Every mind observes, processes, and produces music in a unique way. As an instructor, one of my primary objectives is to adjust my words and methods to each student's individual gifts. As my teaching style has developed, I have combined methods and skills from both Suzuki and traditional approaches.
In the next column, I have consolidated my thoughts on the Suzuki method. In addition to these points, I would like to add the following as having integral importance:
1. While learning by ear, young children can learn to identify symbols, patterns, and terms in printed music before they actually learn to read it. This greatly expedites the music reading process once they begin!
2. Teaching and careful treatment of "technique," or the precise physical skills required to play the violin or viola cannot be undervalued! So many struggles can be avoided by patient attention to technique from the very beginning.
3. Sight reading and music theory as they directly apply to pieces are ideally applied in lessons rather than a separate class. This more effectively prepares young students for participation in orchestras and the application of their musical skills in other applications.
Suzuki Teaching Philosophy
1. In the Suzuki method, musical education starts when a student is very young, ideally from birth.
2. Parental involvement and direction is central to the learning process. The parent is present at lessons and is the student’s surrogate teacher while at home.
3. Music listening molds and expedites a student’s ability to comprehend and memorize the music on which they are working.
4. There are many technical and aural preparatory steps prior to a student’s learning to playing “songs.”
5. Violin/viola playing is a physical skill that must be accomplished by training muscles, similar to the ways athletes train themselves.
6. Progress through the Suzuki repertoire is twofold: learning new music while maintaining previously mastered pieces.
7. In the Suzuki method, learning by ear comes before learning to read music, just as children learn to speak their mother tongue before learning to read the printed word.
8. The Suzuki method incorporates both private and group study, allowing the student to focus on their own learning needs while also assimilating into an ensemble.
9. The inclusion of group learning in the Suzuki method fosters camaraderie and teamwork rather than competition. Each student progresses at their own pace.
10. The Suzuki method is founded on the principle that learning an instrument is meant to help mold the student not only musically but also their entire person—physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially.