Pedagogy - Combining Suzuki, Music Learning Theory, Dalcroze and Mimi Zweig’s Approaches for Success.



The Suzuki method is an educational philosophy which strives to create high ability and beautiful character in students through a nurturing environment while learning a musical instrument. The nurturing focuses on factors which Shinichi Suzuki observed in native language acquisition, such as immersion (daily listening to CDs of the repertory), encouragement, small steps, much repetition in a non-judgmental atmosphere and an unforced timetable for learning material based on each person's developmental readiness.  Every student can learn and play music at a high level.  Educating talent from an early age teaches students focus, problem-solving and creativity and provides an outlet for artistic expression. 

Edwin Gordon’s Music Learning Theory teaches audiation, how to think music in the mind with understanding.  This approach combined with solfege syllables and hand signs make it easy for students to memorize, improvise and self-correct their playing as well as eventually read, compose and play chamber music. 

The Dalcroze Method involves teaching musical concepts through movement. Turning the body into a well-tuned musical instrument is the best path to generating a solid, vibrant musical foundation. The Dalcroze Method consists of three equally-important elements: eurhythmics, solfège, and improvisation, which teaches expression, music reading and creativity from the very beginning

A violinist needs to be able to play beautifully and expressively, play by memory, read music fluently, play in ensembles, learn by ear and improvise, ideally in many styles.  I have found that students need to be nurtured continually in all of these areas, so elements of note-reading are taught from the beginning, while learning by imitation and mastery through improvisation are constantly revisited at all levels.

Suzuki principles, repertory and teaching methods are used with the Royal Conservatory’s Violin Series 2013, which features pieces that develop gradually in a large variety of styles across the centuries.  After the student has finished the Royal Conservatory Preparatory Repertoire, they can decode and read music from Level 1 with some help from their parents. Students enjoy having the resources (solfege) to teach themselves most of the new tunes even in the preparatory book, unlike Suzuki repertory which requires much more diligence to master the hard spots. Students prefer to learn more tunes quickly rather than spend weeks or months learning one new tune. After learning four songs from the preparatory level, students also learn tunes completely by ear with the videos under Tunes.

To make sure that a student’s posture and talents develop optimally so the student can play classical or alternative styles at a high level, I follow Mimi Zweig’s approach used at the preparatory string program at Indiana University, which is influenced greatly by the teachings of Paul Rolland which help to create freedom from excessive tension and ease in playing through the use of good motion patterns.

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