Thirty years after she began teaching others, Lois Akins' Grovetown home continues to be filled with the melodic violin music of her students.
"I think I was one of those that was a born teacher," Akins said.
Little did she know, she was headed for a career in teaching music, though. Originally, her plan was to study early elementary education.
She also didn't know she would be teaching violin for three decades.
"She's wonderful," said Sydney Shepherd, of Waynesboro, who brings her two daughters, Gracie, 17, and Kitty, 9, to Akins for weekly violin lessons in addition to a few group lessons a month. "She is just so good at drawing out the best in the students."
January marked the 30th year that Akins has taught violin and the 28th year of her doing so through a process called the Suzuki method, which is based on the "mother tongue" theory, the same way children learn to speak before they learn to read by being immersed in an environment of language. Children can begin formal instruction as early as age 3.
Akins had taught choral music in Columbia County schools for a few years and performed with the Augusta Symphony before her first daughter was born in 1977, which is when she started private lessons. Two years later, Akins became a teacher of the Suzuki method.
"Our goal is not necessarily to produce musicians, but produce lovers of music," Akins said of the method. "You teach children first, music second and the violin third, so you put things in the right perspective. Out of that sometimes comes wonderful musicians, and you are so proud of them."
Of the 1,500 students Akins has taught in the past three decades, some are performing with their college orchestras at Duke, Yale and Harvard universities.
Akins' two daughters, Gwen Elsey and Kim Chavous, are Suzuki teachers, too. All three teach group lessons with Suzuki Strings of Augusta, which Akins started under a different name in 1979. It was incorporated in 1990.
Repetition is key to the Suzuki method.
"They have to do it a hundred times," Akins said, surrounded in her studio by worksheets of colored-in balloon bundles representing the repetitions her students did that week.
"Let me hear it again," or "play it again," are common phrases in the studio.
Akins said she still plays with a quartet occasionally for fun, but finds teaching extremely rewarding.
She said it is often difficult to see her older students graduate high school and head off to college because many have been her students since before they entered elementary school.
"When these kids start with you at age 3 and stay until they graduate - 15 years - they are a part of our lives," Akins said.
After 30 years of what she considers rewarding teaching, Akins said she has not yet had enough.
"I don't see quitting any time soon,'' she said.
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