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.
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
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.