Sycamore couple’s gift boosts young violinists

Erin Templin, daughter of Dan and Kristal Templin of Sycamore, was one of seven Suzuki violin students who received music scholarships recently from Vivian and John Spinoso. She is pictured with her violin teacher, Ann Montzka-Smelser.

Erin Templin, daughter of Dan and Kristal Templin of Sycamore, was one of seven Suzuki violin students who received music scholarships recently from Vivian and John Spinoso. She is pictured with her violin teacher, Ann Montzka-Smelser.

Vivian and John Spinoso have wonderful memories of their many years of violin lessons with their three daughters, Gina, Julie and Lisa.

All three studied in the Suzuki violin program of the NIU Community School of the Arts.

“We thought it was important to give the girls the gift of music for the culture, and to show them that hard work pays off. We also loved the way the Suzuki families helped each other out,” Vivian says.

The Spinosos have established a scholarship program to help pay for young violinists enrolled in the NIU Suzuki program to participate in a Suzuki music camp in Wisconsin. Attendance at this same camp each summer was a high point for the Spinoso daughters during their years of violin lessons with Suzuki violin director and teacher Ann Montzka-Smelser.

Bringing that same joy to others was an easy for Vivian and John to make: “We like handing out fun,” she says.

Last summer, thanks to the Spinosos, seven local children and families attended the American Suzuki Institute, a camp for students studying violin using the Suzuki approach.

They were Sophie Kennedy of Somonauk, Ella Uplegger of Elburn, Shiloh Smith and Erin Templin of Sycamore and Miriam Rodriguez, Jordan Weiss and Miranda Zhang of DeKalb.

“Our girls found playing the violin a challenge,” Vivian says. “The camp not only made them better musicians, it gave us all great connections with other families in our program and provided the girls with a fun week.”

Kristal Templin, mother of one of this year’s campers, was very impressed with the camp.

Photo of a violin“It was Erin’s first year going to the camp. She loved it and is already talking about wanting to go again,” Templin says.

“The whole experience brought insight, ideas, and motivation that have carried into our practices and lessons at home. We are still amazed at the growth that she showed during this week and how she continues to apply things she learned.”

Montzka-Smelser feels the Suzuki camp is a great boost for the students and their families.

“Children can play up to six hours a day at the camp without even realizing it since the material is presented enthusiastically by skilled teachers. Many parents come away with a better understanding and appreciation of how their child learns after a week at this camp.”

All students enrolled in the Suzuki violin program at NIU are encouraged to apply for the camp scholarships in spring. Previous scholarships were awarded to Georgia Harrelson, Alyssa Leston and Reilly Farrell of DeKalb and McRaye Scheller of Hinckley.

Although Julie, Lisa, and Gina have gone into professions other than music, Vivian Spinoso credits their musical training for their success in the fields they chose. Julie, 31 is an events planner for Price Waterhouse Cooper. Lisa, 27, is a systems engineer in the aerospace field. Gina, 23, is a speech language pathology graduate student at the University of Nebraska.

“My daughters really value all that their violin lessons gave them in ear training and listening skills, discipline, responsibility, memorization and math,” Vivian says.

The NIU Community School of the Arts offers lessons (Suzuki and traditional), ensembles and classes in music, art and theater for children and adults. For more information, call (815) 753-1450.

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