My colleague Brecklyn Smith Ferrin, a Suzuki violin teacher and SECE teacher in Utah as well as a Suzuki mom, recently posted about her almost 5 year-old son who was at the beginning of his Suzuki violin journey with his teacher. He was frustrated and exclaimed words we all have heard, “I can’t do it. I don’t know how.”
His teacher gently encouraged him, giving him her full confidence that he could. When he successfully completed the task, holding the violin under his chin with his head—no hands—he was elated! “It was magic,” his mom says watching the delight on her young son’s face. What did he learn that day? He learned he could! He learned that if he puts his mind to it and tries, he can accomplish things that are hard, things he doesn’t think he knows how to do. In the safety of his Suzuki violin lessons, he is building resilience. With the safety and skill of his violin teacher, he will build his character and even a beautiful heart.
Such are Suzuki violin lessons! Develop a fine musician and, if given a chance, fine character.
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki is the creator of the method that allows even very young children to play the violin very well.
The Suzuki Method relies on exposing children to good music from an early age. Children develop advanced listening skills as well as a memory for pieces they will play. He believed they would then be able to “translate that listening ‘environment’ to a beautiful sound on an instrument.”
His revolutionary method took violin teachers in the US by surprise and delight. Violin pedagogue John Kendall arranged for Suzuki to come to the US in 1964 with 10 Japanese children, ages five to 13, for a concert tour. The tour included New York and 18 other cities, dazzling parents, educators and members of the news media. Seeing and hearing the young children play helped the method gain a permanent foothold in the US.
Violin teacher, Louise Wear switched from traditional teaching methods to Suzuki in 1966, shortly after Dr. Suzuki’s tour. She taught her daughter, Linda Fiore who later studied in Japan with Dr. Suzuki for 18 months and became an accomplished violinist and Suzuki teacher. Louise Wear who began training teachers in the Suzuki Method, says ”The main points of the Suzuki method are start early, parent involvement, lots of listening, lots of repetition, and take one step at a time…Nothing is hit or miss.”
By 1983, Mrs. Evelyn Rubenstein, piano teacher and on the faculty of the U. of St. Louis said “I am impressed with the [Suzuki] method because I have seen the results.” Very young children (and older ones too) performed very well. If playing well means having good tone, then listening is the method. When a child listens frequently to the piece s/he will eventually play, by the time the child is ready to play the piece, s/he can sing it in her head and hear and even correct her own mistakes.
While listening to the same pieces repeatedly might seem tedious, Wear says that she doesn’t mind listening over and over to ”Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” (the first Suzuki piece). ”I’m not listening to the piece of music – I am listening to the child’s development,” she says.
Rubenstein said Suzuki students “learn to play the violin correctly. Their ear is attuned. They can accomplish more because they don’t have to spend time at the beginning learning to sight-read. They can play beautiful things.” The Suzuki Method is excellent for young children. Suzuki-trained musicians who start at a young age seem better equipped and more successful at performing. Their ear-to-hand coordination is developed very well. “They have a sense of pitch and tone that some students using other methods never attain.”
A private Suzuki violin lesson is structured with the teacher, child and parent (sometimes with a baby in tow). The parent watches carefully and take notes for what and how to practice at home. Without notes, parents may not remember the finer details for the week. And the real learning takes place during the practice.
Group class is another reason for success with the Suzuki Method. It’s a lot more fun to play together in groups than to practice alone. We hold weekly group classes in our studio, which our students look forward to.
The past president of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Doris Preucil says the proof is in the pudding. ”Of the next generation of young musicians, many have come from Suzuki programs. You see the quality of the playing, and this cannot be denied. And you see the happiness of the children in what they are doing.” They know they can! Brecklyn’s son’s delight in himself is proof of this.
“They use me only for switching trains in the yard. I have never been over the mountain…I think I can.” The Little Blue Engine
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