The Fox River Academy currently offers lessons in the Suzuki method for violin, viola, cello, and classical guitar. Our Suzuki teachers are certified Suzuki instructors who are comfortable with materials and approaches used with the Suzuki method. Suzuki lessons also include regularly scheduled group classes (an additional group charge is included for groups in student’s tuition).

The Suzuki Approach

Every Child Can Learn
More than fifty years ago, Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki realized the implications of the fact that children the world over learn to speak their native language with ease. He began to apply the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music, and called his method the mother-tongue approach. The ideas of parent responsibility, loving encouragement, constant repetition , etc., are some of the special features of the Suzuki approach.

Parent Involvement
As when a child learns to talk, parents are involved in the musical learning of their child. They attend lessons with the child and serve as “home teachers” during the week. One parent often learns to play before the child, so that s/he understands what the child is expected to do. Parents work with the teacher to create an enjoyable learning environment.

Early Beginning
The early years are crucial for developing mental processes and muscle coordination. Listening to music should begin at birth; formal training may begin at age three or four, but it is never too late to begin.

Children learn words after hearing them spoken hundreds of times by others. Listening to music every day is important, especially listening to pieces in the Suzuki repertoire so the child knows them immediately.

Constant repetition is essential in learning to play an instrument. Children do not learn a word or piece of music and then discard it. They add it to their vocabulary or repertoire, gradually using it in new and more sophisticated ways.

Encouragement and Learning with Others
As with language, the child’s effort to learn an instrument should be met with sincere praise and encouragement. Each child learns at his/her own rate, building on small steps so that each one can be mastered. Children are also encouraged to support each other’s efforts, fostering an attitude of generosity and cooperation. In addition to private lessons, children participate in regular group lessons and performance at which they learn from and are motivated by each other.

Fall and Winter
Catalog for Art
& Music Programs

Our Suzuki Faculty

Lauren Canitia

Strings Instructor (Suzuki/Traditional)


Lauren Canitia is a graduate from the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL), where she earned a Bachelors of Music with an emphasis in Pedagogy. She teaches Suzuki and traditional violin and viola, and has worked extensively with the Suzuki program at the Community School of the Arts at Wheaton College.

Lauren is certified in the Suzuki Method through Book 4, and is a member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas as well as the American String Teachers Association. She has studied violin with Wei-Shu Wang Co, Paul Zafer and Lee Joiner, and did her Suzuki training with Rebecca Sandrok.

Lauren is also the coordinator of the Fox River Academy’s Suzuki strings group program. While teaching violin to young children, Lauren often incorporates her Musikgarten training.

Jan Geiger

Strings Instructor (Suzuki/Traditional)


Along with completing pedagogy training for Suzuki Violin from Units 1A/1B through 4, Jan also has a Bachelors of Science through Wheaton College and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Aurora University. Ms. Geiger has been a regular member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas since 1995, and has performed with her students throughout the regional area in fundraisers, concerts, and other events. From 1994 through 2003, Ms. Geiger was a founding member and educator at Green Leaf Cooperative School, a weekly multi-age, thematic, interdisciplinary, project-based cooperative school with several homeschool families, grades preschool through eighth. She has her Illinois State Teacher Certification in initial elementary teaching and her ASCI (Association of Christian Schools International) Educators Certificate.

In addition to her private teaching, Jan also is currently on staff as an instructor for Fox Valley El Sistema, a program that provides free instruments and music instruction for children (currently the program is available at selected Aurora public schools). She also works as a science teacher for 5th through 8th graders at The Greenhouse in Wheaton, IL.

FVO El Sistema Information

Sallie Leverenz

Strings Instructor (Suzuki/Traditional)


Sallie is very excited to be a part of the Fox River Academy of Music and Art as a violin and viola instructor. She feels music enriches the lives of performers and listeners alike and through teaching she can best help others discover the joy of music. While embracing the mission statement of the FRA to encourage music appreciation throughout the community, Sallie also contends that the study of music can make vast improvements in the lives of people of all needs and abilities.

Sallie attended Roosevelt University, Chicago Musical College for Violin Performance and did post grad work at Yale University studying with the acclaimed Concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Joseph Silverstein. She has a diverse background both performing and teaching having been a member of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and playing ballet, theatre, and opera for over 30 years.

Her teaching credits include many years of private, group and orchestral conducting at the Francis W Parker School in Chicago. She teaches both Suzuki and Traditional String Methods. Sallie has taught music classes in the Plano Elementary and Middle schools and currently teaches stringed instruments in Fox Valley El Sistema, a program that provides free instruments and music instruction for children (currently the program is available at selected Aurora public schools). She is member of the violin section of the Fox Valley Orchestra.

Sarah Smith

Strings Instructor (Suzuki/Traditional)


Sarah began her studies at age five with her father, Stan Smith, and continued her studies with Rebecca Sandrok, Debra Wood, and the internationally renowned Almita Vamos at Western Illinois University. In 1986, she studied with Dr. Suzuki at his school, the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan. Sarah began teaching in 1984 with Aurora Suzuki Violins combining efforts with Stan Smith until May 2009 when Stan Smith and Aurora Suzuki retired. Sarah’s goal is to carry out the Suzuki philosophy with her students and enjoys being an important part of her student’s lives.

Sarah is a sought-after clinician at workshops and Institutes throughout the United States teaching in Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Utah, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, and throughout Illinois.

Sarah teaches violin, viola and cello with Fox River Academy of Music and Art. Her students have taken advanced positions in local orchestras as well as winning spots in local Concerto Competitions. Many of her students continue with their music education as both performance majors and music education majors studying at the most prestigious music schools in the country with some of them going on to perform internationally. Those who have not majored in music have continued playing their instruments in some capacity by joining their local community orchestras or just playing for their own pleasure. It has been very gratifying for Sarah to see her students continue to enjoy fine music.

FVO El Sistema Information

Ryan Stark

Suzuki Guitar, Classical Guitar


Ryan Stark, a native of Oswego, started his guitar study at age of 7. Ryan is an active freelance musician and performer in the Chicagoland area. A first prize winner of the Grandquist Classical Competition in Geneva, Illinois, Ryan has performed in numerous master classes with some of the world’s leading classical guitarists.

His mentors include classical guitarists Dr. Brian Torosian, Bryan Albert, Ben McMunn, Ron Stark, and jazz guitar with Mark Fransiscovich.

Ryan trained with Suzuki educator Mary Lou Roberts at the Ann Arbor Suzuki Institute, and is a certified Suzuki Guitar instructor.

He has maintained an active Suzuki guitar program at Fox River Academy since 2011; his program is open to students ages 3 and up.

A faculty member of Fox River Academy of Music since 2003, Ryan brings his knowledge and expertise of classical, jazz, rock, folk, Latin, and flamenco elements into his lesson program and to our community. He is an active member of Chicago Classical Guitar Society.

Carolyn Wright

Cello Instructor (Suzuki/Traditional)


Carolyn Wright began studying the cello at the age of five in the Suzuki Program at the Community School of the Arts at Wheaton College. She studied with Richard Hirschl before going to DePaul University where she received her Bachelor of Music in Cello Performance under the tutelage of Steve Balderston.

She received her Master of Music in Cello Performance at Northern Illinois University under the guidance of Cheng-Hou Lee. She now teaches traditional and Suzuki cello and is certified in the Suzuki Method through Book 2. She has performed as a member of several local orchestras including the Fox Valley Philharmonic, Sinfonietta Bel Canto (Downers Grove), Elmhurst Symphony, Wheaton Symphony, Illinois Valley Symphony and Bensenville Chamber Orchestra.

She has had students participate in IHSA Solo and Ensemble Contest. She also enjoys playing in quartets and other chamber ensembles with colleagues and friends.