Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) modeled his music education method after the way small children learn their native language. Below are some aspects of what he called the mother tongue approach:
Every Child Can. Just as every child learns his or her native language, every child can learn to play a musical instrument. Dr. Suzuki rejected the notion of inborn talent.
Listening. A baby will not learn to speak without first hearing the speech of others. In order to develop the ear, Suzuki students spend time listening to professional recordings of the pieces they will play.
Gradual Steps. Suzuki teachers break each skill into its smallest component parts, so even small children are able to learn. Each instrument has its own graded repertoire, allowing students to progress seamlessly through real pieces.
Practice. When a baby learns a new word, she must repeat it many times before it is mastered; so it is with learning a new skill on an instrument. As Dr. Suzuki said, “Ability is knowledge plus 10,000 times.”
Review. We do not discard a new vocabulary word after we have mastered it. When a Suzuki student learns a musical piece, he frequently circles back to it to explore it in more sophisticated ways. Review is often accomplished in group class.
Shared Experiences. In group classes, students have an opportunity for social interaction with other young musicians at the same level. Children work on performance techniques in a familiar environment built on trust. The confidence they gain here serves them well in more public performances.
Musical Reading Readiness. A child does not learn to read at the same time she learns how to speak. Likewise, Suzuki students learn to play by ear before they start to read music.
The Learning Triangle. The triangle is formed by cooperation between student, teacher, and parent. Parents attend all classes, and the three roles are equally important for learning.
Nurtured by Love. When children learn music in a loving, supportive, and positive environment, they develop the ability to overcome the next challenge that life sends their way.
Dr. Suzuki famously said, " I want to make good citizens, noble human beings. 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."
Likewise, one of my most important goals in teaching cello is to develop character. Learn more about recent research on character by watching this short film.
“A seed is planted in the earth. We don’t see when the germination begins. That is the doing of Mother Nature: it is the fundamental working principle. We have to wait patiently. We cannot dig up the seed to see whether it is really growing: to do so would be to destroy everything. Suddenly, a bud appears. What a joy and pleasure to watch it grow! At the same time the root, unseen in the ground, is getting stronger and has the power to produce a big, sturdy tree. I think this is a good analogy for one’s ability. Once the seed is planted, it has to be carefully and patiently tended. Finally, the 'bud,' or talent, presents itself and has to be educated and brought up with perseverance until the 'root,' or power, becomes very strong and is indissolubly tied to the personality. It can be said to be a treasure when a person can accomplish and carry through his or her work to the very last.” —Shinichi Suzuki, Nurtured By Love