“If a child is raised on Bach from a young age, the noble soul, the powerful personality,
and the religious sensitivity of Bach will develop in the child.
If a child is raised on Mozart, then the loving soul of Mozart will develop in the child.
The life force in the child will absorb those traits to a high level.
The heart that feels music will feel people.”
– Dr. Suzuki
Ten Key Elements of The Suzuki Method
by Toyoko Kitade
1. Early Start Humans have an innate capacity for music that, like learning to speak, begins to develop at birth. This natural process can be enhanced through early exposure to fine music. Formal music lessons can begin at age 3. The earlier these lessons start, the easier it is to attain mastery of an instrument (but it is never too late to learn).
2. Every Child Can Learn Dr. Suzuki taught that every child can learn to produce beautiful music. Childhood tests for “musical talent” are inappropriate because every child has the potential to achieve a high level of musical ability. Successful talent development is determined by consistent daily practice and regular exposure to fine music from an early age.
3. Parent Involvement A parent must take an active role in leading home practice for beginning students. Parents provide enthusiasm, encouragement, and a disciplined approach to using practice time. Prior musical experience is not necessary.
4. Daily Listening Each day, children should listen to recordings of pieces they are studying, as well as performances by concert artists, to develop musical sensitivity. With daily exposure, they can learn about music naturally (while doing other things).
5. Repetition for Mastery Students review pieces they have already learned on a regular basis, to improve their technique and their sensitivity to phrasing and musical feeling. Repetition allows children to polish and hone their skills over time.
6. Individualized Pace of Learning Students follow a carefully planned curriculum that develops a solid foundation of basic skills then gradually improves technical ability. Students progress at their own rate, with an individually tailored approach that minimizes frustration. Students “learn how to learn” in this patient and systematic method of acquiring new skills while mastering older ones.
7. Positive Approach Enjoyment is an integral part of the learning process, not something attained upon mastery. The teacher demonstrates constructive ways to praise the child’s success as well as supportive and creative ways to work for further improvement. Parents should continue this positive approach in home lessons, using the methods they are taught.
8. Individual and Group Lessons The core of the program is the individual lesson each week. Initially, some time is spent teaching the parent the basic skills to play the child’s small instrument, so they can help the child practice at home. The child gradually takes over the lesson as their skills and attention span increase. We have never had a parent or child who was unable to learn these basic skills! In weekly group class, students learn essential ensemble and performance skills as they practice starting and stopping together, playing in tempo, and also playing solos for each other. They see students playing pieces that they will study later and are motivated to practice more at home. Group games also offer fun and creative ways to practice basic skills.
9. Music Reading Children learn to speak before they learn to read. Students learn to play with good tone, posture, and musical technique before learning the musical symbols for the sounds that they can produce. Once they develop a good foundational ability to play their instrument, they are taught how to read music and how to play in an ensemble.
10. Accompaniment CD After careful study of the teaching points of each piece, students practice with an accompaniment CD to improve rhythmic skills, timing, and musical expression. Listening to these CD’s and repeatedly playing along with them are vital components of honing excellent musical sensitivity.
Suzuki Violin Introduction and Frequently Asked Questions
By Aaron Torrance, Parent Ambassador to the Suzuki Violin program
What is the Suzuki Method?
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki was struck by a revolutionary idea: Every child has the innate capacity to become a talented musician, just as they have a capacity to learn to speak any language spoken in their home. Good training during the critical period of cognitive development is all that is required for any child to develop their ability and become an excellent musician.
Dr. Suzuki developed a specific curriculum to help cultivate superior musical ability. Pieces were carefully chosen to gradually introduce new techniques and hone musical ability throughout the course of study. He also emphasized certain critical factors to making good progress. Children should begin training as early as possible (though it is never too late to start, it is far easier for younger children to gain superior mastery).
Students polish their technique through repetition, regularly reviewing all the pieces they have learned (with a focus on improving their musical expression). They routinely listen to recordings of excellent performances, to develop a good ear. Their practice must also be enjoyable from the start, so instruction is given with constructive praise, and a focus on creative and supportive ways to encourage steady improvement (a Positive Discipline approach that fits perfectly with the rest of the Montessori philosophy).
Prior to beginning formal lessons, it is a good idea to routinely expose a child to the music they will be learning. This helps them develop a “good ear” to know how their own playing should sound. Formal instruction begins with a 30-minute individual lesson each week. A parent (or regular caregiver) is also given some basic instruction so they can help lead the child in home practice. This home practice is initially quite brief (10 minutes, 5 times per week), but establishing a routine of consistent daily practice is essential. As the child’s attention span and ability increase, the length of practice will increase as well. After learning a few basic skills, all students also attend a 30 minute weekly group lesson. These group lessons aid in developing a variety of performance skills, provide a spirit of camaraderie, and enhance motivation.
Dr. Suzuki was committed to the belief that development of fine musical ability promoted excellent character development… that the soul flourishes with deep exploration of the works of great composers. He said, “If a child is raised on Bach from a young age, the noble soul, the powerful personality, and the religious sensitivity of Bach will develop in the child. If a child is raised on Mozart, then the loving soul of Mozart will develop in the child. The life force in the child will absorb those traits to a high level. The heart that feels music will feel people.” Whatever… the study of music is an excellent opportunity to broaden and enrich a child’s development.
Is my child old enough? At what age can lessons start?
The earlier the better! Violin instruction can begin at age 3 (again, though it is never too late to start, it is much easier for younger children to gain superior mastery). Preparation in the form of regular listening to the Suzuki repertoire (and other classical violin music) is helpful before classes start, and can begin at any time. Ms. Kitade will gladly meet with you and your child if you are not sure your family is ready.
My child doesn’t show any sign of musical talent (e.g., no rhythm, doesn’t carry a tune)…
Any child can make great improvement and play beautifully! Musical ability is analogous to language ability. With appropriate training, every child has the ability to learn to read and play music just as fluently as they can speak their native tongue. They have the capacity, they will develop the talent… Really!
I don’t think my child has the concentration span for this.
Studying music actually increases concentration ability! Rest assured, any child can learn as long as you provide a little structure and positive discipline. Please speak with Ms. Kitade about your concerns.
How can I (the parent) help lead home practice? I don’t have any musical experience!
Absolutely no prior musical experience is necessary. You’ll learn what you need to know along the way from your child’s instructor. (I had no musical training, and it hasn’t been a problem!) What is important is that you provide encouragement, enthusiasm, and a bit of structure.
We’re over-booked as it is, how can we make time for this?
We all have to make time for our priorities. Yes, this is a commitment, but we think the rewards are great. Here’s what you can expect: Children begin with two 30-minute lessons per week. The first is the individual lesson, which you schedule on the day & time that works best for you. The second, the group lesson, is scheduled after school on Thursdays.
The home practice is only about 10 minutes a day initially (make every effort to practice at least 5 days per week, preferably at a consistent time. And set an early expectation that your child should make-up missed practices!). As your child’s attention span and ability increase, the length of practice will increase as well. As a rule of thumb, add 10 minutes to the lesson for each year of study. So second year students will practice at least 20 minutes at a time; Third year students will practice at least 30 minutes. Around the third year, students are able to practice independently: as long as you ensure the structure of a time and place to practice, these advanced violinists can practice on their own. Ms. Kitade and other parents in the program can help you problem-solve, to figure out how to make time in your lives for this valuable experience. Please talk to us if you have concerns.
I have more than one child, if I attend part of the violin lessons, who will watch my other child(ren)?
Enrolled siblings of violin students stay in the after-school program at no charge until lessons are completed.
What if we decide this isn’t right for our family? Can we get a refund?
First, please engage in open and honest dialogue with the instructor. By maintaining good communication with Ms. Kitade and letting her know of any difficulties you are having, she can work creatively to help resolve the issue. However, if you ultimately decide that you must withdraw… Yes, the school will give a prorated refund covering all the unused lessons.
Are the instruments expensive? Can I rent if I’m not sure we’ll continue?
For beginning students, instruments may be rented for just over $100 for the school year. This money is usually applied toward the purchase of a violin in a “rent to own” model, with the ability to trade up sizes as your child grows. More detailed information on local rental options is provided upon enrollment.
After your child has played for a couple years, you should invest in a fine quality instrument. These range from $500 to $1500 for decent student quality instruments (and go up from there). The cost is trivial compared to the amount of time you and your child will invest in this activity, and the pleasure and pride that owning a good instrument will bring. Also, fine instruments do not depreciate; they maintain their value for resale or trade.
Kids can be pretty careless, what if the violin breaks or gets lost?
Student instruments are generally not lost or stolen. They are also reasonably sturdy: they survive the grand majority of times they are dropped (which is unusual, even for young students). Respect, care, and maintenance of the instrument are taught as part of the lessons. That said, it is an excellent idea to cover any instrument with a rider on your home insurance policy (providing peace of mind for a few dollars a year).
Remind me, what are the benefits?
Work ethic & mastery: The Suzuki philosophy fits perfectly with the Montessori goal of fostering the innate desire for mastery. We believe that it matches, complements, and rounds out the Montessori education. Suzuki children grow in their capacity and enthusiasm for work. They know that working hard is connected to a clear reward: With practice and effort you can grow your abilities. No difficult task is unobtainable if you can break it down into incremental steps.
Character development: Again, Dr. Suzuki emphasized the degree to which music provided exposure to greatness and that this fostered the development of truly noble character (he said, “It was Mozart who taught me to know perfect love, truth, goodness, and beauty”). Certainly Suzuki students develop discipline, concentration, and enhanced cognitive development. They also develop self-confidence, are free of performance anxiety, and trust in their ability to earn the respect of their peers. This early experience of success and mastery is a predictor of future success.
Quality time: While this program does make demands of your family’s time, the time you spend with kids in practice should be quality time. When approached with a positive attitude, it leads to deeper involvement and connectedness between parent and child.
Pleasure: In the end, music is a source of great joy! You will be giving your child the gift of a deeper ability to appreciate and enjoy music and the arts. And they will have the opportunity to bring joy to others. You can look forward to live music becoming a part of the entertainment at your family events.
Where can I learn more?
Read these books: Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education (Shinichi Suzuki). Dr. Suzuki’s life story, describing his philosophy of education and character development. (A good read, he led a fascinating life!) To Learn with Love: A Companion for Suzuki Parents (William & Constance Star). Written by experienced Suzuki parents and educators who helped found Suzuki training in the U.S., this book provides helpful tips for motivating the student (and their parents!).
Contact Ms. Kitade: (KEY-tuh-day; sounds like “learn to play in KEY, today”) has 30 years of international experience teaching Suzuki violin. She was the Assistant Director of the Suzuki Institute of Boston prior to moving here with her husband in 2003. Please feel free to ask her any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org or (215) 943-5944.
“Ms. Kitade is a truly gifted and highly motivated teacher, who genuinely loves working with kids. Given her wealth of experience, she has a great ability to come up with creative ways to address any problems a violinist may be having. Whenever I’ve had any concerns about any aspect of my children’s musical education experience (at home or in lessons), I address them openly with her and she works with me until they are resolved. We are incredibly fortunate to have her on the staff!” — Dr. Aaron Torrance
Contact Parent Ambassador, Aaron Torrance: My name is Aaron Torrance, and my children, Sophia & Dylan, began attending Princeton Montessori in 2000. They began studying violin when they were ages 3 & 5 (i.e., 1st & 3rd year primary students). My wife and I had no musical background, and I honestly thought my wife was crazy when she suggested that we sign the kids up for violin lessons… I thought that neither the kids nor any of their ancestors had demonstrated any musical talent. They now play beautifully, and music is a large part of our lives. I am a full believer in the Suzuki Method, and in Ms. Kitade’s unique gift for teaching. This program has enriched the lives of everyone in our family. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at email@example.com.