The Suzuki Method was founded by Dr Shinichi Suzuki (click here for a more detailed (although rather dated) video). It combines a music teaching method with a philosophy, which embraces the total development of the child.
Dr Suzuki's guiding principle was "Character first, ability second".
The essence of his philosophy may be found in some quotes from his many writings:
"Where love is deep, much will be accomplished."
"Man is the son of his environment."
"An unlimited amount of ability can develop when parent and child are having fun together."
"Musical ability is not an inborn talent but an ability which can be developed. Any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability just as all children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue. The potential of every child is unlimited".
How does the Suzuki Method work?
Dr Suzuki called his teaching method the Mother-Tongue Approach, inspired by the fact that children so effortlessly learn to speak their native tongue. Prompted and encouraged by the parents' love and the family environment, the child responds and develops this most difficult of skills, that of intelligible speech.
When a child learns to speak, the following factors are at work:
Listening Motivation Repetition Step-by-step mastery Memory Vocabulary Parental Involvement Love
In the Suzuki approach each of these principles is used in the learning of an instrument.
Dr Suzuki closely follows the parallel with language learning and recommends that music should become an important part of the baby's environment from birth (or even before). When the infant's environment includes fine music as well as the sounds of the mother-tongue, it is understandable that the child will develop the ability to speak and to play a musical instrument (with technical guidance) before being required to read in either language. Formal lessons frequently begin as early as 3 years of age.
Children learn to speak by listening and imitating the spoken language they hear around them. In Suzuki teaching, much emphasis is placed on daily listening to recordings of the Suzuki repertoire, as well as music in general. The more frequently the students listen to the recordings, the more easily they learn to play.
Constant listening to music performed with beautiful tone provides children with a role model for their playing. In the lessons, the production of fine tone and sensitive playing is stressed from the beginning.
Parents play a crucial role in The Suzuki Method. Learning takes place in an environment of co-operation between teacher, parent and child. The parent's role includes attending each lesson with the student, taking notes and then guiding them through their practice at home - they become the 'home teacher'. Parents also need to play the recordings daily, help to create an environment of affection, support, encouragement and understanding, and also attend workshops and concerts with their child.
A Positive Environment
A positive, nurturing environment is created in the lesson and is also essential at home. Children learn enthusiastically when they are supported with sincere praise and encouragement. They learn to recognise one another's achievements, creating an environment of co-operation.
One of Suzuki's major contributions to music education is the unique order of the repertoire. Each carefully chosen piece becomes a building block for future learning. Technique, musicianship and style are developed through the study and repetition of these pieces. Through the common repertoire children have a bond with Suzuki students world-wide.
Suzuki teaching also encompasses a range of styles and periods of music as teachers often give supplementary material which help to widen the students' musical experience.
Reading music follows the acquisition of good aural, technical and musical skills, just as reading language begins after a child can speak fluently. The stage at which the child begins to learn reading music varies according to age and general development. However, it will always be after basic playing skills have been mastered to maintain the focus on beautiful tone, accurate intonation and musical phrasing.
Integrating the music reading program with the Suzuki repertoire is vital to the child's musical development.
Individual and Group Activities
As well as their individual lessons, students participate in group lessons or workshops. The common repertoire enables them to play together, giving them valuable ensemble experience and positive reinforcement of concepts learnt in their individual lessons. This is a wonderful motivational tool as children love to do what they have seen other children doing.
Suzuki, Shinichi. Nurtured By Love: A New Approach to Talent Education. Warner bros. Publication, Miami, Florida, 1968