“I love what I do because I know it’s what the world needs now more than ever. I am a revolutionary.”
– Aimee Toomes Lopez
This is not a typical statement from a 30-something year old woman, but Aimee Toomes Lopez is anything but typical. After talking with her I realized these four things have helped to mold her life that I will focus on in this blog (although I have a strong feeling there’s even more to this beauty then she revealed in our short discussion):
Her teaching has evolved out of her own experiences as a music student and orchestral violinist. Out of her early years as a public school violin student, incredibly, she now a has a job with a professional orchestra. She calls it, “a dream come true.”
When she came into my studio for her photo shoot, she was extremely poised and ready for anything I was going to throw her way. Thank goodness, because as a creative I live for those moments where I can bring people into my world and show them a side of themselves they haven’t seen by simply creating gorgeous images of them. Every time I asked her, “how about if we try this?”, she replied, “yes, let’s do it!” It was magical.
It’s not hard to see how she’s come as far as she has. When I asked her why she loves playing in the symphony she had this to say:
“There is nothing like sharing a stage with 71 other individuals and gifting a 3,000 member audience with Beethoven’s masterpiece. It is the ultimate sacrifice to hold yourself responsible for your individual part, having practiced some difficult excerpts for years but to then surrender your inner diva and constrain yourself to the vision held by the conductor and the orchestra as a whole. Very often we are not to stand out but must blend in with our colleagues to then ultimately make this cohesive and colossally beautiful thing together. And to feel the audience receive that experience is extremely gratifying. I love what I do.”
So, what does a revolutionary do when she’s not performing for thousands of people? She teaches others to be revolutionaries of course.
Aimee isn’t just a talented violinist, she’s also a wonderful teacher. The Suzuki Method has been a passion of hers since she learned it as a child. I know a bit about it having watched my sister study it growing up. However, I didn’t know all the intricacies it has woven into the fabric of its teachings.
It’s a specific method Dr. Shinichi Suzuki taught using the concept ‘character first, ability second’ in the early 1900’s. His goal was to embrace the whole child, nurturing a love of music and the development of a fine character rather than just the mastering of a musical instrument. Suzuki called his idea ‘Talent Education’.
It was a rather radical idea then, but when you look at so many parents now looking to alternative methods to help their children grow and learn in the most organic, balanced way possible, it’s as relevant now as it ever was. I don’t see this method going out of style either, it seems as if it’s timeless.
It’s just as important for the teacher to keep learning as it is the student. Aimee just got back from teacher development courses at the Greater Washington Suzuki Institute in DC.
“Continuing my education as a teacher is something I try to do each year because it keeps me growing as both a violinist and teacher. After an institute I am refreshed and inspired! “
Why should you introduce your child to music? I asked her and she revealed something that’s been on my heart since my 3 year old was born:
“The world our kids are navigating is one of over-testing and achievement mindset; measured in grades and percentages. They are stressed out and over-scheduled. The pressure to be at the top is so strong they are missing out on the curiosity and imagination (and dare I say, FUN) in the learning process. Music offers them gifts of verbal and non-verbal communication, expression, empathy, curiosity, exploration and experimentation, tenacity, persistence, a love of learning and breaking down intricate problems. Music opens up incredible possibilities that will serve them well beyond the music itself. I can’t think of anything more important than to be a part of helping guide the next generation into a love of beauty and a love of others.”
Aimee has been teaching students aging from 4 to 18 for 9 years now. She had this to say about teaching the Suzuki Method:
“The best part is that these values go beyond the student’s individual experience. Our students learn that sharing the gift of music with others is an act of radical generosity and can have a healing effect for others. These values could be taught in a multitude of ways but we do it using the violin. I love what I do because I know it’s what he world needs now more than ever. We are revolutionaries.”
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