The Suzuki Philosophy

The Suzuki Philosophy

Dr. Suzuki’s philosophies and life reflect his profound love for children and mankind. Dr. Suzuki believed that all children are talented and should be educated. We all share this philosophy when applied to literacy: we expect all children to master the mother tongue and to achieve a basic level of fluency in speaking, reading, and writing. Our society makes great efforts in teaching each child. The pedagogy principles studied, taught, and applied take into account the broad spectrum of each child’s learning needs. Society assumes that each child has the ability to learn the language.

Dr. Suzuki extends this philosophy to music: all children are musically talented and should be educated. Educators only need to embrace the learning needs of each child and allow each child to achieve a level of musical achievement.

Dr. Suzuki promotes what he calls the Mother Tongue method. From birth, the child will try to imitate the environment around her. This includes all things positive and negative. A child who is immersed in a language will master it well before reaching school age. Dr. Suzuki suggests taking the same approach with music or any other subject matter we desire a child to master. He called his approach, “Talent Education.” The correlations that Dr. Suzuki draws between language and music learning can be summarized in the following table:

Language Learning

Suzuki Music Training

A child listens to language for up to 2 years before speaking much. A child listens to music from birth.
When the child starts to speak even one word, the parents offer strong encouragement. When the child starts lessons, the parents offer strong encouragement.
Parents and teachers review and correct a child’s language as he continues to study. Music pieces are reviewed daily to build a foundation of technical and musical excellence.
All children learn the language. All children master the instrument.

The following points summarize the principles of Talent Education:

    • There is no admission test for children into a Talent Education program. The only prerequisite is that parents are willing to work and follow the program.
    • Talent Education should start early within a child’s life. Initially we create an environment of listening and modeling. As soon as the child is ready, we start with lessons.
    • Parents are an integral part of the Teacher Student Parent triangle necessary for Talent Education. Parents play the most important role in helping create the environment for proper learning
      and in helping teach the child the basics.
    • Reading of music at the instrument is not taught until after the ear and performance technique are developed. (Children can
      start learning to read music away from the instrument from the very beginning, as a separate process form learning to perform. In learning language, babies and children play with alphabet blocks, learn to recognize letters, and memorize the alphabet long before applying these skills to reading.)Skills are taught step by step, and each step must be mastered along the whole process.
    • It is easier for a child to master a technique on a piece that has already been learned instead of a new (and probably more difficult) work that is being learned. Hence, review of pieces on a daily basis is fundamental to Talent Education.
    • The child is exposed to the material being taught repeatedly and in as many different ways as possible.
    • It is imperative that the child have the best environment possible for learning. The child should listen to high quality
      performances of music on high quality equipment. The child should have the proper tools (instruments, foot stools, etc.) available, and the student should be surrounded by excellent models (parents, teachers, fellow students, accomplished performers, and by people in their lives who are passionate about music).

Probably the one philosophy of Dr. Suzuki that impressed me most in my teacher training is his philosophy that we are not only teachers of skill and talent, but we are also teachers of character. Dr. Suzuki charges us with teaching kindness, respect, sensitivity, and high self-esteem. As music teachers, we are in the unique position of being a child’s long term role model who is not part of the child’s family. A child may work with a piano teacher for many years before moving off to another teacher, or even college! This offers us the chance to get to know the child very well and to offer guidance during her growth. What a responsibility, and still what potential for immense fulfillment!

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