Suzuki method gains ground in German violin teachingApril 7th, 2008 - 9:40 am ICT by admin
By Marco Hadem
Cologne (Germany), April 7 (DPA) Shut your eyes as little Lucia Gatzweiler plays the violin and it would be easy to forget she is just 10. From pianissimo to fortissimo, Lucia can span the full dynamic range as she plays Bach, Vivaldi, Paganini and Sibelius. And she does it all without sheet music. That is the hallmark of the Suzuki method, which is popular in Japan and the US, but has never gained much traction in the orthodox world of German musical training.
Japanese violinist and educationist Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) insisted that one does not need to be a prodigy to play well, and that skills common to most people, combined with hard work, can do the trick.
“Talent,” he said, “is not an accident of birth”.
“After I found out how to play an A, I figured out how to do the rest of the notes,” Lucia explains. “Most of the pieces I play I learn off by heart.”
The Suzuki message is not for the casual learner. It takes years of disciplined study. A Suzuki pupil has to invest a huge amount of time in patient practice.
Traditional German methods are also demanding, but are based on learning musical theory from the ground up.
Michaela Zirnbauer, a Suzuki music teacher, explains, “His method is based on the idea that any person, young or old, can learn to play an instrument the same way that a child learns his native language.”
Also known as the mother-tongue method, it encourages playing by ear, using CD recordings as a model, and playing in groups.
Observing children, Suzuki became convinced that musical achievement can be taught, just the same way as a child learns a language by listening, repeating and remembering in very small steps.
“The pupils develop a technique very quickly this way,” explains Zirnbauer. “They also develop a feeling for music.”
Suzuki also insisted on pupils adopting Japanese manners, with pupils bowing respectfully before and after lessons, just as learners do in other Japanese-inspired disciplines such as judo.
The method has spread from the violin to the piano and other instruments.
The founder taught himself the violin at the age of 17 and went to Germany at the age of 22 to study violin. Suzuki also met his wife Waltraud in Germany, the Suzuki Association notes on its website.
Despite the method’s success in many countries, many German music schools remain highly critical of Suzuki teaching.
“Unlike in the US, it has not yet achieved the standing which it deserves here in Germany,” says Zirnbauer. “Suzuki pupils get sneered at or are accused of being musical illiterates because they cannot read music.”
“That’s not true at all, because as soon as the children can read books, we begin teaching musical notation too.”
A Suzuki teacher’s objective is not to find and train virtuosos, but to raise children to a standard where they can hold their own in town youth orchestras and state competitions.
Lucia Gatzweiler achieved a first place in the North Rhine Westphalia state competitions this year in a mixed strings group formed with two other Suzuki pupils, violinist Mena, nine, and viola player Michael, 11.
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