The Suzuki Method of Musical Education
Listening and Practice The Suzuki Method of musical instruction follows a child's natural process of learning. Dr. Suzuki studied the way very small children learn their native language and patterned his music instruction after this system of learning. By breaking each skill into its smallest component parts, and having students practice each component consistently, Dr. Suzuki discovered that any child, regardless of aptitude, could learn to play a musical instrument as easily and naturally as learning to walk or talk.
Learning By Doing
An important element of the Suzuki Method is the attention paid to sensory development. Just as children learn to talk by imitating sounds that they have heard, and walk by imitating motions that they have seen, Suzuki students learn to imitate the way their role models, teachers and parents physically manipulate the musical instrument in a constant effort to reproduce the music that they hear. If you have ever heard a Suzuki student perform, you know how successful this method is with even the smallest children.
Musical "Reading Readiness"
So, when do Suzuki students learn to read sheet music? When they are reading ready. The same guidelines that classroom teachers apply in determining when to teach a child to read the written word are used in the Suzuki Method to determine when to teach a child to read sheet music. This means that a great deal of time is spent on "musical reading readiness" activities. All of the activities that develop ear training, musical comprehension and composition skills are taught in the Solfege class.
Group lessons are another element of the Suzuki method. In group classes, students have an opportunity for social interaction with other young musicians. Students are placed in groups according to their playing level. The classes offer an opportunity for the students to work on performance techniques in a familiar environment built on trust. The confidence they gain here serves them well in performances that are more public.
The Learning Triangle
Private lessons are where the "learning triangle" of the Suzuki Method is formed. Student, teacher, and parent work together to help the student advance. The teacher provides the examples and the lessons; the parent then must play the part of home teacher, ensuring that the child practices the components of the lesson each day. While this may seem an intimidating task at first, you do not need to be a musician to be successful in this role. You will also find that if you stick to your practice schedule, you will be getting that "quality time" you have been trying to set aside for your child.
Positive Reinforcement = Success
Music study must build logically and systematically on fundamental skills. To be successful, music study must take place in a loving, supportive and positive environment. In fact, positive reinforcement is a necessary element in teaching very young children any complicated skill. While teaching our children to walk and talk we never scold them for taking a misstep, or misspeaking themselves. We gently correct them through demonstration, and follow their subsequent effort, no matter how humble, with praise and delight. In so doing we motivate our children and provide a trusting, safe environment for them to attempt the next challenge that life sends their way. The Suzuki Method adheres to this philosophy and, if applied to your child's musical training, will enrich the lives of your entire family.
Further information about the Suzuki Method is provided by the Suzuki Association of the Americas.