Student Comments


This experience has been an amazing one. From the first day I have felt safe and comfortable. The first individual practice session, Ethan recommended I fill the space around me and not play with the mute. This was the first step to playing more confidently. Later during day one, Carrie came and asked to hear me play and she helped open up my sound. The second day Joe helped me with the bow arm exercises. All of my experiences with the counselors have been an amazing one. They were all encouraging and never let their critique sound negative.

As for the timing of things.....I really like that we all got to have snack time. I know it was probably meant for the little ones, but I truly enjoyed the breaks. Thanks! Each sectional was perfect. Carrie is an amazing leader and I never felt like she was trying to show off, or show that she was better than us in any way, which was a different experience than last year. I wish I could have exuded more confidence this year during sectionals so I could help Gabriele. I know I could have, I just didn't feel confident enough to help. For this is my one and only regret. On a spiritual level, I have been fulfilled every day that I showed up and worked to the best of my ability. I believe this human experience was one my soul will never forget. My mind may not be with me later to remember everything, by m soul will. It was and is a privilege to be a part of this wonderfully illuminating experience. I thank you for the work you have done and the work you will do in the future. P.S. I also felt really connected with my peers. There was little to no judgment, which was awesome. I felt connected with everyone instead of just seeing the connections we share.
~ Samantha - Age 20, Summer 2013

CelloChanWoods was a wonderful experience for me. I personally gained many things, some of which were unexpected.

The absoluteness of the positive energy at this camp was inspiring. Too often there is unnecessary competition with playing music and I saw no sign of that for the whole camp.

The work ethic of the students has personally helped me to regain some excitement and energy about cello playing. Prior to coming to the camp, I was feeling slightly burned out on the cello. The opportunity to teach really was refreshing and offered a new way for me to improve as a player. The idea that one is never good enough at the instrument is not inspiring, but rather daunting at times. This camp had a great outlook on doing one's personal best and finding satisfaction and pride from that. It is important to step back and say "I am good enough for today and tomorrow is a new day where I will continue to grow and become better."

I feel rejuvenated and can not wait to take on Reno in a few weeks as I begin my Masters in Music. Thanks to all of the students, staff and leaders who put this together. I feel everyone has walked away a better person, and cellist.
~ Joseph Tatum - Counselor. Jacobs Music School, University of Indiana., Summer 2013

I was apprehensive about the camp when I arrived, feeling inconvenienced by it's talking up of days from my summer. The only way I kept positive was telling myself that a., I would have fun eventually, and b., the camp only lasted 4 days. This attitude was more than reversed after spending 3 and 1/2 incredible days with incredible people. I find myself lamenting the fact that the camp has been "only four days." I learned great techniques, not so much from the classes as from the practice times in which a counselor would casually mention an improvement and suddenly you not only discovered a problem you didn't know you had, but also fixed it instantly. These 4 days have been amazing socially too. I had never really spoken with any of the other cello students, but after bonding with them at meals and campfire sing along, I am proud to say I have made at least 20 new friends. All of the counselors were very helpful, friendly, and skilled. I am happy to be able to take these new skills home, sad to leave and overall, I know my life has been impacted positively and greatly during my time here. I also fell that being a counselor here someday would be amazing.
~ Chris - Age 15, Summer 2013

As advertised, this retreat was a holistic experience of exploring and understanding what it means to make music with the cello on a personal and communal level. Though I didn't appreciate what it would feel like, physical and emotionally to approach cello instruction from a holistic approach.

The physical instruction, from the exercises to eurhythmics and individual instruction in techniques helped me internalize the lessons and feel the difference it makes in my cello playing. The emotional and spiritual instruction also helped break down and change the impatience and self judging to an experience of more freedom and gratification in practice playing with others and performance. I love the intergenerational community, which is a testament to the fact that we are all at different levels but all have something to offer. Having the young, very talented cellists inspires a sense of playfulness in the counselor's instructions, as well as campers that is also very freeing. There are many life lessons as well as cello lessons. I will take away as I expected there would be, but the visceral connection to them nurtured in this setting, with the instruction, music and community of 20 campers will make it easier to remember the experience and bring it back to my practicing, lessons, and performing when I leave.

I had thought I picked up cello for the intellectual stimulation of learning something new and for the beauty of the music. Now I find it's becoming more of an expression of my sprit, a safe place to explore and a place /way to connect with other musicians. I had been less interested in performance before cellochanwoods, but now I aspire to perform and play with others. It's pushed me to wan to challenge myself more and see the values of practice, including scales, warm ups, and other techniques we learned here, to help move forward more quickly. The focus is shifting from being able to play a piece to being able to express myself and share playing with others.

Intellectually, we've discussed many of these topics in lessons, Suzanne. The retreat has made these teachings more experiential, focused and memorable, again on a physical and emotional level.

This has been an extraordinarily rewarding and inspiring experience.
~ Lee Pavach - adult, Summer 2013

I am a firm believer in the development of character, leadership and team building through the engagement and study of canoeing. Learning how to speak as a leader/follower.

Transitions this week were difficult. Sectionals were difficult.
1. Put away your cello and bow
Pack up your music, pencil, stand, and chair.
2. On a good day, carry all these to the door
3. Get everything down and put on your shoes
4. Pick everything up, weave past everyone else, and find a practices spot out doors. Hopefully, with a chair
5. Cello down, stand up, music up cello/bow out
6. Remember what to practice
7. I often didn't allow enough time for this, which led to anxiety when things ran late.

I was very intrigued by Suzanne's description of mandalas. As a teacher, I view my students as a sort of mandala. I treasure every relationship I have built here. I have a good story that I will hold onto from each person and I have done my best to share my knowledge and passion for improvisation and creative music with you, and now we scatter.
~ Eli Bender: Counselor, Summer 2013

The meditations helped me get calm. They also helped me focus. Some meditations I didn't get.
~ Kaden - 7 years old, Summer 2013

Many a man and woman have compared life to many things. In truth, life can be one thing, it can be another thing, and it can be everything and nothing too.

I think life is like the cello. In truth, you can do whatever you like with a cello or you can do whatever you fancy with your life. But as with life, you can simply throw you're cello, you can break it, or you can just do nothing at all with it. Yet there are those who go to the cello and play beautiful music. In order to play beautiful music, one must labor very hard. In life, no one gains anything without a price to pay. The road through life is an arduous journey, like the road to the cello. Yet the trip is worth the pain.

These thoughts and more have blossomed in my mind due to the 3 days I have spent here at CCW. Nature is a thing of beauty and being exposed to its cool ecstasy brings a sense of enlightenment to me. I have often compared CCW to blue lake, which in both places I have discovered two sides of being human. At Blue Lake, I found the social animal carelessly enjoying the company of others and the ripe fruits of life. There, I discovered the psychology of others, but not myself. Here, I have learned about myself. I have taken a journey to myself, discovering my own mind like never before. Here I take the fruit of life, ponder over it, question the ripest part. I and only myself breathe the ecstasy off the woodland, bathing in my solitude. I and only I breathe ecstasy of the forest as the dew slowly dries under the morning sun.
~ Pablo 14 years old., Summer 2013

Throughout my time here at CelloChanWoods, I feel that I have channeled a calmer and more focused version of myself. I find myself able to clear my head and center myself in the day's various activities, which is exactly what I was hoping to achieve here. I am so excited to continue exploring meditation and the many tips and tricks we learned in physical therapy and daily warm ups. As for my role as a counselor, I can't begin to express how much I have treasured this experience. I feel that I have gained so much knowledge to put towards my teaching. In working with each camper and observing my fellow counselors, I am so humbled by, and grateful for, this amazing opportunity. It isn't often that a community such as this one comes around, and I will sincerely miss each and every person. I have never encountered such a unique group of people where I learned something new from every body. It has been a joy for me to get to know this family and community and I truly hope to return next year. CelloChan'woods has helped to renew my passion for what I chose to do with my life, and there are no words that can explain what that means to me.
~ Carrie Brannen - Counselor - Western Michigan University, Summer 2013

My experiences at this camp have been great as a whole. I have learned a lot about myself as a person and cellist. I feel that being a year older has really helped me take all of the lessons to heart. I think that because of that I felt more comfortable with the camp and what you were saying, Suzanne. I really like that you had the option to camp out overnight here, which is something I would really like to do next year. The main difference from my perspective this year was that the group seemed even closer. That is probably a result of us not going straight into meditation but instead being more social at the breakfast table. I like both the social and more silent approaches but I think you should try to balance them.

I also found that being more advanced as a cellist allowed me to use more of the instruction and feel less lost during activities. I came to realize I could potentially be using my practice time much better to get greater results. The exercises we did I am going to do on a daily basis because they really helped my tension in my back and shoulder, which made playing so much easier. To me, it also helped to have the counselors really enjoying their time teaching us. It seemed to me that this year's group got a lot more into it and were fun to be around. I also really appreciated the normality and flexibility of our activities. Overall, I really enjoyed this year and I really hope that next year is even better so I continue to progress.
~ Simon -age 14, Summer 2013

I feel like I got more out of CelloChanWoods this time than I had previously. The camping experience seemed more effective to me than the day camping experience. It removed me more from the day-to-day experience of my daily life and seemed more efficient. The CelloChanWoods experience never stopped. Where as, as a day camper, I would leave at night and go back to my normal life.

I really enjoyed taking lessons from the different counselors. They all had different ways of teaching and were all effective in some way. I also really like the conductor. He was really good at bringing the different parts together and I feel like the ChelloChanWoods pieces came together better because of that.

I wish we had had more time for sectionals. It was fun to work with the counselors in the sectionals and I felt like it helped to incorporate the different aspects of cello plying you had talked about in the morning talk, Suzanne.

The guest speakers did this too.

Leaving, I feel like I have a more concrete sense of how I can improve my cello playing. Physically through better from and mentally through better mind set. This is partially because the counselors did a good job of transferring topics we'd discussed to the music we were playing and because they were really good teachers.
~ Thomas - adult, Summer 2013

When I was younger and even into college, I never wanted to practice. The only time I ever really enjoyed playing the cello was in orchestra, mostly because I had very enthusiastic and nurturing conductors. I was never really pushed to be better, to work at the cello. At this retreat, however, I have found that I actually want to practice and play. That I enjoy making music and learning new things. Over the past year and few days, I've gotten more relaxed in my playing, more into my playing. The exercises and meditation have helped me to relax even more. I've developed more of an ability to practice slowly, working on just one aspect of my playing instead of jut hoping I'll get the notes or relying on my sight-reading. I wish I could have had more time here to practice and work more. I didn't have time to work on the Popper to get it to where I'm completely comfortable. But overall, I had a great experience and I hope to be back next year.
~ Meridith - adult., Summer 2013

I think that this camp is just a beautiful place and time. It is more than just an idyllic setting and a peaceful get away. I have found a real sense of community with everybody and was shocked at how well I knew everybody even after the first day. We work and think as a team and we're all holding each other up so that we're all functioning on a higher level than we could have on our own. It's amazing how a group can improve the individual and the individual can improve the group. Since we are all our better selves here, we are all out better cellists. Having to walk around and coach, I haven't had much time to practice, yet I fell like I'm making long strides in my own playing. Just being immersed in a community whose goal is peace of mind and ease of cello playing, I'm gaining valuable tools with which to move forward from here. I love the way my body feels after the stretches and meditation, and I' love the way my cello sounds when my body feels so good. This is clearly the answer. My deepest thanks to Suzanne and everybody else that worked hard to make this happen. It's invaluable.
~ Ethan Young - Counselor - Jacobs School of Music, University of Indiana, Summer 2013

Dear Suzanne,

Thanks for facilitating such a fabulous summer cello camp. It was a wonderful experience for me, from swimming in the lake and boating to meditation, exercises, master class, individual practice time with help from the great counselors....this list could go on. Highlights for me include evening campfires, which were great for bonding and much fun and orchestra rehearsals with Daniel. My goals coming to camp were numerous, but my main goal was to become more relaxed in my arms to relieve unnecessary tension. Meditation and bow exercises taught surely helped me overcome that obstacle, thanks to you and the very incredibly supportive counselors. It was nice to get away from home for 4 days and spend it here in the middle of the woods playing cello and getting tips, comments, and feedback from knowledgeable people other than my teachers back in Seattle - so I definitely got a lot out of my experience. The speakers who visited, especially the Eurythmics speaker (Rebecca from the Cleveland Institute of Music) thoroughly impressed me and I learned so much. Thanks again for everything and I really hope I can come back here again next year! I'll try to persuade my parents. (:

Have a good rest of the summer.
~ Zhao Hui 13, Summer 2013

My Journal - My experience:

I loved playing together and orchestra but it was also nice to have individual practice time as well. I like how when we had individual practice, the counselors would help us and give us advice. Swimming and canoeing were also fun and gave us a nice break from cello so we could be refreshed and read to start playing again. The buddy walks I like because you got to know new people. After camp was over each day, it was nice to sit around the bonfire while talking and singing. Thank you for making this camp wonderful.

Your friend and student,

~ Zoe - age 11, Summer 2013

I experienced a lot of compassion/support from the staff and it was very much appreciated. Working on the Popper, which was very challenging (Popper Requiem transcribed for 6 cellos and piano) has given me more confidence to approach difficult pieces / passages. I realized I practice too fast. I tend to approach practice with the same mindset I approach work, there are many things to be done in a given amount of time and it's very goal oriented. This is because my practice time is quite limited and so I always feel pressure to "move ahead". I realize this is a completely backwards approach and it actually is slowing down my progress. I need to develop more patience and be more process oriented to experiment more. I gained some insight into the source of my insecurity /fear around playing and I have an idea of steps I need to take to address these issues. I really enjoyed the positive support group that we formed over the 3 days. Technically I came away with a lot of ideas for improving my tone and for shifting into higher registers. I enjoyed being a student and think it's always good for a teacher to be a student from time to time. This helps me renew my empathy for my students. Also the presence and compassion of the teachers here are things I will use to renew my own teaching in the fall.
~ Laurie - adult, Summer 2013

My favorite part has been seeing campers from last year again and meeting all the new counselors and campers. I was worried about the kids coming to camp but it has been a wonderful addition - just a different energy. Camping together has been really fun. Dory did a good job making the evenings fun and a good bonding experience.

I found all the counselors to be delightful, knowledgeable and excellent teachers. They all had different things to offer and complimented each other well.

I always dreaded the buddy walks but each one this year was great. I got to know more about a person's history and story.
~ Gabriele - adult, Summer 2013

I like camp because it was nice to get away from the frustrating things of daily life.

At camp I had fun singing songs, playing the cello, improving and hanging out with people. I think that we need to do some outdoor activities like soccer or more games. Camp really helped me focus on one thing and not be distracted by others doing other things like playing soccer. I have learned how to stay focused and relax at the cello. If I could take something away it would d be that I'm more focused and have gotten to know people like Kaden and Zoe better and met nice people like he counselors.


Mr. Vampire ) Kepler.
~ Kepler - age 12, Summer 2013

Long story short, I think this camp has just been perfect! It has been such a great time getting to know all of the students. In addition to being so enthusiastic and energetic, everyone is so receptive as well. They were so much fun and were inspiring to work with that it was almost a shame that the camp wasn't longer. Apart from the students, the other counselors are all just amazing. We all got along very quickly and by the end of the first day, it felt like we have known each other for years. I really liked the morning meditations. They really got me energized and ready to take on the rest of the day. I also enjoyed the guest speakers and the presentations. If anything, sometimes it felt like things were too tightly scheduled. I would have loved longer individual practice times to work with more people in an intimate 1 on 1 setting. In addition, to the tight schedule, I found myself thirsty for a little more solitude. I think partially because we spent the individual time helping others, there was not much time to just collect my thoughts.
~ Jason Gong - University of Michigan piano performance major -cellist, accompanist, assistant, Summer 2013

"More than a music teacher, Suzanne is a spiritual guide. If you know that the music already exists in your soul and you're looking for help in allowing it to flow through you, visit Suzanne and let the miracle of music manifest in your life." ~ Betty

"One of the best music teachers I' ve had. I have had a number of music teachers in my life - I have my ARCT from the Royal Conservatory of Music in piano performance, and I also play the flute. Suzanne's cello lessons are a wonderful balance the technical, the emotional and the artistic elements of creating music. She has focused on guiding me to create music on the cello since the first day I touched the instrument." ~ Stefanie

"Suzanne is the best! She is always nice and funny, I have learned a lot from her, even the attitude to life. I love it when she says"Let go...":)" ~ Qing

"I highly recommend CelloChan to anyone who loves the cello! Suzanne's holistic approach to the instrument has helped to radically transform my son's approach to performing and how he sees himself as a person. Her expertise and knowledge of all of the various little details of correct hand & body positioning literally improved my son's sound after his initial lesson! I have watched my son transform in the past four years under Suzanne's tutelage from a kid who picked up the cello in fifth grade and "liked to play the cello as something to do"; to a matured gentleman who discovered after many years of "something to do" that he loves to play the cello and plans on being a music major in cello performance next year. Suzanne has a direct, honest approach to her students and a fair amount of patience when life events get in the way of practice. She sets her lesson plans and goals based on the goals of each of her student's aspirations. She is respectful and does not force people to do things they don't want to do, yet at the same time she knows when to throw in challenges to help them progress. It has been a real treat to see the improvement of all of her students over the years at the various CelloChan student recitals. These recitals are a real gift to the students and families! My son's confidence and self-esteem as a musician has been greatly improved upon, thanks to these recitals. I guess what I appreciate the most about Suzanne, has been her ability to help my son over the years see his musical potential and ultimately believe in it & achieve his musical goals. She has been a true gift to our family!" ~ Shonda

"Dedication, innovation, and patience, are just some of the strengths of Suzanne Smith's CelloChan program. Suzanne mixes body, mind, and practice (key practice!) in order to break through common barriers. As someone who has struggled with the consistency of practicing, Suzanne continuous to push me firmly and kindly. She does not shy away from engaging your stage of playing, at whatever level. A supremely talented and motivating cello teacher, you will improve in ways you didn't expect. I am completely in love with my cello playing now." ~ Pilar

"An Unexpected Gift Playing an instrument is something I have wanted to do the whole of my adult life but playing the cello was not something I ever considered. I jokingly tell people that after an uncanny series of events that the cello chose me! One of those events included finding Suzanne's flier in an unexpected place and upon reading it knowing she was the teacher for me. I have been playing the cello for a little over a year now and am continually amazed at how much I get out of the experience. It is about so much more than music for me. It has been about self-discovery, physical awareness, and looking at life-long patterns. The cello has been the tool with which I am making some significant changes in my life as well as the salve to heal old wounds. Suzanne has been so much more than a music teacher through all this. I feel as though every lesson is additionally a counseling session and I always come away with some little nugget to contemplate and work on the following week. Her Buddhist background and practice of meditation is woven throughout her teaching. Her perceptiveness and unnerving ability to see to the root of an issue always make lessons an eye-opening experience. Everyday I thank the universe for bringing Suzanne and the cello into my life." ~ Gabrielle

"Educating the whole child Suzanne is a gifted teacher who is capable of bringing out the best in her students. She has an uncanny way of getting to know her students as individuals, identifying their strengths and weaknesses and honing in on the unique key to motivating each individual. She inspires and helps each child find their own intrinsic motivation to make beautiful music rather than being forceful and regimented. Our son has really blossomed as a musician and we are so grateful to Suzanne for helping him find this means of expressing his creativity." ~ Sandra

"cellochan ;) I have been in the cellochan program for about 4 years now, and am enjoying every lesson, recital and cellchan event! Suzanne is a wonderful teacher and knows hot to teach with my learning style very well. I have grown as a cellist, a musician, and a person while learning cello under her teaching. i would recommend cellochan to anyone varying in age from 7-70, it is a great place to begin as a cellist and continue learning as a musician." ~ KA

"Terrific experience Suzanne taught my children not just to play an instrument but to make music, and it helped them discover that making music is a lasting pleasure. The musical education they received as students in the cellochan program was excellent--equally valuable to their development as people, though, was program's focus on music-making as service. As an adult cellochan student myself, I found a place where playing music is all about fellowship, self-discovery, and service. Performances become opportunities to enjoy music and company of other musicians rather than occasions for anxiety, self-recrimination, or competitiveness. Playing in an ensemble with other adult cellochan students has not only helped me improve my playing but has also reminded me of the most important part of making music: sharing the joy." ~ Elizabeth

"Suzanne knows how to get the best out of her students My son has had tremendous success at cellochan. Suzanne is patient and supportive and knows how to work with each student to get them to perform at their best. She provides many opportunities for students to perform in front of audiences, both within the group and as part of community service activities." ~ Susan

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