When I was in graduate school working on my M.Ed., I had a professor who was enchanted with the Suzuki Method. Briefly: Shinichi Suzuki was a Japanese violinist who developed a unique approach to teaching children to play violin, and the technique has since been expanded and is now used to teach a number of other instruments as well. You can read all about this amazing teacher and humanitarian in his book Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education.
The element of the Suzuki Method that appealed so much to my teacher was his emphasis on encouragement. Dr. Suzuki believed that by giving attention to what you want to nurture in a child, those parts of the child will naturally grow and unwanted behaviors, ignored, will wither.
She liked to tell the story of how Dr. Suzuki’s students would observe him working with a particularly difficult or unskilled student and would wonder what positive feedback he would offer. One time, he was instructing a young child who wasn’t doing anything right – the child had bad tone, had bad tempo, a bad bow hold, the whole nine yards. The students laughed among themselves, convinced that this time, the Master would not be able to find a single positive thing to say. But he did. He told the child, “I really like the way you held your left foot.” The child was positively aglow. “Really?!?!?! That’s exactly what I’ve been working on all week!”
(I must admit that before we started violin lessons, this story made little sense to me. WHY on Earth would anyone care about someone’s left foot? But now I know that posture is an important element of playing the violin, so this makes perfect sense.)
Dr. Suzuki called his method the “mother-tongue approach”. Children learn to talk at their own pace by hearing people use language around them; similarly, the best way to learn music is not by reading music or being drilled on isolated skills. Children taught using the Suzuki Method learn by listening to music and then playing the songs they hear, learning the technical skills required to play the instrument within that context. Parents attend lessons and group classes (social learning is another important element of the method) and act as home teachers, guiding the child’s practice and maintaining a fun learning environment.
So, all this to say that my daughter, who has been studying violin for just under a year, had her first recital this past weekend, and she did great! In case you want to see how she did – and you know you do – here is the video. It’s short, just a minute. Surely you can spare a minute, can’t you?