Occasionally parents in my studio complain that they are sick of the Suzuki pieces. “My child is so sick of their pieces, so we haven’t been doing our review.” More often, I ask for a review piece and the result is a lot of fumbling fingers and memory slips.
Why, when it would be so much easier not to, do we keep playing all of these old Suzuki review pieces?
1. The Suzuki Method is the mother tongue method! When a young child learns new words, they don’t master them and never say them again. They repeat them over and over and become a part of the child’s vocabulary. The Suzuki pieces should be acquired in the same way.
2.Repetition is the mother of skill and the key to retention. Did you ever cram for a test? Most of the information I frantically studied in high school and college, I have not retained. On the other hand, I can play (with ease) almost every piece I learned from age six onwards. (Even before I became a teacher.)
3. The ability to perform old familiar pieces at a moment’s notice really boosts a child’s confidence. What can shake a child’s confidence is returning to a piece a month later to find that they are unable to play the piece they worked so hard to perfect.
4. The choice of music included in the Suzuki literature is strategic. Each piece builds on the ones that came before, preparing students for difficulties ahead. The skills learned and polished in these pieces need consistent repetition so that they become natural and easy. If we want our students play Mozart Concerto with ease, they must consistently review the skills they learn in each of the pieces leading up to it.
5. The shared repertoire contributes to the feeling of community among Suzuki students around the world. We can gather together and all play the same pieces. It is truly powerful to see hundreds of young children on stage playing together. Moved after hearing a group of Suzuki students play, Pablo Casals, the famous cellist, remarked, “Perhaps it is music that will save the world.” Keeping up the standard repertoire makes activities like these possible, and opens up more opportunities for collaboration with other students.
Still, I understand the pain that students and parents feel. Sometimes I get sick of some of the Suzuki pieces too. I, and a lot of other Suzuki teachers, supplement the Suzuki literature with repertoire from other sources to keep things fresh. If your teacher does not do this, maybe you could nicely ask your teacher if they are willing to try something different in addition to the Suzuki literature. Some fiddle tunes and other contrasting pieces can really liven things up!
You can also be creative in practicing the review pieces. Maybe some silliness would make these review pieces less of a drag? Standing on the couch, playing with the bow upside down, whatever silly thing you can think of to add some novelty to the practice session.
How do you make the Suzuki review pieces more fun? Please share your ideas in the comments!