The Suzuki Method at our school

Christchurch Rudolf Steiner School has a tradition of string playing. From Class 3 through to Class 5 violin, viola and cello rehearsals and lessons are a part of our schooling. Every day of the week, French Folk Song and Twinkles can be heard reverberating from the practice rooms. Our small group lessons focus on technique and song learning, and the orchestra rehearsals focus on playing together, self-management and review of songs. These two activities play off each other and help us learn in different ways.

The Suzuki Method

We use the Suzuki Method at school to structure our activities. This method is ideal for primary school aged children and offers an excellent musical education. Briefly, the Suzuki Method presents us with the following teaching points;

  1. The mother tongue approach, that students will not learn to read music until a bit later, rather learn how to play by watching their teacher, other students and listening to the recordings.
  2. A concept of review; we do not finish a piece and then move on. Students in book 1 should aim to ‘review’ all the songs that they have learnt every time they practice. Later, they can be a bit more selective as long as they are looking at each song regularly.
  3. Practice makes perfect; by repeating things until we have got them perfectly, focusing on making each repetition better than the last, students learn how to problem-solve their technique and learn songs. Students often come to lessons having completely learnt a song with no teaching when they have learnt this skill. Students at a post-twinkles stage in Book 1 should practise 20-30 minutes throughout the day (breaks are great) 5-6 days a week.
  4. Twinkling; by practising Twinkle Twinkle Little star in diverse rhythms, we learn much about bow technique and the nature of mindful repetition.

A big part of the Suzuki Method is parental participation in their child’s musical upbringing. In a strict Suzuki lesson, the parent is always present and this allows the child to focus on playing, confident in the knowledge their parent/guardian are taking notes. Because we have group lessons, and these happen during the working day, we do not require a parental presence. You can still help out at home in several ways to support your child in his/her music making;

  1. Ensure that your child has the Suzuki Book that they are working on. For most Class 3-5 students, this will be Book 1. Their edition should include the CD. You can grab a copy on Fishpond.co.nz
  2. Have the repertoire CD on in the background at home and in the car. The more often your child hears the repertoire, the faster they will progress through the repertoire.
  3. Be present during practice. You can support by actively working with your child and help to guide practice.

If you would like to read more about the Suzuki Method, the best sources I have found are below;

  1. Teaching from the Balance Point by Edward Kreitman
  2. Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki
  3. The forward to Suzuki Violin Book 1