I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.—Shin’ichi Suzuki
Shin’ichi Suzuki was born in Japan in 1898. His father, Masakichi Suzuki, ran a workshop that made traditional Japanese stringed instruments. Masakichi was fascinated with the violin. He made his first one in 1888 and by the early 1900’s he owned the first violin factory in Japan, which was also the largest in the world. Masakichi intended for his son Shin’ichi to help run the family business but Shin’ichi Suzuki instead taught himself to play the violin and then studied western music in Germany in the 1920s. By the 1930s is was teaching young children in Japan and he further developed his ideas and philosophy of teaching during the post-war period. The Suzuki method approach to violin teaching has spread to many parts of the world and is proving increasingly successful everywhere. Because he was a violinist, he first applied his ideas to the teaching of violin, but it has since been used with many other instruments, in nursery school teaching and other more general areas.
The important elements of the Suzuki approach to instrumental teaching include the following:
- An early start (aged 3-4 is normal in most countries)
- The importance of listening to music
- Learning to play before learning to read
- The involvement of the parent
- A nurturing and positive learning environment
- A high standard of teaching by trained teachers
- The importance of producing a good sound in a balanced and natural way
- Core repertoire, used by Suzuki students across the world
- Social interaction with other children: Suzuki students from all over the world can communicate through the language of music
Parents of children learning violin by the Suzuki method will be familiar, perhaps overly familiar, with Suzuki’s variations on the theme “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, which uses rhythms from more advanced literature in units small enough for a beginner to grasp quickly.