|Catherine Michelsen, Associate Conductor|
of the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra
But her musical journey took on a new direction when she was saw a student violin performance at her elementary school.
“I saw a Suzuki in the Schools group perform. Watching them play together, I was mesmerized by it,” said Michelsen.
She soon began taking violin lessons and it wasn’t long before Michelsen knew she’d major in music and become a professional violinist.
Michelsen is now the Associate Conductor of the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestras (PCYO), String Specialist and a Suzuki-trained violin instructor. She's also a performer who has played frequently with the Florida Orchestra, Opera Tampa, the Orlando Philharmonic and many other professional orchestras.
While she’s always had a passion for music and violin, she didn’t realize she wanted to become a teacher until she took a Suzuki training class while at the Boston Conservatory working on a master’s degree in violin performance.
“When I did my first Suzuki training in 2003, I had taught private lessons before, but I hadn’t taught small children or started students on first lessons...The idea of totally starting from scratch with kids as young as three was a little scary.”
But the Suzuki method clicked with Catherine and she continued her training throughout her years of pursuing another graduate degree and a doctorate degree.
The goal of Suzuki (violin) training is “to make better human beings through music,” explained Catherine.
She feels that music lessons help children learn to focus, especially in today’s society where children are often overbooked with activities from the time they’re in preschool.
“The necessary concentration and attention to detail for Suzuki violin, or any instrument, transfers to anything in life,” she said.
Working in tandem with the parents, Catherine feels that Suzuki violin lessons provide consistency, discipline and rewarding social benefits for kids.
“The idea is that children learn to play an instrument the way they learn to speak...through repetition and continually building on their vocabulary, or repertoire,” said Catherine.
As they grow with the program, kids gain valuable skills through joining an orchestra.
“Playing in an ensemble adds a whole new dimension to music lessons. You have to be aware of everyone else’s parts, not just your own, and you have to get used to seeing a conductor in front of you.”
As the associate conductor of PCYO, Catherine prides herself on the personal attention given to our students.
“I started with the goal of trying to get to know every student and working with them individually,” she said. “I feel like I have a great rapport with the students and the parents. It’s become like a family."
Being in private music lessons or a youth orchestra can be a big time and financial commitment, but, she says, “It’s absolutely worth it. In the end, whether that’s in elementary school, high school or college, the journey stays with you.”