Lovingly known as “Mrs. Marie” or “Madame Marie” to the children in her Kindermusik classes, Marie Kusters has been bringing Kindermusik into the hearts and homes of children and families in Ottawa, Ontario at Mieke Musike Music Studio for over 24 years now. Marie is a dedicated educator and accomplished musician, with a heart not only for her own Kindermusik families, but also for her Kindermusik colleagues. She has served as a Kindermusik Faculty Member, a Kindermusik Mentor, and is a member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas as well as the Suzuki Association of Ontario. She is passionate about sharing her love and knowledge of music in a way that her families describe as loving, nurturing, and encouraging. Anyone who has been around Marie Kusters for very long at all will agree — to know Marie is to be inspired by her…. and “Mr. Marie” too (aka, Marie’s husband, Doug)!
Theresa Case: You’ve been teaching Kindermusik for a long time. In fact, you started teaching Kindermusik the year before I did! And so, I have to ask, after all of these years, what’s your favorite part of teaching Kindermusik?
Marie Kusters: I love to see the joy on children’s faces and watching their eyes light up when they understand something new.
TC: You know so many Kindermusik songs, but what’s your favorite Kindermusik song to sing?
MK: I have many favorites, but I really like to sing many of the lullabies like Pretty Little Horses, Latvian Lullaby, Fais dodo, Sleep My Little One, May There Always Be Sunshine…
TC: And your favorite Kindermusik dance to lead?
MK: Tants Tants Yidelekh
TC: What makes your studio such a special place?
MK: I teach in a home studio built at the back of my house, which keeps the environment warm and cozy. I have taught in a community centre as well, but my parents tell me that their children feel safer and more comfortable in a home setting.
TC: If you had to name just one secret to success in the Kindermusik classroom, what would it be?
MK: The most important element is building relationships with the children and the parents, showing you care and love each one of them for who they are, and treat them all with respect.
TC: What’s one of the most touching things that’s ever happened to you as a Kindermusik teacher?
MK: It is always a magical and very touching moment whenever a child trusts me enough to come and sit in my lap during class. I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to touch children’s lives with music.
TC: You’ve had the opportunity to influence the lives of so many children over your years of teaching Kindermusik. Describe a special Kindermusik student that has impacted you as a teacher.
MK: I have had special needs children in my program who have touched my heart in a very special way, especially those who decided to continue with violin lessons with me for many years. One in particular stands out: Paul came to me as a non-verbal 18 month old. He was later diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. After Young Child, he started violin with me at age 6, and his musical education helped him develop into an amazing young man. He is now in University and still continues to play in his community for weddings and special events.
TC: What do you feel has made your studio business a success?
MK: My studio remains successful thanks to happy families that have returned year after year, and helped to spread the word to their friends.
TC: What are some of the goals you have for your business?
MK: I used to teach all classes myself and over the past five years, as I approach retirement, I have had the pleasure to oversee the training of 4 wonderful Kindermusik educators: two who have taught for me in the past, Marie Bouchard and Jenni Troup, and two others, Noora Nakhaei and Edith Pérusse-McCallum, who currently teach for me. I am also thinking of adding a Kindermusik with Grandfriends program soon. I hope to continue offering Kindermusik and Suzuki violin to my community for many years to come.
TC: If you could share one tip with a new Kindermusik educator, what would it be?
MK: Believe in yourself and in the power of music to transform and enhance children’s lives. Be passionate and build your business one satisfied customer at a time. Be patient as businesses take time to grow.
TC: What’s something new and exciting that’s happened recently at your studio?
My husband, Doug Murphy (aka “Mr. Marie”), a retired engineer, now teaches double bass for me!
TC: What are some of your hobbies?
MK: With my husband, Doug Murphy, who plays double bass, I play violin in the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra and sing in the Atlantic Voices choir. Doug and I met at an Ottawa Youth Orchestra camp when we were both in University. We have always loved to share musical experiences together. Our three children took music lessons; two of them were Kindermusik students of Joan Vincent’s studio, Kindermusik of Orleans, here in Ottawa. Amongst them they have learned to play violin, viola, cello, Celtic harp and piano. We have been blessed to play together as a family. I now teach one of my grandchildren. It is truly a blessing!
Shared by Theresa Case, director of Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC.
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