Louisville Suzuki String Association, Inc.

The Suzuki Approach to Early Childhod Music Education

What is Suzuki Music Education?

The Suzuki Legacy
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 1920's for further study. After the end of World War II, Dr. Suzuki devoted his life to the development of the method he calls Talent Education. Suzuki based his approach on the belief that “Musical ability is not an inborn talent but an ability which can be developed. Any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability, just as all children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue. The potential of every child is unlimited.” Dr. Suzuki's goal was not simply to develop professional musicians, but to nurture loving human beings and help develop each child's character through the study of music. Suzuki students are children whose parents may have little or no musical experience. Their parents have simply chosen to introduce them to music through the Suzuki approach, a unique philosophy of music education developed over forty years ago by Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki.

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 continual review and performance
· Students perform frequently, individually and in groups.

Every Child Can Learn
Dr. Shinichi 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. The ideas of parent responsibility, loving encouragement, and repertoire building, are some of the special features of the Suzuki approach.

Parent Involvement
As when a child learns to talk, parents are involved in the musical learning of their child. They attend lessons, Workshops, and Institutes with the child and serve as "home teachers" during the week. Parents work with the teacher to create a loving, enjoyable learning environment.

Early Beginning
The early years are crucial for developing mental processes and muscle coordination. Listening to music should begin at birth; formal training may begin at age three or four, but it is never too late to begin.

Children learn words after hearing them spoken hundreds of times by others. Listening to music every day is important, especially listening to pieces in the Suzuki repertoire so the child knows them immediately.

Repertoire Building
Children do not learn a word or piece of music and then discard it. They add it to their vocabulary or repertoire, gradually using it in new and more sophisticated ways. The pieces in the Suzuki books provide a strong foundation of technique and musicality that carries from one playing level to the next. Students memorize each piece and continue to perform all pieces they have learned during review practice each week, and at Workshops and Institutes.

As with language, the child's effort to learn an instrument should be met with sincere praise and encouragement. Each child learns at his/her own rate, building on small steps so that each one can be mastered. Children are also encouraged to support each other's efforts, fostering an attitude of generosity and cooperation.

Learning with Other Children
In addition to private lessons, children participate in regular group lessons and performance at which they learn from an are motivated by each other. Attending weekend Workshops and week long Institutes with other Suzuki families provides the social setting and high quality instruction in which children may learn the joy of music.

Reading Music
Children learn to read books after their ability to talk has been well established. In the same way, children develop basic technical competence on their instruments before being taught to read music. Learning to play by ear solidifies intonation and musicality and aids memorization. Generally, by the time children are reading books proficiently they are ready to begin note reading.

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