The Denison University Suzuki Program

Our mission is to create a positive, musical, learning partnership among faculty, students, and their parents/practice partners by following the philosophical principles and educational methods developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki so that children can grow into loving and respectful individuals who will have a positive effect on their world.

Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

(October 17, 1898 – January 26, 1998) was a violinist, educator, philosopher and humanitarian from Japan whose career lasted over fifty years. His work with children, families, and teachers had its effects all over the world. He believed in fostering the potential in every young person. Just as all children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue, Suzuki believed that any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability. While many world-class musicians are Suzuki trained, it is important to remember that Dr. Suzuki did not develop his method to produce professional musicians. Instead, he strived to develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance in his students and to create noble human beings.

Basic Principles of Suzuki Talent Education

Parent is the teacher and example

Parents are a child’s very first teacher when they begin studying
language. Similarly,they are the home Suzuki teacher, guiding students
through the main practice points from the private lesson. Parents set
the example and children are eager to imitate the parent.

Advantages of beginning early (or as soon as possible)

The early years in a child’s life are critical for developing mental
processes and muscle coordination. For example: children’s aural
capacities are at their peak between ages 3- 5 and are starting to
decline by ages 7 – 8. Dr. Suzuki felt listening to music should start
in the womb and formal music training should begin around age 3 or 4.
Children learn by imitation and the easiest time to develop musical
sensitivity is in early childhood.


Listening to music is a very important aspect of the Suzuki
approach. Children learn language easily by being immersed in a
speaking environment. Students listen to recordings of the pieces they
will learn. This will set the standard of good tone and musicianship
and helps them learn pieces more easily.


In language development, children will learn a word and continue to
use it while adding more new words to their vocabulary. Suzuki students
do the same thing when learning their instruments, gradually taking
skills they have learned in past repertoire, and using them in new and
more sophisticated ways in the following pieces. Mastery of skills is
much easier when the learning of new skills and musical concepts
happens in the context of familiar pieces.

Encouragement is key

Suzuki teachers and parents strive to maintain an encouraging
environment within a process that works toward high standards and leads
students to achieve many goals. Suzuki educators make learning fun by
using games, praise and laughter. The environment is rich with respect,
support and openness. Each student works at her own pace. Skill
learning is broken down into a step-by-step system allowing success to
be experienced with mastery of each step. Feeling successful is
encouraging and breeds further success.

Individual and group lessons

Students are taught one-on-one instruction in the form of a weekly
private lesson. Students learn in a group setting too. The group lesson
is very motivating for students and is where a tremendous amount of
refinement takes place. Suzuki students like to watch other kids
working at all levels of development. They aspire to be like the more
advanced students, while at the same time they are working alongside
peers and appreciating the hard work of those following in their

Graded repertoire

Suzuki students learn musical concepts through folk songs, Suzuki’s
original compositions and aesthetically pleasing repertoire written by
great composers of western music rather than by learning dry technical
exercises. Dr. Suzuki designed the repertoire of real music to be
offered in a carefully planned order of building blocks that
incorporate technical development with musical development. All
students play the same pieces in the same sequence and this gives
strong motivation to the younger students who want to play the
repertoire they hear the more advanced students play.

Students learn to read music when they are reading ready

Children first learn to speak before they learn to read. Suzuki
students first learn to play music before they learn to read music.
Suzuki teachers delay the reading of music until the student can focus
and are physically and mentally ready. This allows the teacher, parent
and student to center on good playing posture, beautiful tone, accurate
intonation and musical phrasing.

Checklist for Enrollment in the Denison Suzuki Program

  • Attend the Denison Suzuki Program Information Meeting
  • Fill out the Pre Registration Form and leave it with Jim Van Reeth.
  • Register for Practice Partner Training with Maryfrances Kirsh
  • Locate, peruse, and bookmark the Denison Suzuki webwite:  suzuki.denison.edu
  • “Like” Denison University Suzuki Program on Facebook
  • Purchase and read (both available through Amazon and Kindle):  Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki and Beyond the Music Lesson by Christine E. Goodner
  • Play the reference recording daily.
  • Contact teachers to arrange for observations of lessons. (five observations are recommended)
  • Arrange a lesson time with your individual teacher.
  • Register for lessons at the first private lesson.
  • Enjoy the journey!

Practice Partner Training

Parents and practice partners who are new to the Denison Suzuki Program are required to attend this class.

All parents and practice partners in the Denison Suzuki Program are welcome and strongly encouraged to attend.

Discussion Topics:

  • The philosophy of Shinichi Suzuki
  • The Suzuki Learning Process
  • Listening
  • Review
  • Music Reading
  • What to expect at lessons
  • Home Practice
  • Motivation

This is a class for parents and practice partners only. Please arrange child care for your children.

Please register for this course by calling or emailing:

Maryfrances Kirsh


(614) 580-5220


Instrument Rental/Purchase Information

We ask that you wait until after you have talked to your teacher before renting or purchasing a cello, flute, violin, or viola.  Your teacher will have preliminary activities for you and your child to master before actually playing the instrument.  The better your child is “set up” on the instrument, the more successful he or she will be.

Your teacher will have the best information about instrument rental and purchase, and will need to measure your student so that the size will be the correct fit.


Standard student flutes can be rented from Martin Music (Newark), Music and Arts (Westerville and Columbus), C. A. House (Lancaster).  Cost is approx. $20 – 30 per month, with various plans that can apply rental payments to eventual purchase.  However, for very young students (up to about 4th grade), curved headjoint flutes are optimal and none of the stores in the area offer rentals on these.  Purchase of a curved headjoint flute can cost $400 (used) upward to $600-$800.


The Denison Suzuki piano teachers have a long history with Graves Piano and Organ.  There are many other places to find serviceable pianos in the Central Ohio area as well,  and you may already have one in your home.  We ask that your piano be tuned every six months by a registered piano technician.   You can find one in your area by using the Piano Technicians Guild technician search.  Having your piano tuned regularly is crucial in developing your child’s ability to identify pitches and the distance between them.

Celli, Violins, and Violas:

The Denison Suzuki string teachers have a long history with The Loft Violin Shop.  We recommend that you meet with your teacher first for specific instructions, and then contact The Loft for a time when you can visit the shop and meet with one of their staff.  You will also need an electronic tuner or tuning app for your electronic device.


Suzuki families listen daily to the recording of the book they are currently studying.

Daily listening:

  • develops our ears for note sequences
  • helps us recognize patterns in the music
  • aids in memorizing the music
  • helps us recognize and reproduce beautiful tone, dynamics, and phrasing
  • makes learning the pieces easier
  • helps us identify wrong notes

We encourage two types of listening:

  • playing the recording in the background during other activities
  • concentrated or intentional listening


  • Make copies of the CD so you can listen in different places (bedroom, car, living room).
  • Record both the current and next piece for concentrated listening.
  • Listen to the next book level for variety.
  • Identify the titles and composers.
  • Sing the melodies.
  • Listen for the week’s practice focus from your lesson (loud/soft, staccato/legato, etc.).

Practice Every Day You Eat

Daily practice should include:

  • Review pieces
  • The latest polished piece
  • New skill or small parts of the newest piece
  • Reading pieces (if applicable)
  • Other assignments given by your teacher

Practice Idea

Violinist Katie S. and her practice partner mom, Kathy, have this idea to share:

Student and Parent/Practice Partner select a candle and put it in a safe place in or near the practice area. Light the candle only during practicing. When the candle has burned all the way down, celebrate with a predetermined outing or treat. This candle can be large or small, depending on the practice goal.

Why Review?

Review forms a solid foundation of musical skills.

The Suzuki philosophy is based on the premise that children learn their language from listening to their parents. When a child learns to say a word, usually parents are quick to encourage him to say it again and again (although he never seems to say it on que!). When a student learns a musical concept, he is encouraged to do it over and over again.

Review helps the student reach a higher level of musicianship.

Adding a new skill to review pieces is more effective than adding it to a new one. The student can focus on the new skill because he already knows the piece well. Once the skill is mastered in a review piece, it can then be incorporated into the newer pieces.

Review increases stamina.

Playing an instrument involves physical activity. Playing comfortable, polished pieces consistently over time is like an exercise program. It increases muscle tone, endurance, flexibility, and coordination.

Review builds a musical vocabulary.

Music consists of pitches and patterns that, over time, the student will learn to recognize and anticipate through consistent review.

Review can be a positive experience.

Learning a piece well enough to add it to the review list represents a great accomplishment. Reviewing these polished pieces increases confidence and self assurance.

Review encourages community.

Suzuki students all learn the same pieces of music and can share their musical journey with others. They can also share their polished repertoire with family and friends.

What are some different ways to review?

Review with a focus.

Check your notes for a technical or musical point that was important to a particular piece when you were first learning it. There may be more, but only focus on one at a time.

Review for fun.

Make a list of the review pieces that you and your student especially like. Play these on days when you both need a lift or a boost.

Review in a different place.

Choose another room for review or go outside. Pianists can play their pieces in a different octave.

Review pieces that are similar.

Find a common theme for your review: Play all the pieces with the same titles. (Piano Book 3!! Sonatina, Sonatina, Sonatina …) Play all the pieces with staccato/legato or fast/slow. Play all the pieces that are in the same key.

Review with a chart.

List review pieces under the days of the week or have an “A” and “B” list. Use a chart to keep track of the number of repetitions.

Review the same time each day.

Check your schedule to find a time you can set aside just for review. Keep this up for about a month and it will be a habit (or your schedule will change and then you’ll have to find another time!!)

Review with a goal.

Choose the number of review pieces or the amount of time to spend on review each day. Mark on your calendar when you have completed the goal for the day.

Review for a special occasion.

Call your local retirement home or go visit your favorite relative and give them a concert. Offer to play for a school class.

Review with a friend.

Invite another Suzuki family over for an afternoon of music-making.

Review in the form of a story.

Tell a story about what is happening in the piece (aides in memory)


Suggested Reading

  • Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki
  • To Learn With Love – A Companion for Parents by William and Constance Starr
  • They Are Rarely Too Young… and Rarely Too Old to Twinkle by Kay Collier Stone
  • Helping Parents Practice: Ideas for Making It Easier by Edmund Sprunger

For more information about the Suzuki Method, visit The Suzuki Association of the Americas.

For more information about the Denison University Suzuki Program, contact the Program Director, Jim Van Reeth, at vanreethj@denison.edu