Thursday, 18 November 2010

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The Suzuki Method of Learning Music

Why do I believe in music for young children?

I think I will be criticized yet once again for being a "kiasu" mom and accused of "pressure-cooking" Joshua, but I truly believe in the benefits of music lessons. A Danish study reported findings that babies who are exposed to baby music or gym classes are better adjusted at the daycare, kindergarten and all the way to primary school and high school. It seems to be the case at Joshua's daycare thus far. When Joshua started daycare, the teacher asked whether I have done a lot with him, as he was very brave and adjusted very fast into the class. I answered YES!!! I believe my efforts have paid off. Now that Joshua is a toddler, I have started Joshua on music play school every Saturday morning. These sessions are really fun (see http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=245566&id=705043347&l=3264e7e31a)

It is not because I wanted to make Joshua a professional musician, far from it. Music aids the learning of languages and is believed to increase the apptitude of Maths and Science. You will be amazed how many engineers are accomplished musicians. My friend, Wimin, who plays the piano for the church is one :-).

The benefits of piano (and other music) lessons go beyond merely learning to play an instrument. It teaches the appreciation of music. Even students who never truly master their violin, trumpet, guitar, or piano benefit through the process of attending regular lessons, working toward a long-term and often difficult goal, and seeing themselves improve in relation to the effort they put in. In a very real sense, music education is as much about building character as it is about learning an instrument and developing cognitive ability.

I believe that music is like language, the earlier you start, the easier it is for the child to master it. It should not be a very strict form of learning for young children, but about exposure to the music in a consistent and regular manner. I began to do my research, and I am so happy that at least one professional musician shared the same beliefs when I found out about the Suzuki concept. I am considering of sending Joshua for music lessons following the Suzuki method when he is 3 years old. Now I have a year to find a Suzuki method-trained teacher in Copenhagen :-)

Of course, we should not stress our lives with so many planned activities, but have the wisdom to set a limit, which is why I only stick to one formal activity, and I have selected music as the number one priority right now (though not as high a priority as going to church and knowing God. Nothing is worth sacrificing than moral development).

The Suzuki Method

The Suzuki Method was conceived in the mid-20th century by Shin'ichi Suzuki, a Japanese violinist. He pioneered the idea that any pre-school age child could begin to play the violin if learning steps were small enough and if the instrument was scaled down to fit their body. He modeled his method, which he called "Talent Education" (才能教育, sainō kyōiku), after his theories of natural language acquisition. Suzuki believed that every child, if properly taught, was capable of a high level of musical achievement.

Suzuki called this concept of learning by listening the "mother-tongue" approach. Observing that children learned to speak their native language perfectly, Suzuki concluded that this was due to their total immersion in the language from birth. His method of music education relies on a similar approach to teaching the musical repertoire. By exposing a child to recordings of the music he or she will eventually play, the music becomes internalized. When the child already knows how a piece is supposed to sound, learning to play that piece becomes a simpler process, and memorization occurs naturally.

Suzuki teaching is based on a philosophy of respect for the child. Suzuki has said "talent is not inherited, and the potential of every child is unlimited." All children are respected as unique human beings, and they are capable of developing their musical abilities as well as they develop their linguistic abilities.

Basic principles of the Suzuki approach

Some of the basic principles of the Suzuki approach are:

1. Begin at age three or four or perhaps earlier.

2. Move in small steps so that everything is at the child's level.

3. Initiate parental participation at all lessons so that parents understand the learning process and can be prepared to act as home teachers.

4. Expose the child to music via recordings, especially the music the child is studying.

5. Delay the reading of music until the child's aural and digital skills are well established.

6. Create an enjoyable learning environment, so that much of all child's motivation comes from pleasure.

7. Rejoice in all the child's achievements, no matter how small.

According to wikipedia, the central belief of Suzuki, based on his theories of universal language acquisition, is that all people can (and will) learn from their environment. Thus, the essential components of the method spring from the desire to create the "right environment" for learning music (he believed that this positive environment would also help to foster excellent character in every student). These components include:

- Saturation in the musical community, including attendance at local concerts of classical music, exposure to and friendship with other music students, and listening to music performed by "artists" (professional classical musicians of high caliber) in the home every day (starting before birth if possible).

- Deliberate avoidance of musical aptitude tests or "auditions" to begin music study. Suzuki firmly believed that teachers who test for musical aptitude before taking students, or teachers who look only for "talented" students, are limiting themselves to people who have already started their music education. Just as every child is expected to learn their native language, Suzuki expected every child to be able to learn to play music well when they were surrounded with a musical environment from infancy. (This does not preclude auditions for public performances).

- Emphasis on playing from a very young age, sometimes beginning formal instruction between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. (See Technique).

- Using well trained teachers, preferably also trained in using the Suzuki materials and philosophy. Suzuki Associations all over the world offer ongoing teacher-training programs to prospective and continuing Suzuki teachers. A basic competency as a performer was recently made mandatory for all teachers in the American Association; formal training in music or the holding of a degree is not required.

- In the beginning, learning music by ear is emphasized over reading musical notation. This follows Suzuki's theory of language acquisition, where a child learns to speak before learning to read. Related to this, memorization of all solo repertoire is expected, even after a student begins to use sheet music as a tool to learn new pieces. There is no formal plan for the age at which reading should be introduced into the curriculum; this is left to the judgement of the teacher. The Suzuki method itself has no materials for the teaching of reading; instructors are encouraged to use whatever materials they deem proper.

- The method also encourages, in addition to individual playing, regular playing in groups (including playing in unison).

- Retaining and reviewing every piece of music ever learned on a regular basis, in order to raise technical and musical ability. Review pieces, along with "preview" parts of music a student is yet to learn, are often used in creative ways to take the place of the more traditional etude books. Traditional etudes and technical studies are not used in the Suzuki method, which focuses almost exclusively on a set of performance pieces.

- Frequent public performance, so that performing is natural and enjoyable.

- The method discourages competitive attitudes between players, and advocates collaboration and mutual encouragement for those of every ability and level.

References:

- http://www.babycenter.com/0_music-and-your-toddler-or-preschooler-ages-1-to-3_6549.bc?showAll=true

- http://www.babycenter.com/404_when-can-we-start-music-lessons_6876.bc

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzuki_method

- http://www.cvsmusic.org/suzuki_piano.htm

- http://www.suzukiforbund.dk/

- http://www.europeansuzuki.org/

- http://www.suite101.com/content/what-to-do-when-your-child-hates-piano-lessons-a155908

- http://www.ymonline.com/

- http://www.jessieengland.com/pianolessons.html

1 comment:

  1. Hi Elaine,
    Great piece. We too believe in music (start off as fun activity).

    Noah attends every sat 1/2 hour - Orff Schulwerk.

    Mainly also, we want him to have time with other babies.

    ReplyDelete

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