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Suzuki Method is simply...an embarassment...?


Stephen  Fine
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Hello Lymond,

That is a rather harsh critism, I'll agree. But I'll do my best to try and look into the comment. Suzuki is the most utilized method for teaching young children today. In general it is recognized that children have shorter attention spans than adults, and therefore material was chosen to stimulate the interest of the young. Therefore, Suzuki, became extremely popular due to the emphasis of songs over exercises. I've heard many people support this argument, and they genuinely feel that scales and exercises can be experienced in the song, and the need for separate scales and etudes are tedious to impose on the young student. I can think of two artists today that began by using this method: Josefowicz and Hahn. Also, Sheryl Staples and Ellie dePasquale, both assistant concermasters of major orchestras. I also have heard that in playing the tapes to very young children, that a sense of intonation is established, before note reading.

However, I have also heard the opposite argument: If you are thinking upper level development - it is widely supported that one move out of the Suzuki method into a more general method as soon as the student is able. Why? Because of the scale/exercise problem! Scales, all the way up - 3 octave (G&A 4 octave) are not exercised in the pieces and therefore intonation will become an issue. There has to be a point whereby the student stops playing only for the song, and starts playing for the drive of "getting" it. At that point, it is advisable to utilize other methods using scales, etudes, Sevcik or Schradiek or other exercises, etc.

Many teachers combine the two, and I don't see why this would not be effective, in that Suzuki gathers a nice collection of songs together in one album to use. Yet, this becomes a bit questionable somewhere down stream when a leap in command of the positions is assumed - I've heard about the "book 5" level. So then it's really drilling position and intonation, as well as exercises for articulation and bowing.

I don't know if this is what you are experiencing, Lymond, but it is something I have experienced through my children. You know, there are no real answers here. Some teachers profess extreme satisfaction, others not. Adults even enjoy the method. So I don't know what to say other than I hope this helps, Lymond, in understanding comments that might have been given. I'm one of the older crowd and before the Suzuki generation, but I have been exposed to the method.

How's everything going?

-J-

[This message has been edited by JKF (edited 10-26-2000).]

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You know it is just wonderful hearing people who probably know very little about something spouting off about it. The Suzuki "Method" is really more of a philosophy than a "Method". It is a philosophy aimed at teaching young children -- in the same way that they learn their native tongue, using positive reinforcement rather than negative criticism. There are good "Suzuki" teachers and "bad" Suzuki teachers -- just like there are "good" traditional teachers and "bad" traditional teachers.

The very well-qualified "Suzuki" teachers I know all teach scales and etudes at some point. Yes, they do let the repertoire do some of the work -- because it is an easier, more interesting way to learn, but at some point, the teachers I know do teach scales and etudes. The repertoire is, for the most part standard repertoire. Suzuki arranged it in such a way that each successive piece builds on the other. The review process builds perfecting technique with material that is already familiar. Suzuki students I know read music very well and memorize music more quickly than the average traditional student. Memorization frees the student up for inserting the musicality...

Suzuki teachers who are registered with the SAA are required to take courses in how to teach. I teach at an arts academy connected with a university. My observation is that the 4 Suzuki teachers we currently have on board have had training in how to teach young children. The traditional teachers all play very well, but the teacher training is somewhat lacking in some cases. When we have group recitals, the Suzuki students stand out from the non-suzuki students especially in musicality, intonation, tone quality and memorization. So if that is an embarassment, I guess I'll choose embarassment over the alternative.

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Bubba brings up a good point, and one widely held in today's world: musicality.

My thoughts here, stand with an older viewpoint, but I will talk about this with guarded specifics because it drives at what I suspect Lymond got into by talking with someone.

Whose musicality? HKV is one to always spout off about this topic in particular comparing his "modern" players to the older players -- so how did the older players learn their musicality, pre-Suzuki? I have my suspicions about this and it relates to the Suzuki troop players. Too often I've gotten myself into trouble with this topic, so I'm going to clam up and let the discuss roar. :-) But I'll end in saying, I don't support production line products in the arts - and - great teachers really make the difference.

Bye for now -

-J-

edited - I read the other thread. Sorry, I didn't know PsuedoY was a person, I thought it was a hypothetical question! My fault, and I don't know why this person doesn't respond to his/her assertion.

[This message has been edited by JKF (edited 10-27-2000).]

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It is entirely possible for someone to teach the Suzuki method poorly, or improperly, just as it is to teach any other method poorly. Suzuki himself claimed that there was no "Suzuki method" as much as a philosophy of loving and learning as one would their native tongue.

A good teacher will incorporate lessons outside of the book, and technique will develop accordingly.

I think many people in the US teach the Suzuki method incorrectly. I am constantly surprized by the number of adults that have come to me after a failed attempt at the "Suzuki method" with another teacher. I teach many pre-Suzuki songs and techniques with young children before and during the exploration of the Suzuki method with them (as do most successful Suzuki instructors). I will try to get them into reading a little faster than some teachers, however.

I feel that kids are capable of note reading by the time they are 7 or 8. The Violin Primer book is good for first time readers, however, I start most of my students on Strictly Strings. It is written in a logical, sequential order, and correlates well with the Suzuki method. I usually introduce Suzuki around page 25, and use each book to enhance the other. I don't know if S S was intentially written this way, but is works great! I can teach a new technique, and then show it in use in a "real song" out of the Suzuki book. Students love this, and learn the concepts without being overwhelmed or bored.

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Lymond - I hope you don't believe your own title remark - you would be the embarassment! Why would you even want to express it?

I've seen wonderful results from competent teachers using the Suzuki method (not people like me just using the Suzuki books - although the results that way can be good too).

The great students move on to other methods (of much greater intensity and effort) and to new teachers at some point; they must to become great players. The others have still accomplished a great deal and learned enough to be better amateurs than their average forebears.

I have observed these results in many young players at levels ranging from beginning 3 year olds to graduates of violin-performance degree programs. I have only the highest admiration for a method that can accomplish so much.

Andy

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I was in two large Suzuki programs as a child, and I believe that not a single violin teacher in either program neglected scales or etudes, from practically the very beginning, not to mention supplementary material for repertoire or the use of additional method books. I did Doflein, for instance, along with Schradieck and Sevcik, as a beginner.

There are teachers, both Suzuki and non, who do not believe in teaching etudes, but they are relatively rare. The only really notable one I can think of is Nell Novak, teacher of the cellist Wendy Warner, who has done a lot of collaboration with Rachel Barton.

I suspect the development of musicality is heavily stunted by the fact that children don't listen to enough music -- and don't get to nearly enough concerts. Fritz Kreisler grew up surrounded by the music of Vienna. Auer's pupils were surrounded by music from an early age, owing to their music-school training from early childhood. Etc.

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I wouldn't call it an embarassment, but I certainly think it has faults. From my experience with it, I really came out with a bad taste in my mouth. My teacher is not a certified Suzuki teacher (I'm a cellist, btw, not a violinist), but he used the pieces for me to play.

I grew up loving music and loving specific composers that my dad had played for me. Beethoven, Bach, all those good ones smile.gif. Anyway, my teacher decided that I should learn the pieces in the Suzuki books. Needless to say, it was a bit different from what I had in mind. Now I'm not saying that I should be playing Beethoven as a beginner, but I do think that the pieces in the Suzuki book are a waste of time. I didn't practice because I wasn't interested in the pieces, and I didn't get better because I wasn't practicing.

So it really didn't help me at all- it actually made me LESS serious about music. I guess it could've been taught better, but it really wasn't helpful that the pieces in the book were so dull.

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quote:

Originally posted by Lydia Leong:

I suspect the development of musicality is heavily stunted by the fact that children don't listen to enough music -- and don't get to nearly enough concerts. Fritz Kreisler grew up surrounded by the music of Vienna. Auer's pupils were surrounded by music from an early age, owing to their music-school training from early childhood. Etc.

Indeed, I see this problem very clearly in those of my wife's piano students who come from non-musical homes- she has to stress over and over again to such parents the importance of their kids being exposed to good music. And this is why Suzuki teachers are _supposed_ to make sure that their students listen to a variety of good music (on records and via concert attendance), not just their tapes and not just music written for their own instrument. As with any aspect of any method, some teachers are better at following through with this than others.

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I suppose I'll add my ideas to this thread. Although I still have not gotten an answer from the original poster, I'm still looking forward to what he meant. Perhaps a combination of what everyone said (positively) is my belief in the Suzuki method. As Bubba said, the Suzuki Method was never called the Suzuki Method by Suzuki, it was always called the "Mother Tongue" method. His main goal was also NOT to create great musicians, but to create great people. However, not only has he succeeded in creating an excellent music-based philosophy, but he's also created many great musicians. He has brought immense popularity to the violin that was not there before.

Nashville violins is also correct. The Suzuki Method requires a triangle between student-teacher-parent. A good teacher is essential. Someone Suzuki certified WITH a music degree as well. My teacher studied at the Folkwanghochschule fur Musik, Tanz und Sprechen in Essen, Germany before she even came to this country. She founded her studio where I live in 1966, it's the third oldest suzuki program in the country, and I honestly believe that without her "stricter" training in Germany, she wouldn't be as good a Suzuki teacher. Formal "traditional" training is an important part of finding a good teacher. Knowledge of orchestral playing, scales, supplemental repetoire, etc... are all needed to create a successful teacher.

Lydia emphasizes my experience with Suzuki. Good Suzuki teachers expect you to play, not onlyl the suzuki literature, but they will supplement you with more "standard" literature. I'm not writing very well as of late, excuse the "ramblingness" of my post.

PS- Andrew... I hope you go back and read my initial post... don't just respond to the headline.

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Quartettist,

Why do you call the pieces in the Suzuki books dull? They don't strike me as being any more dull than what you'd find in any other repertoire collection for beginners. Indeed, there's a good selection of simplified good music. (It's something of a pity that nobody has done a CD set of the "actual" pieces Suzuki arranged.)

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As a public school teacher, I am in a situation where I begin students in groups of 4-8 in a class. Since this program is part of a district provision (i.e. no cost per se for the lesson), we have to instruct the students to be self motivated (parents never say , "I'm not paying for lessons you're not practicing for..."). Having said that, many of the string teachers here have to be, in effect, good used car salespeople. Kids (and parents) have to play a recognizable tune, with good posture, intonation, bow hold, etc... QUICKLY. To that end, many of the Suzuki tunes work well... played in D to accomodate violists, cellists and bassists.

As far as the Suzuki philosophy fits in (as opposed to the method)... in a public school setting, it is rare... parents are not in attendance at the lessons, students are not expected to listen for x number of hours per day. I can encourage children to take private lessons, but I cannot require it. The successes I have depend on the variables... the first of which is the kid thinking, "gee, this is really cool." The next of which is the parents thinking, "gee, this is a very meaningful experience my child is receiving... I'm glad I live in a district where arts education is important." As teachers we need both of these things... otherwise it doesn't matter whose method/philosophy one uses.

In my opinion (back Suzuki), Suzuki methodology/philosophy is best when used as it was intended... starting when the child is just up and walking... emphasis on 'mother-tongue' and speaking before reading among the other wonderful ideas which Suzuki organized. If you want to use the songs for the later beginner (8 years+), GREAT... get the kid reading music right now.

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