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What is the Suzuki Method? Six Reflections.


Ask this question at a Suzuki teacher's conference and you'll get as many answers as there are people there. If you ask parents the same question you'll get a completely different set of answers. The Suzuki Method is a philosophy of education and life, and, like all philosophies, is open to interpretation. There is no one way of "Doing Suzuki", but there are some core tenets which I think most people would agree on.

  1. Talent is learned (not inborn)

  2. Put someone in a positive environment and they'll flourish

  3. Listening is key

  4. Parents are involved

  5. It's really hard work

  6. It's totally worth it

Taking each point one at a time


Talent is learned (not inborn)

No one is born knowing how to do anything beyond fairly basic survival reflexes, which means we all start the same. The birth lottery gives us our environment for learning, good, bad or indifferent, which is why music frequently runs in families - a musical family has music in the family so the family do music ad infinitum.

And yet all children learn the things from their environment: they all pick up the language of their parents; if their parents have two languages, they not only learn both, but do so without confusing the two.


Put someone in a positive environment and they'll flourish

This doesn't just apply to music and language, it applies to everything: a child surrounded by paintings and art materials will paint, one who grows up near the sea (or a pool) will swim like a fish. Create the environment where doing the thing is easy and the thing will be done easily.


Listening is key

The environment mentioned above doesn't always create itself, and the most important thing for music learning is that children are exposed to high quality performances of music so that they know what music is. If they hear their intended repertoire regularly, they know what it is they are trying to achieve. Imagine trying to draw a cat if you had never seen a cat. (Go and look at some of the sculptures in the V & A museum and you'll probably find sculptures of things that were described to the sculptor - there are some very odd looking lions in there!)


Parents are involved

There are days when you want to chuck it all in, when your child is being a brat and you're tired and there are a million other things you could be doing , but you put them in the car and get them to their lesson where they suddenly turn around and be delightful and you wonder what happened to the little monster who was packing a sad ten minutes ago only to get the same attitude as soon as they are out of the teacher's hearing. There are days when it's hard and days when it's harder. You won't notice when it's easy because it's easy. You might notice when it's fun though.


It's really hard work

Daily practice, listening, getting to lessons, groups, concerts, workshops, scheduling, finding the energy to keep going when you don't have it. There are days when you want to chuck it all in, when your child is being a brat and you're tired and there are a million other things you could be doing with your time and money, but you put them in the car and get them to their lesson because you're playing the long game and know that it will pay off later. There are days when it's hard and days when it's harder. You won't notice when it's easy because it's easy. You might notice when it's fun though.


It's totally worth it

I have been fortunate to be doing this for long enough to have seen several cohorts of children grow from pre-schoolers to graduates. Watching them grow and develop as human beings, helping each other, being helped by others, being proud of their and other people's successes and commiserating together on failures (ahem, learning experiences!). Developing maturity and resilience and a genuine love and appreciation for hard work and achievement. I feel genuinely privileged to be allowed to be part of so many peoples' musical journey. If the moulding of children into responsible, empathic, caring individuals isn't it, then what is?


If you've got this far do let me know your own thoughts on the Suzuki philosophy in the comment box, there are no wrong ideas or suggestions as long as they are kind and respectful.


Happy Practising.


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