Hi everyone, I have been lurking on these boards for 2 years (my favorite naptime activity - I'm too busy reading to take the time to write!) but I HAD to respond to this one! I began Suzuki violin at age 5, have a masters degree in performance with emphasis in Suzuki pedagogy, and have been teaching for 17 years.
Sorry for being long, I just want to make sure anyone reading understands the philosophy.
Dr. Suzuki observed young children learning their native languages so easily and fluently (while he struggled for years to learn German and English) and believed that given a similar environment music could be learned in the same way. (Most famous composers and performers grew up in environments where music-making was as natural as breathing.)
He believed that ALL children have the ability to be fine musicians given the proper environment.
Here is a list of the basic principles and ingredients of the Suzuki approach :
1 Begin as early as possible. Dr Suzuki recommends that ability development begins at birth. Formal training may be started by age 3.
2 Move in small steps so that the child can master the material with a total sense of success, thereby building his confidence and enthusiasm for learning. Each child progresses at his own pace.
3 Either the mother or father attends all lessons so that (s)he understands the learning process, and can feel secure when working with the child as home-teacher. To this end, the parent receives instruction in correct playing posture and all of the beginning steps including the playing of a simple piece. The most important single ingredient for success is the parent’s willingness to devote regular time 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 aproach. The more the student listens to his tapes and CDs, the more quickly he learns. The approach derives from the way all normal children learn to speak their native language.
5 Postpone music reading until 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 the sound: beautiful tone, accurate intonation, and musical phrasing then become a basic part of the student’s earliest training.
6 Follow the Suzuki repertory sequence, for the most part, so that each piece becomes a building block for the most careful development of technique. Equally important is the stong motivation this standard repertoire provides; students want to play what they hear other students play. Constant repetition of the old pieces in a student’s repertoire is the secret of the performing ability of Suzuki students.
7 Create in lessons and home practice an enjoyable learning environment, so that much of the child’s motivation comes from enthusiasm for learning and desire to please. When working with children we should remember Dr. Suzuki’s exhortation that we must come “down to their physical limitations and up to their sense of wonder and awe.”
8 Group lessons, in addition to private lessons, and observation of other students’ lessons are valuable aids to motivation. The child learns from advanced students and from his peers possibly more than he does from his adult teachers directly - children love to do what they see other children do.
9 Foster an attitude of cooperation not competition among students, of supportiveness for each other’s accomplshments.
The Suzuki approach deals with much more than teaching a child how to play an instrument. It seeks to develop the whole child, to help unfold his natural potential to learn and become a good and happy person. The purpose of Suzuki training is not to produce great artists, but to help every child to find the joy that comes through music-making. Though the Suzuki growing process, children thrive in a total environment of support; they develop confidence and self-esteem, determination to try difficult things, self-discipline and concetration, as well as a lasting enjoyment of music, and the sensitivity and skill for making music.
Now a couple comments:
In Suzuki teaching, as in every profession, there are a few great teachers, many who are good, and several that really have no business teaching and give Suzuki a bad name. If you wish to take lessons try to find the best teacher possible.
About reading: It is possible to take Suzuki lessons and not learn to read well, but this is not the fault of the method, it is the fault of the teacher. (A good teacher will devote some time in each lesson to reading and music theory)
I have begun 3-yr olds who were astounding students, and have had many who needed to wait till they were 4 or 5. For it to work with a 3-yr old the child needs to want to play and be somewhat focused, and the parent needs to be 110% committed and willing to work a slow pace in tiny baby steps.
erika - I'll share my experience as a Suzuki kid:
I have performed hundreds of times in orchestras, chamber groups and as a soloist. I am usually not nervous at all though I can be for really important performances. I attribute this to my Suzuki upbringing of performing regularly.
Since I was a Suzuki student memorizing is a piece of cake for me.
I also am a very good sight-reader (years of playing in orchestra is the best thing for this!)
Finally, my ds is 2yrs2mos. He has a box violin, knows how to bow, can do his foot positions, and holds it on his shoulder correctly while I count to 10. He holds the bow across it and bows and sings Twimkle. This is only because he wants to after watching me teach a five-yr old student of mine. In my attachment parenting style I follow his cues and teach him what he is interested in, and in a spirit of fun, never pushing. This is really the true Suzuki philosophy.
Joan, Aaron's mom