The Suzuki Method

Musical Roots

My introduction to the Suzuki method came by chance. When I was 5 years old, I was at the home of a friend when I climbed up on the piano and plunked out a primary song that I had learned to sing at church. My friend's mom, a Suzuki method piano teacher, recognized an opportunity and asked my mom for permission to begin teaching me. I remember very little about those early lessons with Ms. Julie. I remember falling asleep every night listening to the recording of the songs playing on my tape player. I remember her sitting next to me on the bench and affectionately squeezing my little hands in her big ones. I remember singing words like "Mississippi Hot Dog" and "Hamburger, Hamburger" to learn the rhythm of the Twinkles. I remember that she put little cards with pictures in front of me as prompts for the songs she wanted me to play during the lesson. I remember learning "sticky honey fingers" to make the legato sound on The Honeybee. I vividly recall being terrified at my first recital. I was so scared that I refused to play. After my teacher offered to sit next to me, I felt safe enough to attempt it. Safety, warmth, love; those are the feelings I remember more than anything when I think back on my piano beginnings.

I have thought a lot about Ms. Julie over the years and wondered what she saw in me. What was so special about me that made her approach my mom and offer to give us lessons? I have come to learn that likely the most "special" thing about me was that I was a child.

"I am mentally preparing myself for the five-year-old mind. I want to come down to their physical limitations and up to their sense of wonder and awe."

"I play with children so that I can learn from them."

There was no exceptional ability or skill that Ms. Julie could see in me that wasn't in other children. I wasn't "destined" to be a musician. The only musical advantage, if any, that I had over other children was that I had been blessed with a musical family. In fact, at our house the radio was literally playing non-stop. At the time, my father, a lover of classic rock, was the manager of a local radio station. We had to have the radio on all the time to make sure we were always "on air." Occassionally late at night while my dad was at the station, if I couldn't (or wouldn't) sleep, he'd have The Beatles sing me "Good Night" over the air while my mom rocked me to sleep. My mother inherited a love of classical music from her parents. She has played the piano all throughout her life. After aquiring our second-hand antique upright grand, she painstakingly stripped the layers of paint off and refinished it while she was pregnant with me. On Sundays we would listen to hymns and the Tabernacle Choir. At Christmas time we listened to Julie Andrews, Andy Williams and Handel's Messiah. My early musical environment was rich and is what led to my experimentation at the piano.

The Suzuki Method

This is exactly the process that Dr. Suzuki "discovered"--

"Any child can be developed, it depends on how you do it."

"Every child grows; everything depends on the teacher."

Who is the teacher Dr. Suzuki was talking about? Certainly he meant formal teachers but he was also referring to the child's parents, peers, and surroundings. You inevitably learn to do, say and be exactly what you are surrounded with throughout your life.

As I consider my musical upbringing, I am grateful for a family who made music a lifestyle and for teachers who nurtured my abilities within that musical environment. This is the ideal learning process. This method was not created by Dr. Suzuki. He simply observed the human experience and taught others what he noticed. The beauty is knowing that WE have control over our environment. We can shape who we want to become by changing the experiences and surroundings we give ourselves and our children.

Perhaps it is Music that will save the world

"Wrong education and upbringing produces ugly personalities, whereas a fine upbringing and good education will bring forth superior sense and feeling, as well as nobility and purity of mind."

"If a musician wants to become a finer artist, he must first become a finer person."

This is why I do what I do and this is why I choose Suzuki method. Dr. Suzuki never set out to create a world full of professional musicians. He set out to create beautiful hearts through music.

"First character, then ability."

"It is in our power to educate all the children of the world to become a little better as people, a little happier."

Perhaps it really is music that will save the world. I hope it will at least change the world of each student I have the privilege to teach.