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The Suzuki cloud (the triangle reinvented)


When I was first starting out teaching, the "Suzuki triangle" was a main point that kept getting made. To be honest, it got made so many times that I got bored because it's really not that complicated. There are three people involved in the learning process: the child, the parent and the teacher. This is not rocket science, it's also not massively exciting, and yet it has been made into the subject of countless lectures and seminars. I've avoided going on about this "magic triangle" myself because there are three people involved. That's it. Let's move on.

There is an old adage, sometimes attributed to various African cultures, which states that it takes a village to raise a child; that regardless of biological influence, the responsibility of care and education falls to the community. In the modern world, with the decline of the physical village we need to make our own, and we do that through groups, performances, book parties, celebrations and making connections through the common ground that is Suzuki education.

Having been reminded of the triangle recently, I remembered that one of my constant problems with it is the over simplification: there are three people at the centre of the system, certainly, but this is not a three-person system in isolation, it consists of much more than three people and overlaps other people's systems. There are siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nannies, friends, and neighbours involved; even the milkman has been known to be drafted in as an impromptu audience on occasion.

Anyone who is involved in a child's life, be it fleetingly or consistently, is part of their system, so I came up with the idea of a Suzuki Atom, with the child, teacher and parent at the nucleus, and all the rest of the village in the electron cloud, with a probability of being close or further away to the nucleus depending on time and place, and the ability to interact with other systems that come into contact. It's an imperfect analogy, but one that I like so I'm going to go with it.

The roles of the child, parent and teacher have been well defined, and will be the subject of another post, but the role of the cloud is rarely specified, so here it is: people on the periphery are cheerleaders, audiences, PAs, chauffeurs and many other roles I can't think of right now. Without the cloud the nucleus lives in isolation and doesn't interact with other systems. Who is in your cloud? Do you have a grandparent who watches the other child while lessons are happening? A nanny who provides transport? A friend who let you invade their home and use their piano when you were between houses? Were you that friend to someone else? Right now I'm remembering all the people who helped me to become what I am, and I'm sending them all a huge, if silent, thank you.


Happy Practising.

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