The Suzuki Method
From the International Suzuki Journal Spring 1996
MOTIVATING CHILDREN TO DEVELOP THEIR POTENTIAL by Shinichi Suzuki
Deep consideration of the two questions, “How is superior ability cultivated?” and “How is ability stunted or neglected?” is, pedagogically speaking, of great importance. In answering these questions, we must first reflect on what inspires or generates ability.
It is my fervent desire that everyone who utilizes the violin to develop musical ability, that is, who is involved in the building of musical sensibility and performance ability in their children, will join me in pursuing the matters of how, on the one hand, potential is fostered, and, on the other, under what conditions it isn’t. When these answers become clear, surely will a hopeful bliss pervade their daily lives and violin practice.
Many Talent Education parents are impressively hardworking and dedicated, but when we ask whether dedication invariably results in exemplary development it seems that it is not necessarily so. When their children grow less interested in practicing, some of these parents begin to apply pressure, only to find that this has no effect but to make things worse. In the end, a portion of these parents resign themselves and, regrettably, give up midway.
This should not happen if they really understand Talent Education. This unfortunate result is produced when, instead of making a serious effort to learn about Talent Education, committed parents adhere to traditional educational attitudes and merely entertain hopes of training their children to play the violin well.
It is extremely difficult to change conventional attitudes in adults. Even the finest, self-reflective person finds herself unconsciously reverting to formerly held beliefs. I would like, however, for people truly to understand the new frontier of Talent Education. Once they convert to the new conventional wisdom, my hope is that they will dedicate themselves, for the sake of their children, to applying these unfamiliar new ideas with care and constant reflection.
It is certainly undeniable that intensive violin practice leads to superior abilities. The problem is, what if it’s the parents’ who are com- passionate, while the children are completely indifferent?! Properly speaking, I must qualify the statement “Intensive violin practice leads to superior abilities” by amending it to “Intensive practice on the part of the individual playing the violin….” the real accomplishment of education ties in gradually nurturing the enthusiasm of that very individual who does the practicing. Talent Education’s mission, from years ago has been in exploring this principle.
It is now time to discuss how to motivate the development of ability. I urge all of you to consider this matter along with me. Is not the generating impulse of ability invariably linked to kokoro, the heart-mind? I am always painfully conscious of the significance of nurturing this heart-mind, for “Kokoro is the life-force of human beings.”
Of course, it is a relatively straightforward fact that even the simple action of raising an arm relies on the functioning of the heart. Beyond that, however, lies an even greater truth. If asked, “What is the most valuable central feature of education?” I would immediately answer, “Cultivating the heart mind.”
I also believe that the loftiest-and most difficult-task with which parents are charged is that of fostering the heart-minds of their children. Are you all willing to take on this challenge?
Parents who succeed in developing finely honed heart-minds in their children can perhaps be said to have fulfilled their parental mission. Some of you may wonder what this has to do with ability. If you consider that the simplest motions of shifting your hands and feet start with the heart-mind, however, then it is reasonably easy to see that the nurturance of the heart mind itself stimulates ability.
Just think, your children may be learning the violin, or perhaps it’s painting, but.
‘Practice is practice’
Whether they’re doing it willy-nilly
Whether they’re doing it carelessly
Whether they’re doing it enthusiastically
or they’re aiming for the best
Whether they think they’ll take a day off and practice tomorrow, or
Whether they resent practicing and rarely do so …
As you can see, there are a variety of ways to practice. The same hour of practice by people at differing levels of the heart-mind will result in widely divergent degrees of ability. I would therefore like to see everyone come to recognize that the motivating force behind all ability development lies in the heart-mind. Reflection upon this knowledge hopefully will contribute, one day, towards common understanding that “Talent Education” means “Oh, yes, that association of parents seriously committed to developing superior heart-minds in their children!”
I would like to emphasize that our research is not concerned solely with nurturing violinists’ heart-minds. Children’s heart-minds are shaped by’ every aspect of their daily lives, and it is useless to try to attune a heart-mind exclusively to the act of playing the violin. November, 1957
“Where love is deep, much will be accomplished.”
History of Dr. Suzuki
Shinichi Suzuki was born in Nagoya, Japan, in 1898 as son of the founder of the largest violin factory in the world. At the age of seventeen he began to play the violin, and later studied in Tokyo. In 1920 he went to Berlin, Germany, to study violin with Karl Klingler for eight years. While in Berlin he married a German girl, and in 1928 returned to Japan to con certize. Later he taught violin at the Im perial Music School and the Kunitachi Music School. With three of his brothers he founded the Suzuki String Quartet. Some years later, Suzuki established the Talent Education Research Institute. There are now branches of Talent Education all over Japan, America, Canada, and many other foreign countries. Twenty years ago, Shinichi Suzuki founded a Kindergarten where calligraphy, mathematics, reading, English conversation, etc. are taught. Suzuki believes that through his method, graduation from a university could be reached at the age of seventeen.
While Suzuki was in Germany studying violin under Professor Klingler, he was surprised to notice that all German children at the age of three understood and spoke fluent German. He was suddenly struck with amazement at the fact that all children throughout the world speak their native tongues with the utmost fluency. People in general think that this ability that children everywhere display is natural; however, Suzuki concluded that any child is able to display highly superior abilities if only the correct methods are used in training. Indeed, all children in the world are brought up by a perfect educational method: their mother tongue. This was the real beginning of Talent Education, as he named it later.
The essence of Suzuki’s approach to learning a musical instrument is the mother-tongue approach, derived from the way a child learns language. From recordings the child becomes familiar with the Suzuki and other repertoire so that when lessons begin about age three his mind already knows the musical language he will slowly begin to play on an instru ment and even later learn to read. As with spoken language mothers play an important role in the teaching process and so are given instruction on the instrument and also taught how to be patient and encouraging. New skills and concepts are taught in small steps a child can con sciously master, and lessons last only as long as the child’s attention span. A key learning technique taken over from spoken language is repetition. With frequent repetition of everything from small skills to large pieces a child builds competence and confidence.