THE SUZUKI METHOD
"First character, then ability" - Dr. Shinichi Suzuki
The Suzuki method is an internationally practiced music curriculum and teaching philosophy created by Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki. Dr. Suzuki's method creates an environment for learning music which is based on the language acquisition theory - by following our natural patterns of behavior for learning language and applying those steps to learning a musical instrument. First by listening, babbling, talking, conversing, and eventually reading. Suzuki called this the 'mother-tongue approach. Dr. Suzuki's method also strives to provide an environment that fosters good moral character and develops the whole child.
When a child begins Suzuki Violin, he or she will first begin by listening to the repertoire, developing a musical foundation, learning correct posture, technique, and tone. This is often done in a social setting such as a beginner's group class. The group class offers opportunities for students to learn from each other and develop social skills and routines such as turn taking, working together, building a respectful relationship with the teacher, and participation.
Beyond the foundational skills, the child will develop overall good character and musicianship including balanced and comfortable physical skills for violin playing, memory and "inner hearing" before being introduced to traditional note-reading, performance opportunities to develop confidence and poise, and to share the gift of music, and collaboration and cooperation among a community of musicians and families.
PRINCIPLES OF TALENT EDUCATION
The Suzuki Method is built upon key principles. Each principle is vital to the success of the child.
Dr. Suzuki's method is based on the idea that every child can learn (ability), given the proper environment. All children learn to speak their native language, with few exceptions. We do not call this talent, but recognize that language has been in their surrounding environment since birth.
The key principles include:
Just as how a child learns to talk, parents are involved in the musical learning of their child. They attend lessons with the child and serve as “home teachers” during the week. One parent often learns to play before the child, so that he or she understands what the child is expected to do. Parents work with the teacher to create an enjoyable learning environment. Parental involvement is one part of the Suzuki Parent-Teacher-Student Triangle.
The early years are a critical period for developing mental processes and muscle coordination. Listening to music should begin at birth; formal training may begin at age three or four, but it is never too late to begin.
Children learn words after hearing them spoken hundreds of times by others. Listening to music every day is important, especially listening to pieces in the Suzuki repertoire so the child knows them immediately.
Constant repetition is essential in learning to play an instrument. Children do not learn a word or piece of music and then discard it. They add it to their vocabulary or repertoire, gradually using it in new and more sophisticated ways.
As with language, the child’s effort to learn an instrument should be met with sincere praise and encouragement. Each child learns at his or her own rate. Children are also encouraged to support each other’s efforts, fostering an attitude of generosity and cooperation.
Learning with Other Children
In addition to private lessons, children participate in regular group classes and performances at which they learn from and are motivated by each other.
Children do not practice exercises to learn to talk, but use language for its natural purpose of communication and self-expression. Pieces in the Suzuki repertoire are designed to present technical problems to be learned in the context of the music rather than through dry technical exercises.
Children learn to read after their ability to talk has been well established. In the same way, children should develop basic technical competence on their instruments before being taught to read music.