Established Music Performance & Education Program Gets Two New Heads 

The Suzuki Talent Education Program (STEP) in St. John’s, a music education and performance organization established over 30 years ago, has two new Artistic Directors: Maggie Burton and Julia Bowdring.

The STEP teachers, all acclaimed performers with academic music credentials, generally rotate through the directorship. But appointing Co-directors may have a big impact.

Directors receive a small stipend for a large amount of work (~1$/hr) and do the job on top of their individual teaching and performance careers. This short changes change itself. Though the Suzuki method of learning music as a “mother tongue”  –  through daily engagement with the music and instruments, parental involvement and positive encouragement of incremental achievements – does not itself change, how the method and the music reach the community can improve.

Enrolling a child in STEP is a large investment of money and time. Yet, inherent to Suzuki is the philosophy that this method is for everyone from birth to age 18. Developing a “Suzuki in the Schools” program – making the program accessible to families with less to invest – has been in the STEP Artistic Director’s job description for 20 years. Yet none has had the time to do it. Hence the possibilities with the new Burton-Bowdring duo.

Young and Seasoned Team

Bowdring and Burton have a high ratio of experience to age. Each only 25, they have worked together since 2006 when Bowdring was concert master and Burton assistant concert master of the NL Symphony Youth Orchestra. Graduates of MUN School of music (Burton, violin, 2013; Bowdring, piano, 2012 before her 2014 Masters in Irish Traditional Music Performance from University of Limerick) they have taught since they were teenagers and are both professional musicians (Burton in the NL symphony).

They also have an efficient communications and administration pace, “we are developing a two minute answer time for emails … We are very quick to turn on our vacation responder, even if out of town for the day at Northern Bay Sands. We don’t want a reputation for not responding,” says Burton, speaking so quickly that you cannot doubt their speed.

Though previous directors were highly qualified and dedicated, Burton and Bowdring are hoping their established synchronicity and doubled heads and hands can bring STEP to more underserved populations.

Their immediate goal for 2016-2017 is fundraising and organizing; looking for sponsorships and donors and hiring a volunteer coordinator to assemble the parents of current students into a force where skills and time are fine-tuned to the programs needs.

With greater time and money they can expand current performance and outreach programs, such as their performing arts groups and mentorship programs: Young Virtuosi Initiates, Youth Ensemble Suzuki (YES), and the STEP fiddlers.

With huge energy, classically trained minds, vivid imaginations, and myriad connections to arts communities (Bowdring to the folk and trad scene with her celtic rick band The Bishops and Burton’s avant-garde work with AE Bridger, Sound Symposium and duo Door Lock), their dreams of a large permanent space, fully paid staff and funds to bring fluency of music to truly any child are a score in the making.