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The Suzuki Method

What began as one man's humble dream has now become an international phenomenon. "The Suzuki Method", as it is known today, has had a few different names over the years. Originally, Shinichi Suzuki called it the "mother-tongue approach". He reasoned that if children effortlessly learn difficult languages and dialects by ear, then music could also be taught by immersion. This “mother-tongue approach” would become the known as “Talent Education.” This name was rooted in the philosophy that “talent” is intrinsic in every child and that every child can learn if put in a nurturing, supportive, and loving environment. By the 1960’s, word had spread to the United States, and American string teachers were enthralled by how Suzuki’s students played with poise, grace, and a beautiful tone that brought them to tears. The Suzuki Method has an international presence and has expanded from violin to cello, viola, bass, piano, and even the guitar and flute.

Though the Suzuki method has evolved over the decades, there are a number of cornerstones that separates it from any other music education method available.

1. Philosophy: Many valid methods exist for teaching young children. However, The Suzuki Method is unique in that it has an overarching philosophy: that every child can. Additionally, Suzuki believed that development of the person was as important a child’s progress on the instrument. He wanted to create better human beings as well as excellent musicians.

2. Parental Involvement: The single most important methodological difference between Suzuki Method and other methods is that the parent forms the third corner of what is called “The Teaching Triangle” (Student, Parent, Teacher). The parent is expected to attend all lessons, take notes, and ask questions. However, the parent’s involvement doesn’t end when the lesson is over. At home, the parent takes on the role of the teacher and guides their child’s practice every day. It is because of this parental investment, that a child receives 7 lessons a week rather than 1, that Suzuki students develop fine technique and confidence of playing.

3. Starting Young: Children are encouraged to begin as young as three. In the traditional practice of Suzuki Method, this early start was essential. Today, is widely accepted to start children of any age between 3 - 13 and use the repertoire and basic tenants for teenagers and even adults.

4. Listening: An important part of the “mother-tongue method” is complete immersion in the music. Parents should have their child listening to the repertoire CD that accompanies every copy of the Suzuki Method books every day. As a general rule of thumb, students who do their listening every day progress twice as fast as those who do no.

5. Master of Skills: “Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge and ten-thousand repetitions is skill”. While Suzuki’s words may seem harsh, they stare unflinchingly at the truth: don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.” Students in the Suzuki Method are encouraged to achieve a consistently high and reliable level of playing through daily practice. 

6. Happiness: “If we cannot be patient but stop a project halfway through-- then later start again, drop it, start again, and so on-- this kind of repetition will not bring good results. A person who works like that will never rise over difficultes; in the end, he or she will give up the effort as entirely useless or utterly hopeless. Many young people’s unhappiness is caused by such reasoning… It can be said to be a treasure when a person can accomplish and carry through his or her work to the very end.”

- Shinichi Suzuki, "Nurtured By Love"