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Talent Education

What is Talent Education? Talent Education was started in Japan in the years following World War 2 by violinist Shin’ichi Suzuki. He believed that talent was not an accident of birth, and that any child who is capable of learning to speak and read their own language has the ability to learn to play music at a very high level. In 1959, Dr. John Kendall travelled to Japan to witness the results of Suzuki’s approach and wrote the following:
 
There are moments in history when a place, a time, a (person), and an idea converge to produce results of great significance. Such a moment occurred when Shin’ichi Suzuki began his experiments in violin teaching in Japan. The results have attracted widespread attention and have generated much speculation about the nature of musical learning and the way in which every human being develops in the early formative years.
 
It is not that any particular segment of Suzuki’s ideas is new, but rather that the totality of his concepts...throw a clear light on a question we all wish to explore - how do human beings become musical?
 
Talent Education: The Basic Approach
 
Talent Education can be summed up in three major ideas:
Listening
Practicing
Performing
 
Listening
A child’s ears are very sensitive to hearing and processing complex sounds. They must be encouraged to listen to their Suzuki Violin CD every day, with extra repetitions given to the newest songs they are learning. Doing this accomplishes many things beyond simply teaching the child the notes of the songs. They also hear excellent intonation, the tone and articulation of the bow, the musical structure and how it differs from piece to piece, and they will become more and more sensitive to the musicality that is possible on the instrument.
 
Practicing
In the early years, all music is learned by ear. In the private lessons, teachers guide the parents on how to introduce the various challenges each new skill presents in small steps, how to polish the current repertoire, as well as ways of applying newly learned skills to their old repertoire. Bi-weekly group classes serve to work on current and old repertoire in a fun, cooperative atmosphere. A child may have a different teacher for private and group lessons, so parents and students are encouraged to take new ideas learned in group to their home practice and work on them as much as the practice points given during the private lesson.
Group Classes are also an opportunity to see what’s ahead. In a child’s own class, others will reach skill levels at different paces, and it is not uncommon to see and hear more advanced pieces played by others in the class. Keep notes of what you liked about how that piece was played for your future reference!
In Group Classes, the teachers frequently enhance the core Suzuki repertoire with other music, in a wide variety of styles, often with duet parts for additional harmony.
 
Performance
The more frequently a child performs pieces they know well increases a student’s self-confidence, and response they will receive from an appreciative audience will motivate them to practice and perform more. Consistent review of older repertoire ensures that students will have a wide choice of music “under their fingers” when they need it. Performance opportunities can appear at any time: during or in between lessons, in group classes, solo recitals, group concerts, home concerts and when they’re older, things like Youth/School Orchestras, Kiwanis Music Festival, busking, and music camps.
 
The KWCSS
There are two main parts of the KWCSS: the teachers and the school. The teachers of the KWCSS have decades of experience applying Suzuki’s approach to learning in a variety of teaching situations. Teaching music is a priority in their music careers, not just a pastime, and their goal is to share their love of music, through their own unique personalities, to the children and parents they teach.
The school is comprised of families from very diverse backgrounds who share the ideals of the teachers: have fun but work hard, cooperate, and don’t compete. The teachers treasure each student in the program, and cherish the contribution each child and family make to the school.
 
The Role of the Suzuki Parent
For the first several years of lessons, the Suzuki Parent is an observer and home teacher for their child at the private and group lessons. Taking clear, detailed notes during lessons is of vital importance to helping parents work with their children at home, and the notes become a journal and reference as songs are reviewed during future practice sessions. The parent helps to teach their child to learn small steps by rote, with many repetitions, during relatively short practice sessions. Later, as the student gains experience, they will gradually take on more and more of the responsibility for managing their home practice time themselves, gradually moving the parent out of their role as home teacher to mostly moral and logistical support.
The Suzuki Parent helps to establish the best musical environment possible for working at home. Parents need to try and be very consistent with implementing a practice routine by endeavoring to do the following:
  • schedule a practice time that works, and then stick to it
  • have a plan - review lesson notes before practicing and set a goal for that day
  • practice in a quiet place with minimal distractions
  • listen to the CD before practice to “prime the pump”
  • add extra listening repetitions of the newest pieces
  • emphasize quality over quantity of practice
  • be positive and use encouraging but accurate praise
  • don’t forget to play - find imaginative ways to incorporate appropriate games, activities, charts, rewards etc. to encourage extra repetitions
  • have a good cuddle when finished
A Comment About Music Reading
Contrary to musical mythology, properly taught Suzuki students do learn how to read music. Formal instruction in reading music notation begins once the student has developed good playing and practice habits. Students should not be discouraged from looking at the music book, but they simply shouldn’t be encouraged to read and play at the same time.