*This post is quoted from Young Children’s Talent Education and It’s Method by Dr. Suzuki, and translated by Kyoko Seldon.

“The purpose of ability development, in brief, is to create a highly active brain. In order to achieve this, I would like to recommend focusing on a single area and fostering the bud of ability in that area, whether math, language, art music, dance, or something technical-it is fine to choose any one of these or any other field.

The expression “He who chases after two hares gains neither” applies to ability development extremely well.

If you wish your child to advance in a scientific field, focus on math.  If you wish to develop his ability in art, instruct him in language, music, drawing and painting, or brush calligraphy. Whatever the area, if ability is fostered through training in that single area to a level deemed extraordinary, through that ability the child will later easily comprehend and digest other subjects.

This is what I have experienced.  My students whom I begin teaching when they are four or five grow up and enter elementary school, and by the time they are second or third graders they are already playing advanced material known as the world’s masterpieces.  These include Mozart’s Concerto is nos. 4 and 5, Corelli’s “La Folia” and Bach’s “Concerto in a Minor”.  When the children learn to play these pieces, their faces begin to change: they become more focused, eyes shining with intellect.  When I notice this change I make it a rule to ask the child’s parent “How is he doing at school?”  The answer is always this”He is the best student in his class, thank-you.”  I teach twelve or thirteen such children who are the best at school.  The report cards of four or so of them say “Highest Honors,”  Inferring from this, I came to believe that, when ability is fostered in one area, the child comes to comprehend other things easily as well through the functioning of a well-developed brain.  Compare the level of what my students learn at school with the level of music they play in my class.  The level of the music is far higher.

Mozart’s Concertos nos. 4 and 5 are big pieces, which soloists play in concert, and among the pieces used for music school graduation exams in Berlin.  In terms of academic education, these pieces are probably the equivalent fo college level.  If the child has reached this degree of brain function, it is natural that he proves tops in his class at school.

From my experience I would like to recommend this: ”Foster your children’s ability with concentration from early childhood in one chosen area to an accomplished, high level.”  Undoubtedly this is the way to  create a brain which works with the highest efficiency. Parents of children whose ability has developed sometimes ask me:  “We are not thinking of making our child a musician.  What would you suggest we do now?”  I always answer:

“Neither am I instructing these many children with the intention of turning all of them into musicians.  I am doing my best because I would like your child to develop an active brain and a beautiful character.  Since his path will open in the future somewhere as a result of family environment, parental ideas, and his own desires, it will be fine for him to continue academic studies as he proceeds to middle school, high school, and college.  In brief the reason that I help create this type of ability in childhood is that I believe the child will demonstrate brilliance no matter what area he enters in the future.  There is no reason why your child has to become a musician just because he is studying violin.”

My goal is instructing young children is of course to create outstanding musicians spontaneously out of many students, and in fact many who have become musicians are now actively engaged in music-making in concerts and on the radio.  However, the other big goal is to create outstanding people with brains that work.  And it is my hope to nurture a beautiful heart through the power of music.  This hope is reflected in my lessons in the form of training.  When the child is about six, I start to assign other homework besides violin practice.

To give an example,  after the lesson I tell the child without letting the mother hear: “From today on, straighten the shoes or wooden clogs whenever there are guests at home.  This is your assignment.  To it so that nobody catches you.  Keep it secret from your parents, too, until they find out.”  At the next lesson I ask the child in a small voice: “Did you do the homework with the wooden clogs?”  The child nods in the affirmative.  “Are you not caught yet by your father or mother?”   “I’m no caught yet, he answers.  “Good; keep at it diligently until you are caught.”  I say assigning it again as homework.  The child seems happy about doing a good deed in secret.  Thus I think up various things, giving just one assignment at a time.

Eventually the mother reports, pleased:  “My child has come to behave quite differently.  In violin, too, he used to have had enough after five minutes of practice, but it became ten minutes, then fifteen minutes, and now he smoothly practices half an hour, as if he has started to feel he needs to practice.”  When this happens, it is now safe; the child begins to make rapid progress.  His concentration has begun to reinforce itself.  “Combining every power,” a phrase often used today, signifies the most important thing in the demonstration of a person’s ability. If his strength is constantly scattered in all directions, he cannot hope to achieve superior results.

Japanese schools make an egregious mistake on this point.  Throughout Japan they put brakes on children’s ability until they are seven.  What method do they use to develop their ability beautifully when they finally do enter school?  They use the clumsiest kind of instruction, that is, the scattering of power, by instructing children in various subjects simultaneously.  Moreover, they do not particularly think about the conditions under which ability can be fostered, but unawares lead ability to wither; and they seem blindly to put the curriculum on a conveyor belt.

What will happen when one begins studying two foreign languages at once? What ability will be fostered when one starts studying three languages together?  Compare such situations with that of studying only one foreign language.  This are needs no further experimentation:  everyone knows that the more a person’s ability is split, the duller the demonstration of his strength.

In short, what I emphasize is that some measure needs to be taken in school education so that children will be able to concentrate their interest on one thing, whatever it is, and to do their best to develop their ability.  I have also observed the children who play the violin beautifully in my class to see if they lose their childlikeness.  While playing violin, they concentrate so well that adults wonder how they can demonstrate such ability, but away from their instruments they are perfectly innocent ordinary children, and nothing special is found in them.

The young violinists’ concert I hold at Hibiya Public Hall is always well attended by a full-house audience of 3,500 to 3,600. The children seem very happy and excited about this concert, and all perform successfully before the big audience.  I stay backstage to send the children out onto the stage by turns according to the program, and listen to their performances with no anxiety because I know, through regular lessons, their real ability to play without the least error.

Adults worry when their turn is coming up and feel uselessly threatened thinking what they would do if they made a mistake; children have no such worries, however, and play even better than usual.  It is even necessary for a child-catcher to go around saying, “Haruko, it’s getting to be time for you to be ready.”

When I hand the child her violin, she briskly walks out on stage with it.  Then she plays so calmly and beautifully that one would never know she was running around giggling until just a minute ago.  A big piece can take twenty to thirty minutes, but once the child starts to play, she concentrates her entire spirit and performs better than usual with no insecurity.  Some among the audience listen with tears.

On returning backstage after the performance, the child puts her violin in her case, and again runs around with the other children.  Those who visit them backstage are surprised by the big difference between the on-stage and backstage children.

Children’s growing without childlikeness has little to do with the superior development of their ability. The cause is found in their character education, that is, how character is formed by the environment; the undesirable phenomena which concern people, I am convinced are never caused by the development of ability.  I say this from my observations not only of concert days but also of the children’s daily lives.

In order to let ability be fully demonstrated it is crucial to have the instructional goal of creating an individual excellence in one area or one skill.  National education policy should also focus on this point.  It is an urgent matter to make a bold decision now to carry out education innovation with the above idea so as to develop human ability to a high degree, not only within the scope of elementary schooling but at every level of education.”

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