When my son began Suzuki violin training at the age of five, a lot of people asked me why I was "forcing" violin lessons on him at such a young age. The very fact that our society views violin lessons as unnecessary torture is telling. However, the truth is that at that time my son totally agreed with it, and would have rather spent his time doing other things. So why did we persist? There are some very good reasons to give your child the gift of a Suzuki music education, and after nearly four years, I'm so glad we didn't give up. Here are some good reasons to get into Suzuki:
1. The Mozart Effect. Music stimulates the math and language centers in your child's brain.
2. Give Them a Head Start. Orchestras are full of Suzuki-trained musicians nowadays. Children who start at the traditional age (nine or ten) are by no means locked out, but starting early is a huge advantage.
3. Superior Music Learning. Younger students learn certain music skills more easily. Music is like a foreign language. Think about how easy it is for a very young child to pick up a foreign language, as opposed to an adult, or an older child. As well, Suzuki-trained musicians are famous for their flawless technique.
4. Confidence. Suzuki music students meet regularly for group classes, which they "perform" in front of an audience of parents and other students. Concerts, recitals, and "play-ins" are also a part of the Suzuki experience. By the time they are ten years old, Suzuki trained musicians are performance veterans and tend to suffer from fewer nerves, or at least they deal with it better.
5. More Confidence. By the time your child is in middle school, she will probably be playing some fairly advanced musical repertoire, and she will see some of their friends as beginners. This will give her a huge sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that with hard work and lots of practice, little people can accomplish big things.
6. Fun. Suzuki method is 100% positive. Practice is rarely pain-free, but a good Suzuki teacher (and Suzuki parent) will fill the experience with fun games, rewards, stickers, laughter, and the joy of music.
7. Quality time. As a Suzuki Mom or Dad, you will be required to spend at least 15 minutes (more like a half hour) with your child each day in practice. The practice session is like a whole day compressed into half an hour, where your child receives your attention, your praise, your encouragement, discipline, and conversation.
8. A Career in Music. The goal of Suzuki is not necessarily to produce professional musicians. However, starting Suzuki training at an early age gives her the option to pursue a career if she wants to. No child is ready to decide what her life's work will be at the age of three, but if she has a background in Suzuki, by the time she is 18, that door will be open for her.
9. Better than Working at 7-11. After ten or twelve years of lessons, your child may be ready to begin teaching lessons herself. Suzuki teacher training is available for advanced students, and in any college town, there is always a shortage of private music teachers. Giving lessons is a more civilized and more lucrative way to work your way through college than just about any other legal part-time job.
Notice what's missing from this list? I want my child to be a genius and show off for friends and neighbors. That's not what Suzuki is about, although no doubt there are one or two families like that in every studio.
If you want to pursue Suzuki education for your child, look for a teacher with "real" Suzuki qualifications. Many teachers now use the Suzuki repertoire, and may even call themselves Suzuki teachers, but they are actually using a traditional style of teaching music. You can get started with your search at this web site: The Suzuki Association of the Americas. A real Suzuki program will have some tell-tale features. One is that the beginners will start using small boxes, rather than violins, and that new mothers or fathers will go through an education program of their own, so that they know how to help their child practice. There will usually be group lessons, since playing in a group is part of the teaching method, and the repertoire will always be memorized. Most Suzuki teachers do include music reading, but, particularly at the earliest ages, learning by ear and memorization are very important.