“We are all born with a high potential, and if we try hard we can all become superior human beings and acquire talent and ability.” – Dr. Shinichi Suzuki
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki believed that talent is learned; it is not a trait that humans are born with. The key to childhood success is not in their genetics; rather it is the environment the child has been brought up in. As a violin student attending the Berlin Conservatory in Germany in the 1920’s, and struggling to master the German language himself, the young Shinichi Suzuki became interested in how children learn their native language and speak with such ease at a young age. After having returned to his homeland Japan, Dr. Suzuki developed a connection between language and learning to play the violin, honing his research with a few young students. Dr. Suzuki’s work was interrupted by World War II, but he returned to his teaching model in 1945, naming his method ‘Talent Education’. As the method spread to Europe and the Americas in the 1960’s, his method among musicians commonly became known as the Suzuki Method.
Talent Education (the Suzuki Method)
Young children learn best by listening, repetition, and achieving goals in small steps. Dr. Shinichi Suzuki explained that the way a young child learns to speak his language is the very same approach that should be taken to learn the violin. When learning a language, children hear the words from their parents before they ever begin to speak. Dr. Suzuki explained that listening to the music that a child will eventually play will make it all that much easier for him or her when it is time to learn the notes and the style of the tune. Just as a child is encouraged to repeat words or phrases he or she is beginning to learn, a child starting the violin should be encouraged to repeat notes or musical phrases while practicing.
Before forming complete sentences, children sound out nouns and pronouns, figure out appropriate verbs and then later their correct tenses, with adjectives, adverbs, etc. Speaking in full sentences occurs after learning and building on these small parts. The Suzuki repertoire (a collection of songs) builds on one piece after another. A technique that is learned from the first song needs to be mastered and built upon for the second song, and those new techniques from the second need to be mastered for the third, and so forth. With the help of a devoted parent in a positive, constructive environment encouraging these conditions, a child can achieve a high level of musicianship.