In his book, Nurtured by Love, world renowned violinist and teacher, Shinichi Suzuki presented the philosophy and principles of his teaching methods for developing the natural abilities of every child. Students begin violin instruction between the ages of 3 - 6 and often achieve remarkable skills at a very early age. An equally important benefit of this instruction is that it encourages deep musical bonding between parent and child. The much-acclaimed Suzuki Method includes a combination of group and individual instruction, and requires a serious commitment of parental involvement.
The basic elements of the Suzuki Method consist of listening, motivation, proper technique, repetition, and reinforcement. The goal is to provide the students and families with the education and resources needed to nurture the whole child, so that each child may develop fine character and musical ability to the fullest potential.
The Suzuki Method has demonstrated that every young person can significantly develop his abilities during the absorbing and sensitive years of early childhood - far beyond what most people can imagine. The approach is that the child learns music by the same process with which he learns his own native language. The role of the parents, therefore, is vital in this learning process. The parent attends essons with the child and helps with practicing at home, and in fact, develops knowledge of the instrument and music along with the child.
Ten Key Elements of the Suzuki Talent Education Philosophy
1. Begin Early. Suzuki has found that children can learn very well beginning at the age of three, and in some cases even earlier. Teaching in the U.S. has substantiated this belief. Children begin learning at or before birth. Most children are ready for instruction at ages 3-4 with some ready before age 3.
2. Learn by Memory. This is the so called "Mother Tongue" approach. All learning in the early years is without printed music. Children learn by small steps, hence memory is developed in a gradual manner until it becomes a high skill. Small children have an almost uncanny ability to work in this manner, the "natural" manner of language learning.
3. Creative Repetition . The analogy to language learning is obvious, since the small child is encouraged to say the same words over and over again until they are mastered. Suzuki limits the amount of material on any given level and encourages much repetition.
4. Active Repertory of all Pieces Learned. In one's native tongue, one never gets to the point where a word is learned only to be forgotten. The Suzuki student constantly reviews the repertoire he has learned, and then effectively reinforces his memory, his technical skill, and his musical expression.
5. Listening to Recordings. As the mother speaks often to her child, so the violin student hears recordings of the pieces he is to learn and becomes knowledgeable regarding a fine violin, cello, or piano tone. This is his environment at home which determines so much of his learning.
6. Involvement with the Parent. Mothers (or Fathers) attend every lesson with the child; encourages him, and helps him practice at home each day. The parent becomes the child's assistant responsible for playing the recordings, encouraging the child, teaching the notes (by rote) and skills, and practicing with the child.
7. Encouragement. The mother of a small child doesn't scold her infant for mispronouncing words he is learning, but encourages him to say it again and again. Likewise, the Suzuki parent must always encourage the child. The lessons should be a happy experience, and the parent and teacher become involved in the marvel of the unfolding process of learning.
8. Step by Step Mastery. Each skill is broken down into small segments easily mastered by the student. It is imperative that these segments (and, later, pieces) be thoroughly mastered before attempting the next step, so as to engineer a "built in" success for each step in the learning process. This takes skill on the part of the teacher to assess the potential and limitations of learning at a given point in order to effectively challenge the learner.
9. Reading after Physical Control. If one uses the analogy of native language learning, one speaks before he learns to read. By no means, however, should memory learning be dropped when one starts to read notes!
10. Every Child Can Learn. Eliminate the talent test, and believe that they can learn to play the violin or any other instrument in the world.