Originally written by Suzuki instructor Ronda Cole and author Katie Lansdale
1. ‘Suzuki students don’t read music’ was justified in the early years. Japanese Suzuki students began violin at three, and began reading around five to six, upon reaching Book 4. The first American teachers lowered the starting age of students, but not as low as three, and failed to re-evaluate when to start reading. Critics were quicker to complain than appreciate the younger development of talent. Fortunately, the adjustment between age and reading in America was corrected years ago; the old complaints still echo occasionally.
2. ‘They play like robots!’ Robotic playing can be heard by students of any teacher, using any approach. Listening to recordings is not to blame: students listen to create their ‘inner song,’ not to copy interpretations. The level of musicality taught and expected from students depends entirely upon the teacher’s standards and persistence.
3. An enormous, hurtful misunderstanding is that at some point students should ‘finish’ with Suzuki and move on to a ‘real’ teacher. Since Suzuki teaching embodies an educational philosophy, it does not ever ‘end.’ If the work between a student and teacher is fruitful, it should continue. The differences between Suzuki and other approaches are most evident in the beginning. As a Suzuki student advances, components of ‘traditional’ lessons multiply: scales, rhythm studies, conducting, études, theory, and reading. My students also report on a recording or concert they heard, play a tune they worked out by ear, and recite a memorized poem. My advanced students play major repertory in lessons, but still benefit from group class, with solo opportunities and an extended group repertory.