The Suzuki Method.
Also known as the Mother Tongue Method or Talent Education, the Suzuki Method began in Japan in 1948 for violin study. Dr. Shinichi Suzuki evolved his music teaching method after much thought, experiment and enlightenment. He was a philosopher and humanist as well as a teacher and his love for human nature, and especially children, led to the formation of his teaching method.
Seeing how well and easily young children learnt their language, or Mother Tongue, Suzuki came to the conclusion that this was a great ability and as every child, physically well enough to do so, achieved a high degree of competence in his language, so it could be possible to learn anything using the same method. A baby learns from his mother how to articulate sounds and later words. The process of language acquisition is built up from birth in small steps using listening and copying skills, and the child absorbs the sounds from the environment.
The Suzuki Method, originating for violin study, now offers tuition on piano, harp, voice, cello. double bass and recorder. Because of the very structured progression of the method, it is suitable for very small children, as young as 3 years old. Learning is centred on listening, learning in small steps, by having first internalised the music, and memorization, which slowly builds up musicianship skills and musical performance. It is an education in itself, giving the child the best start to other areas of learning also. It enables advanced listening, interacting and social skills to develop naturally right from the very important pre-instrument stage of learning.
Just as a mother is responsible for teaching her baby to learn his native language, so the child learns to play his instrument – the mother interacting with the teacher and the child. It is a triangle of learning – the teacher teaches the child in an individual lesson and the mother then continues to teach the child at home. Parent involvement is a very important aspect of Suzuki teaching. Even if the mother has not learnt to play the instrument herself, she will be directly involved in the lesson with the teacher, taking notes and transferring these instructions to the practice sessions at home. This means that the child will in fact be having a lesson every time he practices at home, so making fast and sure progress.
Each teaching book has been carefully designed to follow a strict logical progression. All Suzuki children follow similar repertoire pieces so that they can play together, in unison at summer schools and workshops. It is a non-competitive way of learning with an aim of playing to a high standard with good tone, technique and musicality. There are frequent opportunities to perform in concerts and workshops. Exams are not part of the Suzuki method, although these can be taken. There are graduation days where children play individually and in unison when they have reached a certain standard in the repertoire.
As well as having individual lessons, each child is encouraged to take part in the summer schools and workshops each year as socialising is an important aspect. Teachers also organise group lessons in addition to one to one tuition, as often as once a week, or maybe once a month or once a term. This varies with each teacher, but is a very important part of the Suzuki training. Not only does it give the child and parent an opportunity to socialise, but it enables children to learn from each other and have fun. Children of differing stages in the repertoire are encouraged by listening to others more advanced. It provides an incentive to learn more and gives the less able child the confidence to play and perform without being too much on show.