From Twinkle to Bach – Learning Music the Suzuki Way

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Dr Suzuki from Suzuki Archives

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Strings by the Sea Camp, San Diego

When Jack was a toddler, his dad took him religiously to those popular music appreciation classes, then we tried drums since he had natural rhythm, but the teacher with the loud demeanor and Mr Magoo glasses intimidated him.  So we tried piano lessons, but he could not sit still for more than 15 minutes and after six months, the piano teacher dropped us with some vague excuse about scheduling.

Violin was never our instrument of choice, because it seems too complex for our son’s short attention span.   We kind of just “stumbled” on it after someone mentioned that her ADHD son learned the piano with the Suzuki method and suggested we try any instrument if I can find a Suzuki teacher.  We found a violin teacher, and Jack had his first violin lesson when he was almost nine. Violin and him seemed a very unlikely match, he was reluctant and we were not optimistic.  Now, four years later, he’s still playing the instrument and somewhat enjoying it.

The Suzuki method was developed by Dr Shinichi Suzuki, based on the mother-tongue approach, where children learn music much like they learn their mother tongue – hearing the words hundreds of times and repeating them.  Children learn to speak before they learn to read, so why should music be different.  Jack has perfect pitch, but poor attention, so replicating sounds and notes are easy for him where it would have been impossible for him to read and follow notes while working on fingering and bowing.  For more information about Suzuki music, check out this blog post by his teacher, Danielle Gomez http://rethinkinggenius.blogspot.com/

Inspite of his anxiety and stage fright, he does two solo recitals a year, an annual concert at the Del Mar Fair in San Diego, and a holiday recital every December for a retirement home.  He just attended his fourth violin camp, where they were immersed in a week of practice, working on techniques, repertoire, fiddling, jazz and orchestra music.

This is his musical journey.  He’s no protégé, we fight about practices, he can’t do jazz because it’s “chaotic”, and unstructured, but he can harmonize, and his repertoire has expanded to classical pieces played in movies and concerts – such as Minuet by Luigi Boccherini, in a recent BBC movie, Quartet, produced by Dustin Hoffman, and Humoresque by Dvorak, exquisitely rendered by Itzhak Perlman (whom he’s trying to mimic) and Yo Yo Ma.

Sight reading music is a challenge, and he struggles with musical expression like tone and dynamics, as these don’t come naturally to him, but he’s making music, and having fun, most of the time.  So while the best laid plans might have to be abandoned, if you suspend skepticism, your child could sometimes surprise you.  Ours is an accidental violinist.

Also Read: Lessons from Summer of 2012

 

Kate M

Reformed Corporate Workhorse. Reuser / Recycler. Blogger. Reader. Singapore Girl. San Diego Mom. Believer.

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