Dr. Suzuki was a big proponent of using technology to provide the best environment for students.  He observed that “talented” musicians such as Mozart grew up in families that had music going on in the house every day as a natural part of their lives.  He was steadfast in his belief that every child could learn music through listening as a regular part of their life, in the same way they learn language.

He formally began his Talent Education School after World War II in the small farming community of Matsumoto. In the beginning, he would travel to his students’ houses with his record player, records, and violin. Students listened to recordings of great artists and practiced on the one violin.

As early as the graduation concert in 1953, Dr. Suzuki was listening to tapes of students playing as a part of their graduation process. There are many accounts of how he would awake at 4:00 AM and listen to all of the tapes submitted to him from around Japan. Just from listening to the tapes he would be able to tell specifically how the student was playing, such as holding the bow, bowing, posture, etc. He would give specific advice on how to improve their tone through technique, as well as encouragement, a graduation certificate, and the opportunity to perform in the Graduation concert.

We can use technology to help us now. Although the remote lesson environment does not provide for the kind of interaction we are used to, the adventure into a new way of learning can actually be motivating for the child. Also, it is interesting and useful for me to diagnose the children’s position and playing on the video recordings you have submitted, and the response videos are thought out responses that I hope will be useful.  Of course, doing the real time video lessons will be interesting too, and working out the details to get a good quality sound has turned out to be quite a research project.

Since the children are home all day, it is possible to listen to music many hours a day.  Music can take us into another dimension beyond rational thought and gives a busy mind something to hang onto in times of stress. So, playing music in the house is not just important for your children in terms of their piano practice, but also for their well-being.  It’s great if you include some of your favorite music that makes you feel good as well. I will be sending out listening lists to each of you in the coming weeks that include current pieces, next pieces, and also more advanced pieces. I will include pieces that I personally enjoy in times like these.

Please use music as a place in your mind and heart you can come back to for nourishment.

Here is an article which I am reprinting from the “Nurture” Journal published by the Atlanta Suzuki Piano Association which I wrote a few months after the 9/11/2001 attacks on the US.  It seems pertinent now:

Oh, to hear Bach in the morning! On the morning of September 11, my husband called me from his cell phone: “You’ve got to turn on the TV!” I watched as the second plane flew into the World Trade Center. In that moment, I became a captive to the television. In the following three months, my morning routine was to check the news for the latest updates. Recently, I turned on the disc player to listen to a piece I was teaching. In the same suddenness in which I had become captive to the TV, a feeling of deep calm and peacefulness came over me. I realized how easily and thoughtlessly that I had replaced a good habit with a bad one. In lessons that week, I asked parents: “Have you been listening?” The reply from many parents: “Not as much as usual.” In one sense, everyone has been captive to recent events. It was interesting to me however, that as I listened to recordings less, I forgot to remind parents about listening as well. Because I was uninspired, there were no stories to tell about listening, certain pianist, or new discs to listen to. As a child, while my parents played and respected music as an important part of life, the TV was king of the house. This was the habit learned from my childhood. As an adult, I have rebelled against this way of life to such an extent that I miss even really good programs. Still, what we learn as children is so strong that these habits can take over without us even knowing it! Dr. Suzuki and Dr. Kataoka teach us that each day is like a life. The morning is a new beginning and a very important time to have music on in the house. This creates the habit of listening for that day. With music in the morning, the whole day can evolve from that center of calmness. As adults, it is so difficult to get rid of bad habits! For the sake of humanity, let’s work hard to help children acquire good habits!


Here in this time with all of you,
Sheltered in place,
Leah Brammer