Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) was born in Japan and studied western music in Germany in the 1920s. He first began teaching young children in Japan in the 1930s and further developed his ideas and philosophy of teaching during the post-war period. Shinichi Suzuki was a violinist, educator, philosopher and humanitarian. Born in 1898, he studied violin in Japan for some years before going to Germany in the 1920s for further study. His approach to teaching has now spread to many parts of the world and is proving increasingly successful everywhere. Because he was a violinist, he first applied his ideas to the teaching of violin, but it has since been used with many other instruments, in nursery school teaching and other more general areas.
More than fifty years ago, Suzuki realized the implications of the fact that children the world over learn to speak their native language with ease. He began to apply the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music, and called his method the mother-tongue approach. The ideas of parent responsibility, loving encouragement, constant repetition, etc., are some of the special features of the Suzuki approach. The Suzuki Method is based on the principle that all children possess ability and that this ability can be developed and enhanced through a nurturing environment. All children learn to speak their own language with relative ease and if the same natural learning process is applied in teaching other skills, these can be acquired as successfully. Suzuki referred to the process as the Mother Tongue Method and to the whole system of pedagogy as Talent Education.
How does Talent Education differ from other methods of teaching music to children?
Thoughtful teachers have often used some of the elements listed here, but Suzuki has formulated them in a cohesive approach. Some basic differences are:
- Suzuki teachers believe that musical ability can be developed in all children.
- Students begin at young ages.
- Parents play an active role in the learning process.
- Children become comfortable with the instrument before learning to read music.
- Technique is taught in the context of pieces rather than through dry technical exercises.
- Pieces are refined through constant review.
- Students perform frequently, individually and in groups.
Suzuki originally developed his method for his own instrument, the violin. Materials are now available for viola, cello, bass, piano, flute, harp, guitar, recorder and voice.
I. Traditional Suzuki
- Teachers teach Suzuki repertoire sequence in weekly private lessons and weekly group lessons.
- Group lessons are scheduled in homogeneous or like instrument classes.
- More advanced students may have an orchestra or chamber music ensemble class as well.
- Parents attend private lessons and are taught the Suzuki philosophy and teaching/practicing techniques.
- Parents practice with students daily and encourage daily listening at home.
- Parents have bowed and fingered music for home reference.
- Students learn repertoire by listening and by rote.
- Music reading is postponed until basic technique and intonation are developed.
The Suzuki Method originated in Japan after WWII, but has since spread all across the globe. John D. Kendall of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville brought the Suzuki method, along with adaptations to better fit the requirements of the American classroom, to the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Suzuki Assessment: Daily. They assess their students in each individual lesson and during group lessons, but also agree that it is the parent and the students’ jobs to assess themselves during every practice session.
Learning Activities: Sing, learn/makeup words to songs (Violin Verses), learn sections of songs (A-B-A): Bread-Peanut Butter-Bread, Beat the Teacher.
“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.”
-Tarah Hull and Kristin Suggs