THE SUZUKI METHOD
When you stumble across a leaflet offering a music course, the first question coming to your mind is “Why should I choose this course for my son?”. In today’s world, it’s easy to find lots and lots of offers and proposals. The most appealing ones are related to the concept of “ learning something easily”. Online courses, video lessons, trying out more and more instruments for fun, doing musical activities like in a rec center …. Places where parents can take their children for an hour while they do shopping or come back to work … without even knowing what their children do there. It seems that todays parents are too busy to do anything with their children, and they need some place where to “put” them, and someone else to look after them all the time. No matter what the goals of these activities are and what the children will learn or obtain being there. Lots of music course for children, in fact, don’t have specific aims or a clear method. Particularly if they are for very young children, the accent of the offer is on “experimenting”, “free their abilities”, “express their personality”, “exploring”, “improvising” and so on … without real learning goals. Well, Suzuki method is different. First of all, it’s NOT easy. It is easy for the children, who learn having fun and using their natural abilities. But it’s NOT easy for the parents. You’ll have to take part at every lesson. You’ll have to learn music too. You’ll have to be there together with you children. With your whole self, with your mind and your heart. You won’t take and bring your child back, but you’ll spend hours, days, months and years WITH him. Learning with him, playing with him, having fun with him and growing up with him. Your life will change forever. It won’t literally be the same again. It’s better you know it from the start. Because Suzuki method is a method for growing up with an instrument and THANKS TO it. It’s an educational method, and it’ll give you and your child something which you will never forget and which will last forever. You will both become happier and better human beings and througout a musical instrument. In my opinion, that’s no small thing.
THE MOTHER TONGUE METHOD : WHY AND HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO START SO EARLY?
In the Suzuki method’s leaflet, you have read these courses are for very young children. Aged 3, 4 and sometimes even 2 years old. All the other courses “say” it’s impossible to start playing before 7 or 8 years of age. Because a child would need high concentration and reading skills to learn an instrument. Well, this is not true. In the Thirties, a man called Shinichi Suzuki discovered that every child could learn to play an instrument very early. Way before being able to read or write, with the Mother tongue method. Every child learns to speak his mother tongue from a very young age, being immersed in a certain linguistic environment, listening and imitating what he hears. Learning music could happen in the same way. Listening, imitating, repeating movements, gestures and sounds. By trial and error and with a parent or an adult’s prompt and support. Why so early then? Because, as a growing body of research proves, starting early is easier. Untill 3 years old every child has an incredible potential only waiting to be developed. Learning the correct posture and bow hold is much easier at 3 than it is at 7 or 8. Acquiring a beatiful ringing tone on an instrument is a natural thing for younger children. But it becomes harder and harder as the child gets older. Just like speaking a new language. Children up to 3 years old can acquire another language in a very brief span of time and without any accent. Learning an instrument at a very young age is also a natural and spontaneous thing and a great fun. Some people are critical towards this approach because they imagine a 3 years olded stuck in front at a music stand for hours and hours. On the contrary, in the Suzuki method each lesson is full of movements, enjoyable and varied. So no child is obliged to stay still reading a music sheet for hours. Instead he can have fun and express himself, only in a frame of discipline, self control and clear and appropriate –for-his-age rules.
Like I said before, what makes the Suzuki method unique is first of all parental involvement. This is not a “parking course”. Instead it’s an experience of sharing something very important with your child. A priceless opportunity of actually doing something WITH your child. Before it’ll be too late because he will be grown up. This will deepend and tighten you relationship and it’ll become a life changing experience both of you will never forget. But there is also a teaching reason for this requirement. A very young child hasn’t sufficient skills to make an independent home practice. He needs supervision, help and feedback from an adult. Home practice is essential to actually learn an instrument, but it has to be guided and supervised, especially at a young age, and sometimes even later. Independent practice will come with the time. Still it will be a gradual acquisition, not something a child will have from the start. That’s why this type of learning can take place only if a parent is involved in the whole process. Starting from each lesson and going on at home. Independence is something acquired and developed, not inborn. Moreover, the mother tongue method requires the creation of a “musical environment”. Which would be impossible to create without the involvement of the entire child’s life entourage.
To create a musical environment, we obviously need music. A crucial part of the Suzuki method is its repertoire, which becomes the child’s new language. A cd comes along with each Suzuki’s book, and the child has to listen to it as often as possibile. Just like a newborn who learns his mother tongue by listening to people who speak, a Suzuki child has to learn the repertoire by listening to the recording. It’s important to provide the child with as many opportunities as possibile to listen to it.
Another typical question parents ask themselves is “How can I understand if my child does want to play an instrument?”. In the Suzuki method’s view, this is a nonsense question. Choosing musical learning for your child should be, in fact, an educational choice. Playing an instrument is a gift for your child’s present and future life. It’s not just about “playing the violin”, it’s much more. Children who play an instrument become wonderful human beings with superior abilities. Thank to the violin they learn how to be patient, kind, happy and loving people. They acquire higher skills in language, reading, writing, mathemathics and logic. They can control themselves, wait for a result, reflect about things and help other children. They learn to fight fot their goals and to be not taken aback if they fail. They are capable of constance, determination and resilience. They are stronger and more self confident, in a positive way. Therefore this choice should be made by their parents who want to give them a spectacular and unforgettable life. Motivation should come from the parents and not (just) from the child. Asking a 3 years olded to make a so important choice is, moreover, dangerous and wrong. A very young child shouldn’t have a so heavy burden on his shoulder. But this is not all. Making an important choice and stuck to it is hard even for an adult. Think about how many times you applied to a course but you wanted to quit after few lessons. Perhaps you liked it, but it was not easy to carry it on each week. A day you wake up and you had some other things to do, or you were simply tired. Shouldn’t it be like this for a very young child? Motivation for any activity is never completely intrinsic and it rarely lasts for a very long time. It’s in the human nature to want to change, try other things or quit after a while. But if we allow our child to quit after few lessons, he won’t have learnt anything. Endurance, strength and motivation develop also thanks to moments of tiredness. Similarly, mistakes and failure are part of learning and they shouldn’t become an excuse to give up. There are many strategies to support children’s motivation, and you teacher will show you how to use them. Meanwhile, you as parents will have to teach your child how to love his instrument, music and home practice. This will be you biggest task.
When the students are ready to take part at group lessons, it’s hard for the parents to understand why they are so important. They are indeed an essential part of the method. Playing in a group helps to review the repertoire once more, in different ways, and it offers opportunities to listen to more advanced pieces. Peer tutoring is also very effective as it enhances motivation, self confidence and willingness to learn. Your child will find role models in his peers and he will learn how to cooperate, work in a team and help the others. Seeing older kids who are more advanced gives, to the pupil as well as to the parents, a clear picture of what will be their future musically speaking. That’s why taking part consistently at group lessons is vital for a Suzuki student.
REPETITION AND REVIEW
Young children learn by watching, listening and imitating. Repetition is natural to them and it’s something they look for and love. They like doing the same things over and over again. Suzuki method, then, follows this natural predisposition every child has. Repetition and review can be enjoyable and fun. For the children more than for the parents! But your child will love to listen or play the same song once again, and he will learn better and better.
CONCLUSIONS : DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR!
Your life could change forever.
That’s what could happen to you :
- You’ll develop an obsession for the “Everybody down up” rhythm, and you’ll find yourself tapping and drumming it without even noticing. In each- single - available - surface.
- You’ll go to bed and wake up with the Twinkle melody in your head. And it’ll soon become your favourite song ever.
- You’ll have to explain to your neighbours and friends that playing an instrument at 3 is not slavery, but is the greatest gift you could have given to your child. And NO, your child is not a genius, because EVERY CHILD CAN LEARN.
- You’ll be back to school. You’ll learn violin basics, posture, rhythms and notes.
- You’ll find time yourself to practice with your child every day and everywhere, to support and catch his motivation.
- You’ll spend lots of weekends away for concerts, masterclasses and music events.
- Your whole family will be involved in the child’s musical experience.
I’ve warned you …. Still, if you feel ready to live the most involving and unforgettable experience of your and your child’s life …. Just open that door!!