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What the Suzuki method means

It’s always worth taking a moment to think about what Suzuki intended for children, teachers, and parents. While teachers trained in Suzuki pedagogy bring unique abilities to the studio, any family can put these principles in action at home.

  1. Suzuki’s goal was to achieve a more peaceful world through music. Noting that music bridges cultural, language, and geographic boundaries, his hope was that the process of learning music in a nurturing way could help raise citizens with a spirit of empathy and cooperation.

  2. Suzuki believed that talent was not something that only certain children possess but something that could be developed in any child. Suzuki talent education is less like finding a rare pearl in an oyster and more like patiently tending a garden. He believed that consistent methodical work could bring out musical ability in any child.

  3. Suzuki believed that acquiring musical ability should be more like acquiring the ability to speak one’s first language. Children learn to speak in fluent and nuanced ways by listening, mimicry, and patient feedback from trusted others.

  4. Suzuki believed that reading music should come later. Children don’t learn to speak their first language by studying the alphabet or memorizing the difference between a participle and a preposition. They learn with their ears. While Suzuki teachers introduce note-reading at different times, the emphasis on learning first by ear is always there.

  5. Suzuki talent education relies on a triangle of cooperation between student, teacher, and parent. Each has an essential role to play.

  6. Suzuki emphasized that review and refinement of previously-learned music was essential. He wrote: “Raise your ability with a piece you can play.” By continually revisiting older pieces, children apply new techniques with greater ease because they already know them well.

  7. Suzuki preferred consistent progress not rapid progress. “Never hurry, never rest,” was his motto. A graded repertoire, daily practice and listening, excellent instruction from the teacher, and patient feedback from the parent are the keys to consistent progress.

  8. Suzuki believed that students should learn music together. That is why group classes are an important adjunct to individual lessons. When students play together, not only do they have a good time and encourage one another, but they learn to hone their rhythm, intonation, and other abilities in a group.

On a personal note, keeping these principles in mind over the years that our daughter has been playing has been an important guide to the decisions we’ve made in practice. What a privilige to be part of this tradition!

Thanks to Rebecca Ark and Christine Wilson Goodner for feedback on this post.

Written by:

Alan is the main practice partner and accompanist for a young violinist.