Early Childhood Education - Suzuki Music Lessons for Children
What has music got to do with early childhood education?
Children benefit in many ways from music education and it helps them develop skills in many areas such as confidence and self-esteem, concentration and attention, memory, self-discipline and respect, social skills, sensitivity, perseverance at task, listening and observation, coordination, positive attitude to learning, and enjoyment of music that will last throughout their lives. In the long term, these skills are necessary for future academic and non-academic success.
So, what IS the SUZUKI method?
Dr Shinichi Suzuki, a Japanese violinist and teacher, developed a successful method of teaching music to very young children in the same way as they learn to speak their mother tongue even before they learn how to read or write.
Dr Suzuki recognised that every child successfully learns to speak the language in his environment, largely because of the rapid development of the brain before the age of five, and also through active listening, imitation and repetition. He believed that music was no different, and that if a rich musical environment was created, any child had the potential to become musical, even if the parents considered themselves ‘tone deaf’!
However, Dr Suzuki’s primary goal was not just about music but character building. He seeks to help unfold a child’s natural potential to learn and through the study of music, develops the child and nurture his character such that he becomes a sensitive and happy person. That is the Suzuki philosophy and that is what our early childhood music education program is based upon.
In one of his books (Nurtured by Love), Dr Suzuki used the example of “the wolf sisters” to illustrate how an environment can shape a person’s behaviour and character. Both sisters were thought to be raised by a pack of wolves when they were abandoned as babies. When they were discovered, the sisters behaved exactly like wolves- they could move very quickly on their fours, developed a sensitive and strong sense of smell, could see clearly in the dark and preferred raw meat. Based on this theory, if a positive environment was created where children were raised, then one could be sure that the children will develop positive traits and character. A child who grows up in a family who are respectful and polite towards each other, will also grow up as a polite and respectful person.
Is this a program where my child learns how to sing and dance, sort of like a music and movement class?
Unlike many music and movement classes in the market, Medley’s classes using the Suzuki Method emphasis on creating a calm, quiet and positive environment so that children can settle down quickly and hone their observation and listening skills without any unnecessary adult pressure or intervention.
Unknown to most adults, skills such as musical sensitivity and keen auditory skills are fostered and developed in a child through consistent musical activities such as nursery rhymes, spoken speech patterns, action songs, finger play, circle songs and story-telling. Besides musical skills such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, they also pick up non-musical skills such as numbers skills and counting, language and literacy, size and direction, vocabulary, social skills like taking turns and sharing, and motor skills like finger independence. So Medley’s Suzuki classes are definitely more than just song and dance. Find out more on Medley Toddlers (Suzuki) and Medley Preschooler (Suzuki) lesson here.
With such a wide age gap, can my child (who is much older) learn anything or (my child who is much younger) catch up?
Children are fast learners and they pick up habits and skills even faster when they have someone to model against, for example, a parent or older sibling. So young children in this Suzuki program will model after older children and pick up more sophisticated skills while the older children tend to be settled by the presence of younger babies, and they enjoy being ‘the expert’, which is important in their development of self-esteem and patience. This Suzuki program is designed to accommodate children of all ability levels, and each child is free to develop at his own pace. Dr Suzuki acknowledged that observing and interacting with other children creates learning opportunities and thus incorporated multi-age classes and group activities into his approach.
What is the difference between the Medley Toddlers (Suzuki) & Medley Preschoolers (Suzuki) program?
Medley Toddlers Suzuki music programs are for children from 6 months to 2.5 years old. They are introduced to percussion musical instruments, nursery rhymes, spoken speech patterns, action songs, finger play, circle songs, storytelling and other musical activities.
Medley Preschoolers Suzuki programs are for children 2.5 to 4 years old. Suzuki Preschoolers’ program is a follow-up program on Suzuki Toddlers. It builds on more complex musical concepts and skills such as musical, physical and cognitive. For instance, Suzuki Preschoolers are introduced to solo spot to boost self-confidence and ensemble-playing to learn cooperation. And to further emphasize on the importance of listening, we expose children to quality classical music and guide parents to follow up with the listening at home. Talk to one of our teachers at Medley Music School and we will be able to advise you with more details on the different music lessons and programs.
Does the Medley Preschoolers Suzuki music program touch on instruments like the piano or violin?
We will expose our Suzuki Preschoolers to more than just piano or violin, which are the more common and accessible instruments. Instead, they will touch on orchestral instruments such as flute or clarinet. Occasionally, we will bring in students to perform on certain instruments to allow our Suzuki Preschoolers to see, hear and observe how a particular instrument is being played and what kind of sound it makes, so that they develop sensitivity to specific instrumental sounds.
What is the next step for my child’s music education after the Medley Preschoolers Suzuki music program?
After Suzuki Preschoolers, your child will be ready to advance onto an individual or group musical instrument learning level. Medley Music School offers Piano and Violin using both the Suzuki method and traditional method. Other instruments such as Ukulele, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Drums and Vocal lessons are also available. Call us at 6363 4881 to speak to one of our staff for more information on the different music lessons that we offer.
For a 6-month-old baby, is he/she too young to understand what is going on in the class?
It is now widely recognised among early childhood music researchers and professionals that babies are impacted and benefit greatly from regular exposure to quality music as early as possible in their lives, ideally well before birth.
The benefits of this class are many folds: Babies start to listen even while in their mothers’ wombs. The class is a continuation or a head start for both mother and baby in listening to good, quality music. The calm environment will allow the baby to settle down quickly and the same music being played at home will have the same calming effect on the child. The bond between mother and child becomes stronger and there is good interaction and support among mothers in the class. As the child grows into a toddler, he/she would be so familiarised with the music that it will be easy for him/her to ease into a new environment faster. His/her observation skills and learning of patterns will accelerate since his/her listening skills have been sharpened since he/she was a baby.
At what age can my child starts individual or group music lessons?
Depending on individual or group class setting, child’s individuality and assigned teacher, your child can pick up instrument learning as young as 3 or 4 years old.
If my child is being trained in the Suzuki method, will he/she be able to take graded exams successfully?
Yes. The Suzuki method is really a teaching approach just like many other approaches such as Orff or Kodaly. As the child progresses in the Suzuki approach and when parent, child and teacher feel that he/she is ready for exams, he/she will be taught the other components of what a typical music exams entail such as sight-reading, aural and scales. But at the same time, the student is still being taught in the Suzuki approach and in playing its repertoire.
We encourage parents to consistently attend the Suzuki music lessons with their children and participate along with them. Some children may take more time to warm up and be familiar with the environment and social setting. But your efforts will pay off when you see your child being more musically-inclined, confident and most of all, happy.
Feel free to call us at 63634881 for more information on our Suzuki Music Programs here at Medley Music School Singapore.