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To Suzuki or Not to Suzuki?

January 5, 2012

Crowden School's Summer ProgramThrough the Suzuki method young children master basic musical skills, improve listening ability, and acquire physical comfort with their instrument and with performing. Intermediate and advanced students learn to read music, improve technical proficiency, and play skill specific repertoire.

Features of the method are:

  • It combines individual and group learning situations. Children learn from observing their peers as well as from their teacher.
  • Parents/caretakers attend and participate in individual lessons. 
  • Frequent performance opportunities. Even the youngest student is encouraged to perform in front of an audience.
  • Lesson materials progress gradually, encouraging memorization through repetition.
  • Children learn technique in the context of music. Musical expression is introduced early on.

PROS

  • The method assumes that music learning is as natural to a child as learning to speak, and takes advantage of that ability
  • Participation of parents and/or caretakers provides a context of encouragement, love and support building self-assurance, esteem and compassion.
  • It is fun! Children play tunes early on not having to wait until they are proficient in reading music.
  • Children earn a sense of accomplishment early on.
  • Performance, solo and with peers, in front of an audience develops poise and confidence
  • Since the Suzuki method is based on the belief that every child has innate talent, the program welcomes all children.

CONS

Prepare to commit time and energy. Some teaching centers schedule group and individual lessons and recitals on different days requiring multiple trips per week. Likewise, parents are expected to be actively involved with the lessons and practicing. 

  • Ideally parents/caretakers should learn alongside the child. When this is required, the extra expense and time commitment is considerable.
  • Beginning study at a very young age, children can quickly outgrow their instruments physically. Be sure to inquire about trade-in programs to upgrade to larger instruments.
  • Some children may do well in the rote learning and memorization work, but become discouraged if they have difficulty when they begin to learn to read music.

All in all, the Suzuki program is a successful, time-tested program for gaining proficiency at playing an instrument with confidence and expression. For students, there is an immediate connection with the music in a nurturing learning situation.

Kathy Butera is Lecturer/Supervisor of the Arts, Entertainment and Media Management Department at Columbia College Chicago. She was formerly Executive Director of Sherwood Conservatory of Music (now merged with Columbia) and has held management positions with the Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Chicago symphony orchestras.