Mrs. Susan Carlson
Director of Schaumburg High School Orchestras
(224) 653-4359

About Mrs. Carlson


Bachelor of Music Performance, Wheaton College

Master of Music Performance, DePaul University

Illinois Teacher Certification Program, DePaul University

Number of years taught in District 211: 13

Number of years she has been teaching violin and/or strings: 24


Where Mrs. Carlson taught previously: Wheaton College Conservatory, Wheaton College Community School of the Arts, Northern Illinois Suzuki Program

Words my students have used to describe me: funny, challenging, crazy (but in a good way), and encouraging.

Professional orchestral experience:  Currently a member of the first violin section of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, has played with the Lake Forest Symphony, Northwest Indiana Symphony, Illinois Philharmonic, the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra, Des Moines Metro Opera Festival,  and the Spoleto Arts Festival

Favorite work from last year's (2017-2018 )repertoire:  
Symphony: I loved Les Miserables, and the Concerto Concert pieces... I always love seeing advanced student talent in bloom.
Philharmonic : I really enjoyed the collaboration with PO and SO on Prokofiev's Montagues and Capulets.  The sheer volume of sound was incredible!  I also liked American Variants from the fall concert. 
Concert: Variations on a Sea Chantey .  It really solidified them as a maturing ensemble.  They really turned a corner in February, socially and musically.  It was a fun piece to rehearse and to perform with them.

What she would like to see happen with the SHS orchestras: I would like to see more student ownership of the ensemble. By this I mean that I would like to see more percentage of students take their skill growth more seriously so that collectively it makes a qualitative difference in the sound of the ensembles.   Secondly, I’d like to see more ownership in the running of the program on the non-musical side of things.  This year I have started orchestra service points- points that students can earn through things like ushering for the SHS music department, setting up the stage before concerts, designing t-shirts, helping with fundraising, … etc.   Ultimately if everyone feels invested it shows in how they play/perform as a group.

Favorite composer: that's a tough one. I love Russian classical music- Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev to name a few. But I adore Bach and Brahms too. There are so many brilliant composers out there! I can hardly choose.

Earliest musical memory: having my mom sing to me as a small child

I also remember one of my first violin lessons at age 5. I remember standing on a placemat and having my feet drawn on the back of it. I was taking the Suzuki method at the time (Suzuki stresses focus and discipline even at that age) It was so fun playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I remember playing for our neighbors.


Favorite orchestra: the Elgin Symphony Orchestra since I play in it! The 2018-2019 season will by my 22nd year as a member. I love it. I think it informs my teaching and it refreshes my musical spirit. It is really fun to see my students out in the audience too!

What I like to do when I am not playing my violin or teaching: spending time with my husband Keith, our sons Andrew (5) and David (2) friends and family, watching movies, exercising, attending church activities, and reading

Favorite movies: Sense and Sensibility, Dead Poets Society, and When Harry Met Sally


Teaching Philosophy

I believe music is an integral, vital part of a student's education, public or private. Music, as a unique art, affords the opportunity to explore avenues of artistic discovery, in addition to providing a place where the other subject areas can play, commingle, and reflect.


To be a part of an orchestra is to be a part of a team. Every person is valuable. The whole depends on the strength of each individual. I strive to foster motivated learning so that each student experiences true musical progress. Over time, they collectively experience the process of making great music together. I endeavor to communicate this truth through the rehearsal techniques and strategies I select. Every person acquires skills differently, and it is important to try to maximize each student's learning paths.


I believe it is important to foster a healthy practice ethic, for when excellence is reached, the more gratifying the process and result. To simply dabble is to short-change the entire experience. Learning to play an instrument is a detailed, multi-faceted process that engages the mind, spirit, and heart. I believe the partnership between teacher and student when learning an instrument is magnified because of its complexity. Since I was a private violin teacher for 11 years prior to teaching orchestra, I am acutely aware of the student's need to connect with a teacher in order to feel safe, motivated, and inspired.

Orchestra is a social group. It can be and is a home within school. Fostering this spirit de corps is a priority for me, and it informs my decisions about how I encourage the students to interact with one another, and what activities I choose. The other orchestra directors in the district and I work hard to provide opportunities that combine music and friendship, as the two often go hand in hand.

The literature I select is another reflection of my philosophy. I believe it is important to experience a wide range of literature, including classical, contemporary, folk, popular, and jazz. While they might not find every piece may be fun, I want the music to be enjoyable, and surprisingly, they often like pieces they originally did not like!


As in the words of Shakespeare: "If music be the food of love, play on!"