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‘They had to grow up, musically, a lot faster’

Felipe Abagge, a seventh grader at Suzuki, plays Mozart’s “Arrieta” on piano for the first of five performances at the school’s Spring recitals.
Felipe Abagge, a seventh grader at Suzuki, plays Mozart’s “Arrieta” on piano for the first of five performances at the school’s Spring recitals.Gladys Vargas

For the second year in a row, children performed recitals from their living rooms for the Suzuki School of Music in Newton.

Despite the pandemic, many students have had a huge improvement in their musical skills, according to Lisa Hollis, a teacher who has worked at Suzuki for almost eight years now.

“I think a lot of them have had to take more ownership for it and responsibility for their lessons,” Hollis said. “They had to grow up, musically, a lot faster.”

This spring recital was the first of two — the second one is this month — and included five performances on Zoom over April 10 and 11, Hollis said.


Nia Suresh, 16, played two songs for the recital from her piano at home. Because of the pandemic, she said she has been dedicating more time to practicing.

“I think I’ve improved a lot over the past year,” she said. “Also, my piano teacher has become more nitpicky with dynamics, phrasing, technical skills, because she doesn’t know exactly how we’re playing.”

Suresh, who has been playing the piano since she was 4, said her nerves were more calm over Zoom.

“I remember, especially when I was little, going to recitals in person I would get super nervous and have all these nerves, and I always messed up when I was playing,” she said. “But with the online performances, it’s a lot easier to calm myself before I start playing.”

Many of the family members and fellow classmates used Zoom — especially the chat feature — to send encouragement and compliments that normally would have to wait until the end of a concert.

Joy Grimes, a teacher at Suzuki, complimented one of the trios: “Great job!” she wrote in the chat. “Really nice blend of sound, and great job on all of the runs and scales.”


Limor Sinay, a parent of three daughters who attend Suzuki, said one advantage of Zoom recitals has been how their “family from abroad” has been able to attend.

Felipe Abagge, 13, who played piano and violin in two performances, was on “double duty,” at the recital, Hollis joked when she introduced the Suzuki student the second time.

“This piece is really special to me because during the time that my grandfather played violin, this was the first piece he played at a concert,” Abagge said, before presenting “Humoresque” by composer Antonín Dvořák. “And now, whenever we visit him, this is the piece we play together.”

Because it’s difficult to perform with multiple instruments over Zoom, students individually pre-recorded their sections of ensemble performances to be edited together, and they were replayed during the recital, according to Hollis.

Hollis said the students’ flexibility and overall improvement during the pandemic was remarkable.

“It’s been an adjustment,” she said. “But they’ve risen to the occasion and showed a lot of personal growth.”

The next set of Suzuki Spring recitals, May 8 and 9, will feature soloist performances.

Gladys B. Vargas can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.