The Suzuki Method
The Suzuki method (スズキ・メソード ,Suzuki mesōdo, also called Talent Education, mother-tongue method, or Suzuki movement) is an educational philosophy which strives to create "high ability" and beautiful character in its students through a nurturing environment. Its primary vehicle for achieving this is music education on a specific instrument (often violin or piano, but see below for a more complete list). The 'nurture' involved in the movement is modeled on a concept of early childhood education that focuses on factors which Shinichi Suzuki observed in native language acquisition, such as immersion, encouragement, small steps, and an unforced timetable for learning material based on each person's developmental readiness to imitate examples, internalize principles, and contribute novel ideas. The term "Suzuki method" is also sometimes used to refer solely to the Suzuki repertoire of sheet music books and/or audio recordings which have been published as part of its music education method.
The central belief of Suzuki, based on his theories of universal language acquisition, is that all people can (and will) learn from their environment. Thus, the essential components of the method spring from the desire to create the "right environment" for learning music (he believed that this positive environment would also help to foster excellent character in every student). These components include:
Saturation in the musical community, including attendance at local concerts of classical music, exposure to and friendship with other music students, and listening to music performed by "artists" (professional classical musicians of high caliber) in the home every day (starting before birth if possible).
Deliberate avoidance of musical aptitude tests or "auditions" to begin music study. Suzuki firmly believed that teachers who test for musical aptitude before taking students, or teachers who look only for "talented" students, are limiting themselves to people who have already started their music education. Just as every child is expected to learn their native language, Suzuki expected every child to be able to learn to play music well when they were surrounded with a musical environment from infancy. (This does not preclude auditions for public performances).
Emphasis on playing from a very young age, sometimes beginning formal instruction between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. (See Technique).
Using teachers trained in using the Suzuki materials and philosophy. Suzuki Associations all over the world offer ongoing teacher-training programs to prospective and continuing Suzuki teachers. A basic competency as a performer was recently made mandatory for all teachers in the American Association; formal training in music or the holding of a degree is not required.
In the beginning, learning music by ear is emphasized over reading musical notation. This follows Suzuki's theory of language acquisition, where a child learns to speak before learning to read. Related to this, memorization of all solo repertoire is expected, even after a student begins to use sheet music as a tool to learn new pieces. There is no formal plan for the age at which reading should be introduced into the curriculum; this is left to the judgement of the teacher. The Suzuki method itself has no materials for the teaching of reading; instructors are encouraged to use whatever materials they deem proper.
The method also encourages, in addition to individual playing, regular playing in groups (including playing in unison).
Retaining and reviewing every piece of music ever learned on a regular basis, in order to raise technical and musical ability. Review pieces, along with "preview" parts of music a student is yet to learn, are often used in creative ways to take the place of the more traditional etude books. Traditional etudes and technical studies are not used in the Suzuki method, which focuses almost exclusively on a set of performance pieces.
Frequent public performance, so that performing is natural and enjoyable.
The method discourages competitive attitudes between players, and advocates collaboration and mutual encouragement for those of every ability and level. However, there is an audition process if a student wishes to perform publicly with the Suzuki Youth Orchestra of America, a national group sponsored by the Suzuki Association of the Americas.
Another important feature of the method is that the parent of the young student is expected to supervise instrument practice every day (instead of leaving the child to practice alone between lessons) and to attend every lesson so as to be able to supervise the practice effectively. It is not necessary for the parent to be able to play as well as the child (or at all); only that the parent knows from the lessons what the child should be doing and how the child should be doing it. This element of the method is so prominent that a newspaper article once dubbed it "The Mom-Centric Method" (Constance Meyer, LA Times, Sept 7, 2003).