Shinichi Suzuki realized that every child learns their native language (while extremely complex and intricate) with ease. Through observing the process by which children acquire a language, Suzuki was able to apply these same concepts to learning the violin—which is essentially a new language. He called this method the “Mother-Tongue Approach.” Many of these aspects of language acquisition are unique to the Suzuki Method. These principles are applied through lessons, practicing and community involvement.
- Every Child Can: There are no pre-requisites or talent standards for being a Suzuki student! Musical skill and talent can be learned and developed. Every child can have the opportunity to learn and be successful at the violin.
- Early Beginnings: From birth, the process of language acquisition begins for a child. The same is true with developing musical skills. The window of early childhood can be a great time for beginning formal lessons on an instrument.
- Parental Involvement: The parent’s role in this process is no less of a commitment than the teacher’s or the student’s role. The parent contributes in a significant and crucial way, including playing the recordings daily, practicing daily with the child, coming to lessons, and taking notes.
- Creating a Nurturing Environment: No one is concerned with the rate at which a small child builds their vocabulary. Instead, any sort of progress is encouraged and nurtured. In the process of learning the violin, the teacher, and especially the parent can create this environment—fertile ground for learning, achieving and being okay with making mistakes.
- Listening: If a child were not able to hear the language they were to speak, they would struggle with the simple basics. There certainly wouldn’t be much hope for fluency with the language. Daily listening to the Suzuki CD is absolutely critical to success and fluency in Suzuki lessons.
- Small Steps: The process of learning a language is made up of hundreds of small steps that eventually come together to create the big picture. In the process of learning the violin, the concept of small and slow steps can be difficult to always keep in mind. With practice, you as the parent can learn to appreciate these small steps. Beyond the daily practicing and listening, we must remember that things take time.
- Repetition/Review: Once a child learns a new word, it is then repeated many, many times in order to make it easy to say, to build confidence and to develop fluency. Through repetition and review, the student is able to build a strong foundation of technical skills, while improving musical fluency and sensitivity with pieces and concepts that are already familiar. From day one of violin lessons the student is already learning technique that will be used many repetitions later as an advanced student!
- Learning with Other Children: A key element to a child learning to talk is the opportunity to interact with other children. Your child will not only be involved in weekly private lessons, but in group instruction as well. Group classes are held regularly. Other opportunities for the students to interact with each other happen regularly as well. The shared Suzuki repertoire allows children to easily connect and play together.
- Reading: The reading element of language acquisition comes much later in the process. Not until the child is well on their way to a large vocabulary, increasing ease of communication and an ability to focus on something other than the mechanics of talking. Reading music is part of the whole process, just not part of the beginning stage.
- Develop the Whole Child: No matter what a student chooses to do with their musical talent, the experiences that they had as a Suzuki student will benefit them in all areas of their life. As a Suzuki teacher, my job is so much more than teaching the mechanics of playing the violin. It is much deeper than this. I want to help each student dig deep into developing their beautiful character. The vehicle for doing this is learning to play the violin.
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“If, as a person works at playing the violin well, he develops the talent to overcome any difficult problem by working, then the talent will be born to accomplish even the hardest problems easily. As a person practices the violin, he creates this talent. In the world in general, many many think that fostering high ability by music only concerns music. It is not so, however. Whatever it is fostered by, the ability that a living being has acquired is an asset, it is a strength, part of that person’s entire ability.”