Margaret Ruth Billingham, director of Madison Cello Ensemble, joined Suzuki Strings of Madison teaching cooperative in 2021. As a passionate chamber musician and coach, she is excited to see how string ensembles will blossom under the collaboration. Born and raised in Madison, she grew up in the Madison Suzuki tradition, listening to her older sister’s violin lessons with SSM founder Diana Popowycz, and taking violin lessons with SSM founder Maria-Rosa Germain. At the age of five, she began learning cello from her mother, Elizabeth Kiser. The mother/daughter duo created Madison Cello Ensemble when Margaret was eight years old, and upon her return to Madison after college, they began to direct MCE together. Experiencing musical learning with an emphasis on community and family has greatly influenced how she approaches teaching through a social-emotional learning lens.
Margaret has a B.A. from Lewis and Clark College, where she studied music, theater, and developmental psychology. Her principal cello teachers include Nancy Ives, Lawrence Levitan, Benjamin Whitcomb, Maggie Townsend, and Flora VanWormer. She was trained to teach the Suzuki method with Joan Krzywicki. At L&C she also trained in Alexander Technique. She has been on the faculty as a teaching artist at Collegio Pedro Aquirre Cerda in Chile, Grace Fine Arts Camp in Oregon, and here in Madison at Camp Begin, Madison School Community Recreation, Bayview Community Center, and Fantastic Folk Fiddle. She also just joined the teaching team of Music con Brio. Her training as a Certified Peer Specialist through UW Milwaukee’s School of Continuing Education also informs her teaching technique by incorporating mindfulness and emotional wellness into musical education.