Suzuki Philosophy is based on this important fact: Virtually all children learn to speak their native language.
It is by being immersed with language that children begin to imitate sounds, repeat sounds, understand sounds, and begin to communicate. Children can learn the language of music the same way that they learn to speak, which is first and foremost through listening.
Dr. Suzuki called this method the “mother-tongue approach”. He named his school “Talent Education” because of his realization that all children with the right environment can learn music and develop “talent”, or ability.
[box] “Every Child can be educated, but children are not born with education. Knowing this fact will become the basis for insights regarding the nature of mankind.” (1)[/box]
There are enabling factors that must be considered when researching how every child can be successful in achieving high ability. There is a sensitive period for language acquisition. It is also true that infants are absorbing musical sound from birth, and even before birth. Beginning early is one of the principals Dr. Suzuki purports in all of his writings:
Therefore creating an environment of listening to music is important from the very beginning of life in the same way that it is important for babies to hear language. After the child has internalized the sounds of the pieces they are ready to begin to speak music. When the young child learns to play their instrument, it becomes a natural integral part of their learning, their life, and their abilities. Dr. Suzuki said:
Older beginning students greatly benefit from studying through the Suzuki Method as they have the freedom to focus on the aural/physical connection in playing their instrument. However, the visual connection may be at an earlier stage with older students. The Suzuki method is a flexible natural learning method that can be uniquely suited so that every child can be successful.
Children learn naturally from everything in their environment without any specific instruction. Absorption of the pieces the child is learning to play is a daily diet of listening. In the same way that children internalize the accent and tone of their parent’s voice, they will absorb the sound on the recording. The listening environment is the most fundamental concept derived from the mother tongue approach and a critical factor in success for the student.
All of the factors that affect the child’s learning and development physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually are important to consider when providing an optimum environment. Thus the parent’s involvement is integral to enabling the child to be successful.
Dr. Suzuki often talks about the importance of the parent’s role in the child’s emotional development:
It is the responsibility of the teacher to nurture and educate the parents to understand the philosophy of “Every Child Can”, and help them develop the skills to work with their child.
An important aspect of success in language acquisition is repetition. Consider the amount of time a baby hears familiar words like “mama” before speaking, and how many times the child repeats that word after learning it to develop ability. Therefore in the mother-tongue approach, the child continues to play pieces after they are learned, while refining skills.
Recognition of what is correct guides the repetition/practice to develop ability. This feedback to the student comes first through internalized sound so that the child is seeking to reproduce. Next,the teacher’s affirmations connect the physical aspect of what the child is doing with the aural sound that is produced, as well as with the feeling the sound makes: “When you move your fingers that way the sound is a beautiful legato.” The parent continues nurturing the child in the same way with the repetitions at home. The child is encouraged by the affirmations and the parent is empowered to help with the knowledge that this practice will lead to improvement and the development of ability.
“I hope that you can now understand that great talent and a deep, beautiful feeling in the heart are closely tied together. “ (7)
The Suzuki repertoire is the language spoken by the students in the Suzuki piano studio. Discs, observation, recitals, and groups create motivation to play those pieces. The teacher also creates an individual studio repertoire in addition to the core curriculum that may include Christmas pieces, improvisation ideas, and post book 7 repertoire. Overall, the core curriculum along with the evolving repertoire creates the aural environment, which enables students to learn pieces naturally.
Children who begin lessons early have the language of musical sound as part of their primary language. After children can play songs with fluency the “picture” of that sound is introduced. This is developmentally appropriate reading. The musical score represents a picture of the sound the child has already internalized. Group classes focus on the application of concepts so that the aural, visual, and kinesthetic concepts are directly linked.
Advancing students become aural readers. This ability to read can be developed by linking the sounds with visual symbols in the same way students learn to read words. The visual picture of the sound enables the student to retain detailed information about making changes to what they are playing. Ultimately students memorize the aural sound/visual picture as a whole. This way they can play by heart.
All of the enabling factors for learning the language of music are derived from the mother-tongue philosophy. Every child can benefit from the abilities that are developed through learning the language of music. Learning how to communicate through music with beautiful tone is a wonderful life ability. It is a way that we can feel that which is beyond words. By researching how children learn naturally we can learn now to provide the best environment for optimum learning. We are empowered with the responsibility of enabling every child to be successful.
Every Child Canis an introductory course to Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy and its application to Suzuki education taught through the Suzuki Associationof the Americas (SAA).
1. Ability Development from Age Zero, Page 6
2. Ability Development from Age Zero, page 55
3. Ability Development from Age Zero, page 55
4. Nurtured by Love, page 12
5. Where Love is Deep, page. 44
6. Where Love is Deep, page 51
7. Ability Development from Age Zero, page 61