Shinichi Suzuki, a violinist and teacher, carried his lifelong interest and sympathy for children into postwar Japan. Encouraged by their ability to assimilate the mother-tongue, he saw a great opportunity to enrich children’s lives through music. His primary goal was not to teach young people only how to play musical instruments; rather he championed the unique contribution music can make in the child’s total learning process.
“It is necessary to be concerned about the importance of educating a really beautiful human spirit” – Shinichi SuzukiSuzuki believed that talent is not an accident of birth. He believed that the potential of every child can be highly developed if he or she is given the proper training and learning environment. Because Suzuki was himself a violinist, he applied his theories first in teaching very young children to play the violin. The Suzuki method or approach now includes flute, piano, cello, viola, guitar, harp, and recorder. Talent Education now has thousands of students the world over – all sharing the same repertoire and able to gather and play together at any time.
The basic principles and ingredients of the Suzuki approach are:
1. Begin as early as possible. Ability development begins at birth. Formal training may be started at age 4.
2. Move in small steps. This way, the child can master the material with a total sense of success, thus building confidence and enthusiasm for learning. Each child progresses at his/her own pace.
3. A parent attends all lessons. This way the parent can understand the learning process and feel secure when working with the child as home-teacher. The most important ingredient for success is the family’s willingness to work closely with the child and the teacher.
4. Daily listening to recordings of the Suzuki repertoire, as well as good music in general, is the nucleus of the Suzuki approach. The more the student listens, the more quickly he/she learns. The approach evolved from the way children learn to speak their native language.
5. Introduce note reading and music theory when the child’s aural and instrumental skills are well established; just as we teach children to read a language only after they can speak. This enables the main focus of the teacher’s and student’s attention to be on accurate intonation, beautiful tone, and musical phrasing as part of the student’s earliest training.
6. Follow the Suzuki repertoire sequence. In this way each piece becomes a building block for the careful development of technique. Standardized repertoire provides motivation for the student to learn pieces more advanced students are playing. Frequent review of the older pieces in the student’s repertoire is the secret to mastering skills.“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.” – Shinichi Suzuki
7. Create a positive, enjoyable learning environment – both at home and in the individual lesson. Much of the young child’s motivation comes from enthusiasm for learning, the desire to please, and the encouragement of parents and teachers. When working with children, we should remember Dr. Suzuki’s idea that we must come “down to their physical limitations and up to their sense of wonder and awe.”
8. Group lessons are an essential part of the Suzuki approach. Children learn from seeing and hearing advanced students. They love to do what they see other children do. Group lessons teach ensemble playing and aid in reviewing pieces. Group lessons are fun!
9. Foster an attitude of cooperation and not competition among students and parents. Encourage students to support each other’s accomplishments.
Talent Education combines listening, practicing, and performing – all under the careful supervision of parents and teachers. The Suzuki approach deals with much more than just teaching a child to play an instrument. It seeks to develop the whole child, to help unfold his/her natural potential to learn and become a good and happy person. The overall purpose of Suzuki training is not to produce great artists, but to help every child to find the joy that comes from music making. However, should students seek to become professional musicians, they will have a foundation of solid technical skills, musicianship, and performance.