Suzuki is known for the young age at which children can learn to play musical instruments “by ear” (the way they learn their native language) but is also a teaching philosophy that extends to other areas of child development. We call ourselves “Suzuki teachers” in our application of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki’s principles of music education and nurturing the whole child.
The core of Suzuki philosophy is not merely teaching “violin skills” but teaching and transforming the child, using the musical instrument as the tool for transformation. My hope is to guide families in providing a nurturing environment where children can thrive under consistent expectations and encouragement, as well as to inspire a pursuit of sensitivity and excellence that will extend beyond music lessons. The effects of music education, and memorable childhood experiences, remain with the student for a lifetime.
Beyond technical skills, I strive to foster overall musicianship – so that music becomes a part of oneself rather than simply instructions on a page:
- Early emphasis on establishing balanced and comfortable physical skills
- Development of memory and “inner hearing” before approaching traditional music-reading
- Early exposure to performing to develop confidence, poise, and desire to share one’s gift
- Collaboration and cooperation among students of all levels and families in the local community
Although children are urged to begin at a young age, it is never too late to pursue the challenge and enjoyment of playing a musical instrument. An older child, teenager, or adult can expect to encounter different advantages and disadvantages, but many of the key principles will still apply.
Key Comparisons to Language
- Every Child Can: With few exceptions, all children learn to speak their native language. We do not call this “talent” – but recognize that language has been in their environment from birth.
- Early Beginning: Children are essentially born with their reflexes and must learn everything else. Exposure to music can begin at any time, but for formal lessons, beginning with pre-instrument skills, I look for a minimum level of social awareness and physical coordination. Both of these are then strengthened through music study.
- Listening & Imitation: Children hear spoken language for months before progressing to babbling and eventually speaking words and sentences; they repeat what they hear. Likewise, it is crucial to listen often to the pieces being studied (and yet to be studied). The professional recording should be played in the background for at least two hours per day.
- Praise & Repetition: We meet children’s first attempts at verbal sounds and subsequent milestones with great excitement and encouragement, which builds their confidence and ability. In playing an instrument, a mentally and physically complex activity, this also means breaking skills and techniques into “small, successful steps” to be repeated and mastered in sequence.
- Repertoire & Review: Language learning is cumulative – that is, we retain and continue to use “old” vocabulary and concepts (ideally). The Suzuki pieces are arranged in an order for technique development. Each one is important and is preparation for a future piece, and we revisit “old” pieces to improve them and use them to practice new skills.
- Delayed Reading: Children learn to speak before they learn to read. I introduce music theory concepts early on, but we wait to “read music” on the instrument until solid basic technique (posture, tone, pitch, rhythm, musicality) is sufficiently developed.
- Parent Involvement: As a major part of the child’s environment, a supportive parent or caretaker is key to progress during the six days between weekly lessons; a Suzuki teacher guides the home adult on being the practice coach. A child who manages regular schoolwork independently can also be reasonably expected to handle music assignments – but can still thrive on support.
- Group Learning: An established Suzuki program includes opportunities to play and learn with other children. A group class setting provides additional social and technical benefits, such as extra practice on skills taught in individual lessons, preparation for ensemble participation, motivation to continue playing, and fun with group music games.
Teacher’s Pledge to Dr. Suzuki
“We realize the unlimited possibilities of early education. We also realize that every child can be educated. Our purpose is to develop this ability and present this fact to the world. We are delighted to be teachers of the Suzuki Method and fully comprehend the responsibilities we have as teachers. We will continue to study teaching in the future with much reflection, and through this continuing study we will be better able to concentrate energies toward better teaching. We solemnly affirm that we will keep this promise as a Suzuki Method Teacher and always do our utmost for our common purpose of educating the children of the world.”