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7 Common Questions About the Suzuki Method (and why it's the best way to teach little musicians)

I've been mentioning the Suzuki method quite a bit in recent posts, so I thought it was time to address some common questions about this method. Below is a brief answer to 7 common questions.

1. What is the philosophy?

It's hard to fully answer this question. Basically, a man named Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) realized that every child could learn to speak their mother tongue flawlessly because they were constantly listening to it. He decided to apply this philosophy to learning music. The Suzuki method is based on the premise that children can learn to play their instrument if they are constantly listening to the repertoire they are learning, have support from their parents and teacher, and learn the instrument in a communal environment. There are many more pillars of the philosophy, but by far the most important one is that every child has the aptitude, talent, and ability to make music. If you are still curious, you can read more about the philosophy here. You may also wish to read the book "Nurtured by Love" by S. Suzuki if you want the full philosophy.

2. What instruments do you teach using the Suzuki method at Upper Beaches Music School?

violin and cello

At UBMS we have a Suzuki violin program. As of September 2017, we will have Suzuki cello, and we hope to eventually add piano to that list as well.

3. Does my child have to take a private AND a group class? Can't I just choose one or the other?

Well, that would certainly be simpler, wouldn't it? But no, both the private lesson and the group class are integral to the Suzuki method. In the private lessons, students learn technical skills, the building blocks for the songs they are learning, and tailored instruction specific to their needs. In the group class, your child will learn how to play in unison with others, how to give and receive feedback from their peers, and have opportunities to perform for others on a regular basis.

A Suzuki violin group class at Upper Beaches Music School in East Toronto on Danforth

4. If my child is using the Suzuki books, are they learning the Suzuki method?

Because the repertoire in the Suzuki books is so well curated, many students use the books to learn. However, in order to truly learn the Suzuki method, your child should be taking lessons with a teacher with Suzuki teacher training certification, and be enrolled in a weekly private AND a weekly (or bi-weekly) group class.

5. I've heard that kids don't learn to read music through the Suzuki method. Is this true?

Young child plays violin with music at music lesson at Upper Beaches Music School in East Toronto on Danforth

There are some old-school Suzuki teachers that don't teach note-reading until very late. Most current Suzuki teachers realize that this is not ideal, and that music reading is learned more easily if it's started at an early age. At UBMS, we start integrating some aspects of note reading in the first level group class, and a portion of private lessons each week is devoted to music reading.

5. What is the parental commitment?

Compared to most music programs, it's a lot. The parent is required to attend the private lessons and group classes and pay close attention (taking notes and little videos helps). This is so that the parent can practice daily with the child, and be a secondary teacher at home. The payoff for such a large investment of time is huge. You will bond with your child (you will also struggle with them- more on that soon), and you will get to watch them learn invaluable life skills, like how a small investment of time each day can help them reach their goals.

A father practices violin at home with his daughter

6. For what age is this the most ideal?

At UBMS, we recommend that students begin at age 4 for the best results (see our blog post "The best age to start music lessons"). In a traditional Suzuki program, any age is accepted, but the Suzuki program at UBMS is best suited for children entering Junior or Senior Kindergarten.

7. How do I register my child?

We thought you'd never ask! Our program runs from September- June annually, so you may wish to contact us to be put on our wait list to ensure your spot. You also may wish to have a free trial lesson first, in which case you can request one here. Having a free trial lesson lets you meet the prospective teacher and ask any questions you may have. If you're all set to register, that form is here, and we'll be glad to have you on board!

Rebecca Lane, director, founder and owner of Upper Beaches Music School in East Toronto on Danforth

Rebecca Lane is the director, founder, and owner of Upper Beaches Music School. She teaches at the school on Saturdays, but most days you can find her chasing after her three young children, one of whom is in the Suzuki violin program at UBMS.

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