My preferred methodology is the Suzuki approach as it best aligns with the creation of an enjoyable and supportive musical environment that meets with my philosophy and teaching goals.
The Suzuki Method of Talent Education has been and is widely used in violin studios and conservatories around the world. Interestingly, a majority of today's conservatory students, concert artists, and, professional musicians started their instruction within a Suzuki styled teaching environment.
Fifty years ago, the Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki realized that children the world over learn to speak their native language with ease. Applying the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music, he referred to his method as the mother-tongue approach or Talent Education.
The method's guiding philosophy advocates that "every child has ability" and seeks to establish a learning environment which will encourage any child to become a happy, loving and talented human being.
How does Talent Education differ from other methods of teaching music to children?
The four basic principles of Suzuki’s teaching methods are:
Traditional teaching has a child immediately reading music while simultaneously working to develop correct biomechanical skills necessary to play a stringed instrument comfortably. They may or may not be part of a program that supports their activity, and daily parental involvement may not be expected.
The main differences lie in beliefs about reading versus learning by ear, early bow hold, parental involvement, and their preferences in repertoire.
Both methods encourage students to join the local youth symphony, to play in chamber ensembles, and to go to non-Suzuki summer music camps and institutes (the Suzuki Association of the Americas lists a multitude of summer Suzuki Institutes). Both supplement the pupil’s studies with scales, etudes and other pieces as appropriate, read music at a developmentally appropriate time, and sightreads well.
Suzuki or traditional – a good teacher endeavors to develop within their pupils a high level of musicality, playing skills with correct biomechanics, note reading/rhythm/aural skills and theory. A good teacher works to encourage pupils to be positive thinkers and apply the learned skills from violin lessons, like perseverance and the ability to focus, to every aspect of life.
No method of teaching is intrinsically better or worse than any other; it comes down to the skill of the teacher, the motivation of the student, and the chemistry between the two.
Good Suzuki teachers and good traditional teachers are not that far distant from each other, as the ultimate goal for both is to develop a child’s innate musical abilities to the highest level.
A good "traditional" teacher has received a level of competence and training from concert level instrumentalists and pedagogues.
A good "Suzuki" teacher has received a level of competence and training from concert level instrumentalists and pedagogues, and, additionally, has augmented their teaching methodology with extra training and certifications in the Suzuki methodology and philosophy.
Ultimately, good teaching is just that - finding the right approach to every individual despite the skill level and age.
Good teaching is a group endeavor of the teacher, parent, and student. A solid Suzuki based program that utilizes the latest concepts of technic with the supportive philosophy of ongoing parental encouragement, creates a positive path to increase capability and readily moves a young child from basics to advanced technic and musical expression. Isn't this a perfect melding?
Interestingly, Paul Rolland, a highly influential American string pedagogue and Mimi Zweig, founder of the Indiana University String Academy, knew and respected the methodology of Suzuki. Ms. Zweig melded into her own approach the teachings of both Shinichi Suzuki and Paul Rolland, as well as several highly respected teachers, including Josef Gingold, Tadeusz Wronski, Janos Starker, and Jerry Horner and Samuel Kissel.
In my opinion, good teaching both emphasizes, highly respects and appreciates the following Suzuki priorities and goals set by Ms. Zweig:
Interestingly, Ms. Zweig also incorporates much of the Suzuki repertoire into her curriculum because it is a well-conceived technical and musical progression of pieces. Students’ progress from open strings to Vivaldi Concertos with ease and confidence.
From Paul Rolland, comes the awareness that violin playing must incorporate the most natural physical motions allowing all string players to play with ease and beauty of tone. By applying balanced body positions to violin playing, physical tension is reduced.
The Why Music page contains several articles & studies which discuss the impact of music instruction.on is reduced.