The Suzuki approach to music education has many features, some can be found in other methods of music education and some are unique to Suzuki.
Dr Shinichi Suzuki played violin in a family string quartet in Japan just after the Second World War. When he was asked to teach a young child to play the violin he was at first reluctant, then realised that ‘All Japanese children speak Japanese’. Children grow up learning to speak and understand their native language without difficulty as the language is all around them. So he devised a method as close as possible to learning one’s own native language.
Just as the sound of one’s own language permeates our environment, we enrich the child’s environment with recordings and live performances of classical music of high quality and of the tunes that the child will be learning.
Love and encouragement
Parents praise their children when they learn their first words, they are delighted, and so it is when the child learns to play their first pieces.
Even when a child’s vocabulary increases, it’s still okay for them to keep saying the first words they learnt, likewise Suzuki pieces are revisited frequently, and played over and over until they are part of you.
Group lessons and concerts
Individual lessons are vital so that attention can be paid to technique and individual differences, but group playing is just as important, particularly for motivation. Children learn by copying each other, they want to copy their friends and to play together. Children want to play more advanced pieces that they see others playing.
One parent comes to lessons, takes notes or videos the lesson, and supervises practice at home. In this way parents support the child’s learning, and the power of adult intelligence is added to the enthusiasm of the child and the experience of the teacher. This combination of child, parent and teacher is called the Suzuki triangle.
Gradually as the child grows older they are encouraged to become independent learners.
Music reading is taught when the student can play violin with basic posture and beautiful tone established. In this way the child’s musical ear is developed first, then music reading is taught. The ability to read music and take part in orchestras and other music ensembles is an important part of learning to play an instrument and should not be left too long.
“Nurtured by Love” by Shinichi Suzuki
www.suzukimusic.org.au, the website of the Suzuki Music Association in Victoria