South Island Suzuki summer camp 2023


On Tuesday, we drove to Timaru for the start of the annual South Island Suzuki summer camp. We have been bringing our two children here for most of the last 8 years (except during covid!). The Suzuki institute hires out a boarding school for the week so that the families can either stay in the dorm rooms or pitch a tent on the playing fields. Meals are fully catered with 3 meals a day provided in the school dining room.

Registration was mid-afternoon. When everyone had found their accommodation and had their dinner, we had the “play-in” concert. That’s what the above photo is of. All the children go on stage and a teacher leads them to play pieces together as a group. It is mostly violins as usual, but you’ll see some cellos on the right and if you look very closely there are guitars back right. Piano is also offered at the camp, but isn’t involved in this concert.


Wednesday was the first day of actual classes. Most children have 3 or 4 hours of classes a day.

  • One hour is a group class of children all playing the same instrument, so they can play pieces together
  • One hour is a masterclass where a few children take turns having an individual lesson with a teacher while the others watch.
  • The third class varies with age and ability. More advanced children play in the orchestra (1 or 2 hours per day), young ones have an hour of “music enrichment” (music games) and children who are not in either of these groups do an hour of music theory games with cards on the floor (that’s what I’m teaching at this camp in the picture below).


Thursday was the second day of classes. Now even the people for whom this is their first camp are getting to know the others and to know their way around. Parents sit and chat outside the dining room and watch the children play ball games on the grass and bounce on the trampoline between classes. The pool is open each afternoon.

In addition to the classes, which are mostly finished by lunchtime, there are afternoon and evening concerts most days. Today and tomorrow the concerts are the students' individual concerts. Every child chooses a piece to perform solo, with a piano accompanist. This is a great opportunity and the audience is very supportive.

After the evening concert there was a Parent Talk, giving advice on how to practice with your child. This year the talk was given by Moirsheen Kelly, from Melbourne. A couple of points I took away is that she suggests that children prepare for a performance by playing the concert piece seven times a day for the week before the concert! She also reminded everyone that the point of practice is to make things sound right, look right and feel easy. During the parent talk, a movie was shown for the children in another room.


Friday was the third day of classes.

I had a bit of a sore throat in the morning so did a covid test. It was negative but I still wore a mask all day.

There were individual students' concerts in the afternoon and evening, same as yesterday. All the children did so well. It is a big thing to get up on stage and perform by yourself. There were many excellent performances.

I haven't yet mentioned the teenage program, which runs every evening from about 8:00-9:30pm. Often they play games in the gym but today they went to the beach.

The tweenagers have activities on two evenings. They don't go offsite. They usually play games in the gym or swim in the pool.

The younger children (age 5-10yrs) have games on the grass one afternoon to help them to get to know each other and make friends.


Oh dear, I tested positive for covid so we abruptly left camp to go home and isolate!

We are so disappointed to miss the Fun Concert, which will be this evening. It is one of the highlights of camp. We'll also miss the Play-Out concert tomorrow (Sunday) which marks the end of camp.

After we got home

I heard that quite a few others got covid in the remaining 2 days after we left. I feel bad that I was the first but feel pleased that at least I followed all recommended precautions.

About the Fun Concert, I heard that one of the highlights was someone playing Queen's "Don't Stop me Now" on violin while rollerskating around stage!

We plan to go to camp again next year and will hopefully make it through to the end! 

Our camp draws mostly New Zealanders of course, but you can come from overseas. We had two Australian families at camp this year. Maybe I'll see you there next year 🙂

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