It was suggested to me via private message responses that I cover sight reading in the Suzuki method for my next blog. I feel like this is an excellent facet to touch on.
So can a Suzuki student read music? Talk about a loaded question. More often than not, "traditionally" taught teachers and players will scoff at the Suzuki method for this reason alone. It is a very common misconception that the "Suzuki method" teaches students to learn by ear alone. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Regardless of the method being taught, a great deal actually depends on the teacher (shocking, I know). When the Suzuki method hit the United States, it created this huge phenomenon. Suddenly there was this series of books out there that practically taught students for you! How easy is that?!? The pieces build on themselves in regards to techninque, there's no higher power saying that you have to be "authorized" to teach Suzuki, all you have to do is tell the student to pop in the tape.
Sadly, what we see here now in the US are the results of that lack of mediation. Many of the students who learned from the Suzuki method books may not have actually been taught by a Suzuki teacher. The teacher may not have actually known anything about the man OR his philosophies. Fortunately, improvements are being made. The Suzuki Association of the Americas is making teacher training more readily available. This is causing some of said teachers to begin crawling out of the woodwork as it were.
So to answer the sight reading question: a true Suzuki student should be able to read. In fact, sight reading is a topic covered ad naseum in any Suzuki teacher training course (either short term or long term training). It has always been considered an important aspect of playing by Shinichi Suzuki. Children should begin learning how to read music when they start reading in school.
Something to keep in mind to wrap up: just beucase something is taught differently does not mean that something is taught incorrectly.
As a student who was raised in the Suzuki method and a current Suzuki teacher, I've come to notice that many people don't actually know exactly what a "Suzuki student" is all about. There are a lot of myths and even more stereotypes revolving around this method. I think that educating fellow musicians and teachers is a vitally important task.
Shinichi Suzuki's major breakthrough in child education came from watching hundreds of newborn infants. He realized that every infant eventually learns to speak the "mother tongue." Children have an incredible ability to assimilate auditory information. He also observed no parent doubts their child's ability to learn to speak. They always encourage and practice constant repetition. From these observations he drew the conclusion that given the right environment, every child can play music.
With these things in mind, we can move on to the actual method. The Suzuki method revolves around auditory learning and one point lessons. Children begin to learn note reading when they start to actually read words on a page. With very few exceptions, a three year old does not understand the value of symbols on a page. But they can learn by ear; the same way we learn how to speak before we learn how to read and write.
However, we would never learn to speak without proper encouragement. A major focus in the Suzuki method is that you never doubt a student's ability to play. As soon as you tell someone that they can't do something, they generally can't do it. But if you teach a music student the way you would teach a child to speak in that there is not a single doubt in your mind that he or she will say "mama" if you repeat it enough times, the child is guarenteed to succeed.
So that's a start. Hopefully, there will be more blogs to come that expand on this idea.
More entries: September 2009
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.