Key Elements of the Suzuki Philosophy
Every Child Can
Talent is inside every child. It only needs to be developed and nurtured. Wonderful violinists are talented learners. “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.” (Dr. Suzuki)
Age 3 to 5 is ideal. Children are naturally eager to please. They delight in repetition. Babies and very young children do not distinguish between work and play. When introduced early, music becomes a natural part of daily life rather than something imposed by parents or squeezed into an already busy schedule. Also, “young ears are extremely sensitive and open to all sounds in the environment. Never again will they be as keen.” Every Child Can p. A6
The child’s environment must be saturated in music. “If we put children in an environment where music surrounds them, it becomes a part of their being … not just for learning of the materials, and the internalizing of the concept of tone, but for what happens to them inside through this music.” (Kay Slone, “They’re Rarely Too Young … and Never Too Old ‘to Twinkle’ “ p. 9)
Constant listening to Suzuki recordings and classical music is essential to success. “The young child’s rate of progress is directly dependent upon the amount of listening he does. Many students who have been exposed to saturation listening learn new music almost automatically. Their fingers seem to find the right notes without thought.” (William Starr, “To Learn with Love, p. 125) This is not to say that listening is only for the purpose of learning new notes. Ultimately, it is the constant listening combined with growing technical skills that gives the child the ability to share his or her own ideas through music.
With frequent listening a child internalizes the music. Singing inside as well as out loud is essential for developing expression through the violin’s voice.
Involvement with the Parent
A parent (or both) attends every lesson with their child. The parent is the child’s assistant, responsible for structuring daily practice and listening. The parent is an active participant in the practice, encouraging and helping the child do correct and creative repetitions of the assignments. Another huge part of the parent’s role is CHEERLEADER!
The Suzuki Triangle
This is the relationship between child, parent, and teacher. The teacher has the responsibility to explain to parents the Suzuki philosophy and the commitment necessary to fulfill it. The effective functioning of these relationships is essential to the success of the Suzuki Method.
Lessons and practice should be a happy experience for child and parent. Each child is a miracle. They can do marvelous things. While, it is the parents job to help the child correctly practice the assignments given at the lesson and grow those skills, it is also good for parents to acknowledge accomplishments of the practice, both large and small. It is helpful for parents when commenting, to use “I” statements. “I liked” or “I feel” rather than “that was good.” It is too easy for a child to hear the reverse message inside “that was bad” or even worse, to decode the statement as “you are bad.”
Practice and listening are essential to daily life. “You only have to practice on the days you eat.” Dr. Suzuki says. Parents encounter a much more compliant practicer when the child expects practicing and listening daily because it is just what we do in this family.
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” (Aristotle, Suzuki Principles in Action p. 7)
“Confronted with a high mountain, you cannot reach the summit in one stride, but must climb step by step to approach your goal. Without stopping, without haste, carefully taking a step at a time forward will surely get you there.” (Dr. Suzuki and Suzuki Principles in Action, p. 46)
All learning in the early years is without the written music. Just as children learn to speak their native language before reading, children learn their pieces by ear from the constant listening of their Suzuki recording. At first, small steps are memorized and mastered. Gradually over time, the skill of memorizing expands until it reaches a high level.
Learning with Other Children
Group class, held once or twice a month, gives students the opportunity to explore other areas of being a violinist. In group class we learn and practice the skills of ensemble playing as well as being a leader. We practice making musical decisions, sharing solos, and learning basic music theory and music history.
AKA – review. Daily time practicing previously learned pieces gives the child security and freedom to grow violin and artistic skills without the juggling of new notes. In the words of Dr. Suzuki, “Let your child repeatedly practice the pieces he can already play; emphasize the building of ability with familiar pieces. This fosters fine ability. (There is no need to rush ahead. If a child practices the pieces he knows over and over again so as to play them better and better, ability grows, and remarkable progress is made. This is the Suzuki Method.”) (Where Love is Deep, p. 43)
Growing the Human Being
Developing violin and artistic skills, is a goal, but it is not the only goal or even the primary goal. The primary focus is for students to be growing beautiful and compassionate hearts. Dr. Suzuki said, “The main concern for parents should be to bring up their children as noble human beings. That is sufficient. If this is not their greatest hope, in the end the child may take a road contrary to their expectations. Children can play very well. We must try to make them splendid in mind and heart also.”