Published: 27-10-2011, 14:33

Suzuki Method - American Education

An approach to formal instrumental education of preschool children as young as three. Largely limited to violin and piano instruction, the method begins in infancy, with constant exposure of the child to recorded music and integration of music as an element of the family environment. At three, or thereabouts, formal lessons begin, with the child first learning technique and memorizing musical pieces. The student listens, learns and memorizes a melody by ear, then imitates the teacher’s motions and gradually learns to play the piece. Developed by Japanese music educator Dr. Shinachi Suzuki, the Suzuki Method was originally designed for private violin lessons requiring the presence and constant participation of at least one parent, who learned the violin along with the child. Only after rote learning of a sizable repertoire of melodies is the youngster exposed to reading music.

The method did not gain widespread acceptance in the United States until 1964, when Dr. Suzuki and 10 of his Japanese students— many of them beginners—amazed a Music Educators National Conference with their skills. Since then, American music educators have adapted the method to piano instruction and to group instruction for both violin and piano. Ironically, the heart of the Suzuki Method—rote learning—was (and is) nothing new to music education. Generations of musically illiterate children throughout the mountain regions of the South and West have learned to play an instrument by ear, many of them acquiring remarkable artistic skills without being able to read a note of music.