It all started with a quote from Japanese violinist Shin'ichi Suzuki.
"I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart."
In the mid-20th century, he developed the Suzuki Method of education that encourages a positive learning environment to develop character in students. This was a method violinist Laurie Carlson embraced early on and one she's shared with her students for several years.
Now, Carlson will be sharing the benefits of learning music the Suzuki way with the public through Contra Costa Suzuki Strings' "Share the Joy," a concert featuring her young violin students ages 7-16.
The June 7 program at the Walnut Creek Library includes traditional Suzuki repertoire, fiddle music from Greece, Ireland and America, a medley from "The Wizard of Oz", and Beatles favorites.
Carlson, a longtime Clayton resident and Suzuki Strings director, said when people go to concerts and learn that a young performer is one of her students, parents would approach her asking if she could teach their children.
"Students can start learning violin at a very young age because we have small violins," she said. "Parents are very involved."
In fact, parents get to learn how to play the violin alongside their 3-year-old through the parent/teacher/student -- Suzuki triangle approach -- at least in
"As they get into their teens there's a natural 'weaning away,'" said Carlson, who's played violin with the Diablo Symphony for 25 years. "The success of the kids is affected by parent involvement. It's not only our goal to build fine musicians but to build beautiful human beings."
Lynne Takeuchi of Walnut Creek said she was impressed with the Suzuki method because students get to first learn music by listening to several different types of music. Students focus on musical notes later on, she said.
Takeuchi said she remembers learning to play the violin along with her then 4-year-old daughter, Naomi, as a way of forming a supportive learning environment.
"A lot of parents either rent or own a violin," Takeuchi said.
Some parents continue playing, while others don't.
"No, I didn't stay with it," said Takeuchi, who said she also plays piano. "There's too much to do."
But the important thing was that Naomi, now 16, has reaped the rewards of continuing to learn violin.
As with team sports, practicing violin with a group teaches accountability to young students at an early age, she said.
"If one performer is gone, that's huge. It makes a difference in the way they play together," Takeuchi said. "Playing in a group creates a level of commitment. As they practice more, they encourage each other on. It's productive peer pressure."
Naomi, who attends Las Lomas High School, said playing violin requires use of "all your emotions as you really get into it."
Naomi has taken private lessons since she was 4, and said Carlson has been a great mentor who has suggested that students revisit musical pieces they learned earlier to see how they may have improved their ability through the years.
"She really pushes you to keep violin at the forefront of your mind and encourages you to make it one of your priorities," Naomi said.
Pleasant Hill resident Lisa Peterson's son, Cameron, 16, and daughter, Michaela, 14, have also been longtime students of Carlson's.
"Cameron was 3 years old when he picked up and practiced holding this little bitty violin," Peterson recalled.
Soon Cameron learned to play by ear with Carlson's guidance, some music books and listening to CDs. Through the years, the Peterson family has seen the benefits of playing music from an early age.
"Both our kids excel at math and science," Peterson said.
While her daughter has taken up playing the viola, Cameron continues to play for College Park High School's orchestra. One of his greatest achievements was playing with his school orchestra at Carnegie Hall last year.
"It was fun and exciting to be able to play at a place everybody talks about in terms of the musical realm," Cameron said.
In addition to learning to play different types of music besides classical, Cameron said playing with Suzuki Strings has given him a chance to grow as a violinist as well as a person alongside longtime students such as Naomi.
"It's created a second family -- that's pretty much what it's become," he said.
While he probably won't take up music as his professional career beyond college, Cameron said violin will always be a part of his life.
"I feel that I can do better academically through this musical learning experience -- playing classical music, learning about great musicians and orchestras and seeing what they have to offer," Cameron said.
"I've been developing a great skill that not only gives me the self-confidence to be able to stand up in front of people to perform but also helps me give speeches in public and helps me become a good person active in society."
WHO: Contra Costa Suzuki Strings
WHAT: "Share the Joy" Youth Ensemble Performance
WHEN: 6:30-8 p.m. June 7
WHERE: Walnut Creek Library, 1644 N. Broadway