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What Is Talent Education?

The philosophy of Talent Education was developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki in Japan in the 1940's. This method, which today has become an international movement, is based on respect for the child. Dr. Suzuki said, "talent is not inherited and the potential of every child is unlimited". All children are respected as unique human beings, and they are capable of developing their musical abilities as well as they develop linguistic and other abilities.

Dr. Suzuki noted that children all over the world learn to speak their mother tongue with ease, no matter how complicated it might be. They learn to speak by listening, primarily to their parents and other caregivers, and then imitating. If a child's efforts to speak and increase vocabulary meet with praise and positive reinforcement, the learning process is facilitated. Thus very young children acquire huge vocabularies seemingly without effort.

Dr. Suzuki believed that the same steps involved in language learning could be applied to the learning of music:

  • daily listening followed by imitation
  • constant repetitions
  • praise and encouragement
  • positive learning environments (home and studio)
  • peer involvement (group classes)

The Suzuki method repertoire was selected to build skills in easy sequential steps for young children. The mastery of these skills builds confidence and children progress at their own pace. Group classes and concerts provide a critical connection with other children learning the same skills and playing the same music. This provides motivation and enjoyment.

Qualities such as memory, co-ordination, quick response, careful observation, pride in accomplishment and sensitivity to others are also developed with this method of instruction.

A Suzuki education provides students with an excellent foundation for pursuing a career in music, and many of the world's most famous young string players have a Suzuki background. However, the goal of Talent Education is not to create performers, but to develop fine character.

A key to the Suzuki approach is parental involvement. The parent attends every lesson with the child, learns to play the instrument, and acts as "home teacher" in the practice sessions at home. Beginning families attend several weeks of Parent Education classes. Thus a strong cooperative relationship between teacher, parent and child is established, and parent and child can grow together through the mutual experience of learning to play an instrument.

For more information on this topic, see the websites for the Suzuki Association of Ontario and the Suzuki Association of the Americas.