Getting started with Suzuki

Girl with violinWhat is the Suzuki approach?
The Suzuki approach is based on the premise that every child has enough innate musical ability to play major works from the standard string repertoire if the right environment is provided. Every child has the basic talent. The task of teachers and parents is to educate that talent. The child as music student is never considered apart from the child as a whole. The Suzuki approach is based on the principle that the best way for a child to learn to play a musical instrument is to reproduce the conditions that enable children to learn to speak their language. This “mother tongue” approach gives rise to all features, which when combined, form the Suzuki way of teaching.

What benefits will my child get from studying Suzuki violin?
The benefits of the Suzuki method go far beyond learning to play the violin. It seeks to develop the whole child, to help unfold their natural potential to learn and become a good and happy person. The child learns self-discipline and builds their self-esteem. Concentration is built up as coordination is refined. However, the greatest benefit of all is the understanding and love of music that will stay with the child for life.

Do children learn to read music?
YES!! No one has ever suggested that children should be taught to read before their ability to talk has been well established. Similarly, children should achieve a basic technical competence on their instrument before being taught to read written music. Preparation for reading begins from the first lessons. Learning to read while playing the instrument is delayed until command of the instrument is sufficient for the child to grasp the visual symbols without being distracted by technical struggles on the instrument.

14619643389_5264e6cc10_oDo children learn in a group setting?
Although most of the publicity given to Suzuki programs shows large groups of children playing together, the individual lesson is the foundation of the approach. Each student receives a “private” lesson once a week. Studio group lessons and Music Mind Games classes are held often throughout the year. These classes offer opportunities for enriching musical knowledge of theory, music history and reading. They give training in listening skills and concert behavior, and provide a sense of group identity and social contact between children and parents. Terry has done extensive training with Michiko Yurko, the creator of Music Mind Games.

Throughout the year the studio does multiple public performances in a variety of venues. They play at events like “First Friday Artwalk” and greet tourists on Commercial Street when the big boats come in. They also play the national anthem for the Seadogs in August and have their Christmas concert at the local Hannaford.

How long does it take to learn how to play the violin?
Each child progresses at their own pace. A slow, careful start is essential, and parents are encouraged not to hurry through the first stages. In the long run it is much better to take the time necessary to establish a good learning environment and to build a solid foundation than to be faced with remedial work in the future.

Where do I get a violin? 
In the beginning, students learn on a practice violin, which I supply. Once they learn the rudiments of playing and how to respect the instrument, they will get a real violin. I suggest renting a violin ($15-35/month) because they grow out of them so fast at this stage. I will provide you with a list of places that rent violins when you come to your first lesson.

Do parents need to learn how to play first? 
No. Parents are not required to learn to play the violin first, although often times the parent starts taking lessons because they are interested. My job as a teacher is to teach the parent how to teach the child. My goal is to prepare the parent for this challenging task, and the musically inexperienced parent can become an excellent home teacher.

What is the role of the parent?
Being a Suzuki parent calls for the same skills that we all try to develop in our daily roles as parents. The skills needed for a combination of loving discipline and guidance with chances for free self-expression and creative development. The commitment of time and energy brings the same challenges to parents as it does in many other areas. My experience has been that parents who follow these principles will be successful in assisting their child to learn and enjoy music in their lives. The most important single ingredient for success is the parent’s willingness to devote regular time to work closely with the child and the teacher. Parental involvement is a cornerstone of the Suzuki approach to learning. Parental involvement is a cornerstone of the Suzuki approach to learning.

How much do lessons cost?
Lessons are $180 a month for a 45-minute lesson and $220 a month for an hour lesson. The school year is divided into two semesters (Sept. to Jan./Feb. to June) and each semester includes 17 lessons. Music Mind Games, group class and all other studio events are included in the lesson fee. Continuity is extremely important, so missing lessons is discouraged. If you need to miss a lesson, please switch with another student. My schedule is very tight and leaves little or no room for makeup lessons.

How do I sign up for lessons?
As a prospective parent of a Suzuki Method student, there are certain things you should do in preparation for your child to begin study at The Suzuki Violin Studio. Since the Suzuki Method is a total educational philosophy involving parent, teacher, and child, it is imperative that the parent gains a thorough understanding of our approach before actual lessons begin.

Below is an outline of steps that should be completed before the lessons begin. These steps will also help you to decide if “Suzuki is for you.”

Step #1
Set up a time to observe a lesson and meet Terry. Both parents are strongly urged to attend the session. In the event this is not possible, it is imperative that the parent who assumes the role of “home teacher” attends this meeting. Please call Terry at 878-5991 to set up a mutually agreeable time to meet.

Step #2
Read Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki. In 2012 a printed “revised edition” became available. These books will help you gain more understanding of the Suzuki Method.

Step #3
If the decision has been made to begin lessons at the Suzuki Violin Studio, you should then purchase the “BEGINNER’S PAK” from Terry. This includes Book 1 of the Suzuki Method, the CD for this book, flash cards, a notebook, folder and pencil for the parent. Make sure that your child begins listening to the CD on a daily basis. The price for the Beginner’s Pack is $75.

Parent’s responsibilities:
— Play the CD daily for your child. Don’t rely on your child to turn on the CD player, even if they are older! Think of this responsibility as you think of grocery shopping: you are providing food for the spirit just as you provide food for the body.
— Attend all lessons and classes with your child and take careful notes.
— Supervise daily practice sessions with your child at home.
— Take detailed notes at lessons, clearly understanding the points to be emphasized during the week of practicing.  Ask questions if you have any.
— Observe other children’s lessons and classes with your child.
— Create an enjoyable learning environment in lessons and home practice, so that much of the child’s motivation comes from enthusiasm for learning and desire to please. My experience has been that parents who follow these principles will be successful in assisting their child to learn and enjoy music in their lives.