Brigette Weisenburger Fine Tunes Her Niche
Brigette Weisenburger knew from an early age where she wanted to focus her life’s work. When she was just 11 years old, she had her first Suzuki piano lesson with former Aberdeen instructor Pam Rossi. She says she instantly found her niche. “That was my first experience with piano lessons and Pam was so wonderful and inspiring that I really just fell in love with it. I’ve known pretty much since then that I wanted to be a Suzuki piano teacher.” Fast forward to the present, and these days you can find her influencing her own students at The Suzuki Piano Studio, which she has operated in Aberdeen for over 20 years.
The Suzuki method of teaching is an internationally recognized mother-tongue approach to music education. It uses the principle that children learn to speak by hearing their native language spoken around them constantly, and applies that natural learning process to playing music. Students do a lot of listening to the piece they are trying to master and become very familiar with it. The general rule of thumb for traditional piano lessons is that the child has to be reading to learn so they can read the notes, but the Suzuki method starts teaching students as young as three years old because they start out listening and learning the notes by ear. The culture at Brigette’s piano studio is centered on helping students grow in both talent and confidence. She has immersed herself in becoming a knowledgeable instructor, traveling as far as Tennessee, Colorado, and Montreal to attend various Suzuki courses and workshops that have prepared her to teach. “I started getting certified and teaching when I was 16 and have basically had my own private studio since then.” Even though this style of music education is popular worldwide, there are only a handful of instructors in South Dakota. At her in- home studio, Brigette teaches anywhere from 20-30 individual children ranging in ages from 3-18 years-old. Most students are local, but some drive from as far as Jamestown, ND on a weekly basis for lessons. She emphasizes that anyone, no matter how musically inclined, can learn to play the piano this way. “My personal goal is to have everyone reach their own highest potential or brand of excellence, and that’s different for every child. The idea is that talent can be cultivated.”
One thing Brigette says her students enjoy the most are the group music theory courses that they all participate in together. Throughout the year, she gathers the kids into these small classes so they can play games and also share the music they are learning with their peers. “Piano is usually not a very group-like activity, so these classes are a nice way for them to get to do something together,” she adds, “The Suzuki method is also very family orientated, so parents get to come to lessons with their kids and practice with them at home, too.” The highlight for everyone is the annual spring recital, during which children get to perform at the Civic Center and see their accomplishments from the year unfold.
Piano has always been the main area where Brigette dedicates her time, but she wears many hats. In addition to running her studio, she also coordinates the youth dance program at the Aberdeen Recreation and Cultural Center. This is a huge undertaking that requires the organization of all the dancers, classes, instructors, and even a recital. When she isn’t actively teaching others, you can find her instead stepping into the shoes of the student. Last fall she went back to school to finish her Bachelor of Arts degree in music and is currently studying full-time at Northern State University. All of this combined is a lot to balance at once, but her dedication to connecting with her students keeps her going. “I enjoy teaching. I enjoy it when I see them work really hard for something, and seeing that moment when they own it and master it, it’s really gratifying.” // –Jenny Roth
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE SUZUKI PIANO STUDIO CAN BE FOUND ONLINE AT suzukipianoaberdeen.com.