If you’ve had any exposure to the music education world, chances are you’ve heard something about the Suzuki Method. This method, pioneered by Shinichi Suzuki, has been both deified and vilified. Perhaps you read the article by Mark O’Connor a few years ago calling the man and the whole method a fraud. Perhaps you’ve heard that Suzuki kids play like robots or never learn to read music.
The first of these accusations is simply untrue, and the others paint a very narrow picture of the facts. First, the whole Mark O’ Connor thing is just too silly to talk about. O’Connor has his own method to promote, and his accusations are truly unfounded. You can read about that here.
As far as robotic playing goes, I can show you just as many traditionally taught students who play like robots. Regardless of the method chosen, there are varying qualities of teachers and varying levels of student engagement.
When the Suzuki method was first introduced in the United States, many teachers misunderstood Dr. Suzuki’s intentions regarding music-reading, and introduced it much later than he had intended. In most Suzuki studios, this is now a non-issue.
Many very successful professional musicians began as Suzuki students, and clearly they play very expressively and read music with ease and proficiency.
If that is what the Suzuki Method is not, then what is it exactly?
The Suzuki method is more than just the pieces included in the Suzuki Violin Books. Edward Kreitman, author of Teaching From the Balance Point, breaks down the Suzuki method into three main areas: philosophy, curriculum, and technical concepts.
In this first post of this blog post series, I want to talk about the Suzuki Method Philosophy.
The Suzuki Philosophy rests on the idea that talent is not inborn, that every child can learn. The Suzuki Method, sometimes called The Mother Tongue Method, is based on Dr. Suzuki’s discovery that children could learn music quickly and well at young ages by using the same techniques they used as they first began to talk.
After all, children grow up speaking the language of their parents with relative ease, with the greater part of this education occurring before they begin formal schooling.
Children are immersed in an environment where they are constantly listening to others speak. So it should be with their musical education. Suzuki students need to be immersed in a musical learning environment, listening to their Suzuki music and other high quality recordings every day.
“Man is the Child of his Environment.”
Listening is a vital component to learning a musical instrument. Listening provides an aural framework for good intonation, helps with memory, and teaches the child the heights that they can reach on their instrument. Listening to great musicians is inspiring and motivating.
When a child is learning to speak, their every attempt is praised and encouraged. If subtle corrections do need to be made, they follow heartfelt praise and love.
Learning to play an instrument is incredibly difficult and complex. In our eagerness to help our students improve, we must not forget that the best thing we can do to encourage this improvement is to praise what children are already doing well.
“Success breeds success.”
If children believe they are doing well, they will continue to try. If they believe they are failing, they will quickly become discouraged and quit.
When a child is in an environment that supports and encourages learning and growth, that child will thrive. The opposite is also true. Because parents are the biggest influencers on a child’s environment, parent involvement is an incredibly important aspect of the Suzuki Method.
“It is in our power to educate all the children of the world to become a little better as people, a little happier.”
Of course, much more could be said about the philosophy behind the Suzuki method. I highly recommend reading, Nurtured By Love by Dr. Suzuki, I’ve also created a free study guide to go with the book. To be successful in your Suzuki journey with your child, you truly only need to remember that your child learns best in a positive, supportive, and musically-immersive environment.
How do you create this kind of environment in your home? Please share your ideas in the comments!
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