Why the Suzuki Method is Important and Irreplaceable

I’ve always been proud of being a Suzuki-trained violinist, having long defended Suzuki against criticisms (“Suzuki students don’t learn to read, develop bad technique, sound too imitative, etc…”), none of which ring true in my experience.

Yet, since veering away from my classical roots into jazz violin, I’ve cried out about the limits of classical music training in general, and made recommendations for augmenting it.

You might even say I’ve been on a high horse trying to “reform classical music education,” pushing my progressive ideas in articles, an online method, an annual camp, and a busy schedule of teaching at conferences and schools.

When I spoke with my friend Gabriel Bolkosky the other day, his impassioned and thoughtful comments inspired me to shut my big fat mouth for a second and think about what is enduring and right about the Suzuki method, and why all the things I’ve been saying are really just a matter of details.

He made me realize that teaching music is not about the way you hold the bow, shape the hand frame, choose repertoire, improvise, phrase, compose, produce sound, groove, order your pedagogical sequences, or any of that geeky stuff. It’s about teaching people, through music, “to be good human beings.”

The tenets of Suzuki’s philosophy and approach focus on nurturing the good in students and parents.

Case in point: my former teacher, Ginny Christopherson, embodies the best of Suzuki method through her unwavering committment to instill the discipline and love of music in her students, all the while demanding from parents that they never give up on encouraging the same from their children. Now that I am a “Suzuki Dad” (Ginny also taught my daughter), I’m all the more aware of how important our teacher’s role has been for my entire family, and even our community.

Suffice it to say, I now concede that, while there are many new-fangled things to discover and implement in music education, some things must not be tampered with. (Let it be noted that for once I have taken a “conservative” position!)

But don’t take it from me…

Violinist, Suzuki teacher, and director of the Phoenix Phest Grande, Gabriel Bolkosky says it much better than I can, and his words in this video were the reason for my writing this introduction in the first place. Check it out:

What do you think?

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