We Follow the Child (a.k.a We’re Suzuki-Inspired)
The philosophy of education we advocate for is inspired by several different ideas, which all boil down to what we like to call a Kid Centric approach. One of our favorite ideas at Music Kids is encapsulated in the words of the late, great, Dr. Sininchi Suzuki, Founder of the the Suzuki Method of instrumental instruction. It goes something like this: “I am mentally preparing myself for the five-year-old mind. I want to come down to their physical limitations and up to their sense of wonder and awe.” Inspired by this statement, we believe that the only proper approach to educating children begins and ends with an understanding of and a respect for the remarkable learning capacity of the child. We approach every child from where they are.
Don’t grow up too quick, kid
This approach emphasizes the advantages of youthful learning and precisely tries not to turn kids into adults too fast, but focuses on the learning strengths of the child. Here, too, we take our inspiration from an idea of Dr. Suzuki. Kids are like sponges; they soak things up so quickly. The idea he had was what he called the “mother tongue approach.” It places the focus on repetition and imitation as the key to mastery of an instrument. Children are hard-wired to learn their native language during their first few years, and are similarly wired to quickly learn (and love) the language of music during this same time. Teaching with this in mind enables one to begin working with kids at the earliest of ages (3+) in order to take advantage of the window of opportunity for maximizing a child’s brain development at that age.
Our teachers also spend time identifying which of the three primary learning channels (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic) is most dominant for a particular child, so they can further refine their approach. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we neglect the more analytical and mechanical side of music, such as note reading and theory. We introduce that as soon as the child demonstrates they’re ready for it—no sooner, no later. Instead of teaching children that music is an abstract page on a music stand, we help them first understand that music is born from within.
How do you know something works? Well, by the results of course
We don’t adopt any one particular method or style of teaching, but allow and encourage our teachers to use what they find works for them and their kids. This allows them the maximum flexibility and power to focus on being effective. Our teaching faculty has a real and concrete lesson plan for each and every child in every school year, allowing us to measure progress and the effectiveness of their teaching. Most of our teachers incorporate the Suzuki repertoire, because it provides an orderliness to the learning experience. Each Suzuki piece is expressly designed to take the student step by step through the skills needed to master the instrument. Plus, the songs are fun and beautiful. It also allows for strong cohesiveness when it comes time for recitals and group learning.
Is that a violin bow growing out of your hands!?
Another Suzuki-inspired idea we hold dear is the notion that it’s pretty important to start children on a musical instrument at a young age, if possible. When a kid starts an instrument at the age of 3, 4, or 5, they never remember a time when they didn’t have it under their chin (or under their fingers/between their legs if they play the piano or cello). The instrument becomes a part of them. This leads to a facility and mastery that is unparalleled. Starting very young paves the way for schools looking to develop robust orchestra programs, where students have a mastery of their instrument before they even begin, so there’s nothing standing in their way or frustrating their full participation. Starting young prepares children to be active in the regional music community in later grades. (For more see Benefits)
“All ya need is love, dah duh da-da-da”
Another Suzuki concept that’s foundational for us is the idea that love—a love for the instrument and for music, a love for the process of learning, a love for that which is beautiful in the world, and a love for each other—is what drives and motivates our teaching. Dr. Suzuki saw what he was doing as something far more than just creating young musicians. It was connected to something deeper: “Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens…Beautiful tone, beautiful heart.” The two are interconnected for us. This has a profound effect on what we are able to achieve with our students. In Dr. Suzuki’s own words, “When love is deep, much can be accomplished.” (For more see “The Whole Person”)
The ways in which we’re not Suzuki (in case you’re wondering)
We do not require the parent to attend every single lesson or group class, although it is always encouraged, whenever possible. As we see it, part of our mission is to reach more kids than would normally otherwise receive this opportunity. In fact, most of our parents wouldn’t have sought out this kind of instrumental instruction, precisely on account of how busy they are.
We use technology to provide parents with handy resources like video recorded lessons, email progress reports, guides to the basics of music, and other parent resources. We do everything in our power to make sure that nothing gets lost in translation. In other words, we take parents where they are as well. A level of commitment is needed to help facilitate at-home practicing, but parents do NOT need to be the fictional, 110% available, non-working, ever-present parent, to participate! Being a “Tiger Mom” is not a prerequisite to enrollment. We bring the experience back down to Earth.
Similarly, children are encouraged to practice simple exercises by themselves at home if a parent is unavailable to work with them. Our lesson environment is very different from that of the private studio, and we’ve seen some amazing things happen in the area of increased student responsibility on account of it. Instead of viewing lessons as something that Mom or Dad roped them into, Music Kids students quickly take personal ownership of the experience.