Suzuki Philosophy

Suzuki Philosophy

In the early 1930s, Shinichi Suzuki had an epiphany:  “Oh, why, Japanese children can all speak Japanese!” He suddenly realized that here, hidden in plain sight, was a universally successful teaching method that was so natural, it was not even perceived to be a method. Language learning just happened. Children grew up surrounded by their native language, absorbing it all day every day, and then soon enough, they themselves began to speak. Each new word was celebrated and repeated endlessly and the happy child never tired of learning to communicate. Before long, the child was fluent in his or her native tongue.

Children do not need to display a particular linguistic aptitude in order to master the nuances of their complex native languages. Dr. Suzuki states that “Every healthy child in Japan has the ability to speak excellent Japanese by the age of six or seven. It is the very way they were raised. This shows that every child has plenty of developmental possibilities.” Dr. Suzuki lost no time in applying this holistic learning method to his own passion: teaching violin.

The “Mother Tongue” method was born. Dr. Suzuki was happy to teach any child who could talk. He taught the child’s parent how to teach the child at home, ensuring a constant and loving presence to guide him or her in the repetitions required to master each new skill. He encouraged his pupils to develop not only a practice of playing the instrument, but also a practice of listening to the repertoire they were learning and other beautiful music besides. He created opportunities for the children to play together where they could learn from each other joyfully. The results were phenomenal.

Though none of the children were tested for innate musical ability, all of his students were successful at the violin. “I thought I must prove that every child who can talk has fine ability. So, accepting invitations to teach privately, I started to teach violin, in which I specialized, to three- and four-year olds. The condition for my taking them as disciples was, of course, no such thing as musical trait; I asked if the child could talk, and took everyone who could. Through the daily habit of practice made possible by the efforts of the parents who followed by words, every one of them has developed ability which amazes adults.”

Dr. Suzuki is careful to point out, however, that while all children can learn and succeed, no two children will follow the same path. Each child is unique. Children will indeed have varying degrees of innate ability, various speeds of adapting. “Since I often assert that talent is not inborn and every child develops, many people misunderstand me and ask if there is no superior or inferior inborn talent. I have never said that the inborn ability of children is the same. There are no two people exactly alike. However, superior or inferior ability at birth cannot be judged from the eventual results.” Ultimately, all children deserve the best possible environment in which to learn and grow and all children can succeed if they are nurtured well.   “It is a superior environment that has the greatest effect in creating superior abilities.”

Dr. Suzuki’s method for violin quickly spread to other instruments and to other countries and it is now a vital and respected teaching method worldwide. Suzuki’s belief in the potential of each and every child is inspiring. It was his dream to help children grow into sensitive human beings with moral integrity and strength of spirit. He just so happened to be guiding them toward these high ideals by way of mastering the violin. “Suzuki’s goal was never to create musical prodigies, but to help all children to develop their potential to have ‘a beautiful heart.’” (Edward Kreitman.) Suzuki’s passion was – and is – contagious and children everywhere are continually benefiting from his vision.

* All quotes are from Dr. Suzuki unless otherwise indicated.

Everyone has a sprout of talent. Developing that sprout into a wonderful ability depends on how it is cultivated.

—Dr. Suzuki