South America.

In Germany, I was working with an advanced cello class. Afterwards, a girl came up to me and said, with tears in her eyes, "That is the first time I ever played the Vivaldi Double Cello Concerto with both parts. There is no one in my home town who is advanced enough to play this."

At the Edmonton convention in Alberta, Canada, I played Hungarian Rhapsody. A woman came up to me afterwards and said, “My granddaughter told me she really liked this piece.” I thanked her. She replied, "You don't understand. Her parents died in a car crash a year ago and these are the first words she has spoken since then." The healing nature of music.

I trained 25 teachers in Taiwan and my Warm-up book is now being translated into Chinese.


What’s on your listening list right now?

I am listening to the new Yo Yo Ma Bach Suites; Rachel Barton Pine's new album, Blues Dialogues: Music By Black Composers; and my teacher playing the Victor Herbert Concerto.


What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

My "free" time is spent lately in finishing the Cello Playing is Easy series. I am determined to finish by the summer. Warm-ups and Reading are done. There are three more books: Etudes is just finished and in print this week; Scales is written and in the editing/formatting process; and Repertoire is yet to be written. Jerry, (my wonderful husband, partner, colleague, and friend) and I enjoy watching TV (Victoria, Last Kingdom), going to the grocery store, traveling to Sicily this year, and just being together.


Do you play any other instruments besides the cello?

I am grateful for my background in piano studies. I taught string bass for 34 years.


Do you have any pets?

We have had two dogs in our 60 year marriage, but no pets currently. We like to pick up and go spontaneously. Our two girls and four grandchildren live in California and we like to visit them. 

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