Centenary Suzuki School applauds international achievements of longtime student
SHREVEPORT, LA — Local violinist Cal Alexander, who has “grown up” in the Centenary Suzuki School (CSS) at Centenary’s Hurley School of Music, recently won impressive prizes in two international violin competitions. Alexander took second prize in the Jr. Tibor Varga International Violin Competition in Switzerland on September 3, where he also received the Audience Choice Award and the Senior Jury Award. On August 19, Alexander placed third out of 17 semifinalists in the Cooper International Violin Competition held at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.
“It is quite an accomplishment for a student from Shreveport to be accepted at a major international competition,” said Laura Crawford, CSS founder and Alexander’s violin instructor for the past ten years. “Most of the students come from large cities or from musical hubs in Korea, Japan, China, or Bulgaria. Cal has spent hours practicing and making video tapes for the applications, and to be one of only a dozen invited is quite a feat. To reach the top six, then the top three is almost unheard of from a place like Shreveport. He has received a Second Prize and Third Prize at two junior international competitions at age 17!”
Developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, a Japanese violinist and humanitarian philosopher, the Suzuki Method is often called “the mother-tongue” method. The philosophy and approach is directly inspired by the process of language acquisition in early childhood, as Suzuki believed that any child can learn the violin, just as any child can learn their native language. Elements of the Suzuki method include beginning young, having an involved parent at lessons, following a well-planned “step by step” curriculum with a trained teacher, listening at home to the music being learned, reviewing and keeping all the old pieces in one’s repertoire, and interacting with a group of peers.
“The Suzuki method is an outstandingly successful method that has changed the quality of music instruction around the world and especially in America since its introduction to the U.S. in the 1960s,” explained Crawford. “A former Dean of the Juilliard School told me that fully 80 percent or more of its string students had started by the Suzuki method. When Cal started in the Suzuki method at age four, he gained a huge advantage over students who started later. He and other students in our program are up on a big stage performing from their first year.”
In addition to studying under Crawford, Alexander has also recently been working with Jan Sloman in Dallas and has spent the past three summers in the Perlman Music Program in New York studying with Itzhak Perlman, Catherine Cho, and Li Lin. He performs with the Centenary Youth Orchestra and has appeared twice as a soloist with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra in its family concerts. Alexander also won the prestigious Lynn Harrell Competition in April 2021 and soloed at the Myerson Center with the Dallas Symphony in June 2021.
He attends Caddo Magnet High School in Shreveport, and has been chosen to serve on the Louisiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council and as Lt. Governor for the Division G of the Louisiana Key Club. Alexander was a finalist in the Scripps National Spelling Bee as an 8th grader and has continued his spelling career in high school, winning second place in the Medical Spelling Competition at the International Leadership Conference for HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) in Nashville, Tennessee, in June 2022.
Alexander’s achievements in music, academics, and community service come as no surprise to Crawford, who has seen the wide-ranging benefits of music education in generations of her students.
“Over the 40 plus years I have taught, I can point out numerous students who are not only successful in their music, but also were valedictorians, salutatorians, or were in the top of their graduating class,” said Crawford. “We have had students go into successful music careers who have principal positions in symphonies or have graduated from major conservatoires. Other students have worked in the Peace Corps and the White House; in medical careers; as entrepreneurs, lawyers, Marshall scholars, accountants, engineers, teachers, and college professors. The most important aspect of what we teach in the Suzuki method is not just about becoming a skilled musician. Our goal follows Dr. Suzuki’s goal to make good citizens.”
"Hurley is fortunate to serve as home to the Centenary Suzuki School, one of the largest and finest in the region,” said Dr. Cory Wikan, dean of the Hurley School of Music. “Laura Crawford is a dedicated leader and mentor to all of her students, which is evidenced by the extraordinary talent that consistently graduates from CSS. Cal Alexander has graced Hurley, Centenary, Shreveport, and now the international community with his prodigal artistry, a true gift to us. I am grateful for the riches Hurley enjoys daily, bolstered by a tradition of excellence in Suzuki and all of our preparatory, undergraduate, and graduate programs."
About the Centenary Suzuki School
Laura Crawford founded the Centenary Suzuki School (CSS) in 1977, building on the model of the University of Texas String Project started by Phyllis Young. Based at Centenary’s Hurley School of Music, the CSS is the only college-affiliated Suzuki program in the state of Louisiana. Crawford and the CSS faculty have educated over 1,000 students since the inception of the program. Crawford is Director of the school, and Charles Regauer serves as CSS Administrator as well as viola and violin teacher. Other faculty members teaching violin, viola, and cello are Dan Santelices, Adrienne Gabriel, Elizabeth McShane, and Brett Andrews. Families who enroll go through an introductory class and education process to establish the parental involvement that is a key ingredient in the program. To apply or sign up for the waiting list, visit centenarysuzuki.com.