In 2013 I was fortunate enough to come across the non-profit private music school Ottawa Suzuki Strings. When I met the other teachers and their students, I recognized a deeply organized approach that relied heavily on the community that the school had created. When I travelled to Pittsburgh and had the privilege of working with Suzuki teacher-trainers William Kossler and Mir Ali, I observed teachers who had a lifetime of working with children and who were able to convey a deep enthusiasm for learning the guitar.
Kossler showed up to every lesson with a binder full of stickers and toys appropriate for every song and situation while the parents sat in the class and took notes. The kids were beyond attentive, in fact they were totally absorbed in the world that Kossler had created and in the challenges he laid before them. The students that met at this Suzuki institute had never played together before but within the first half hour they were able to play their repertoire as an ensemble with a steady tempo and with a great sound. After observing a couple of classes, I knew that the Suzuki philosophy was right for me.
The crux of the Suzuki philosophy lays in a few main principles: parental involvement, early beginning, listening, repetition, standardized graded repertoire, group classes with other children, specialized teacher training and most importantly a positive and encouraging atmosphere for learning. Parents need to be involved in order to ensure successful practice of the material learned in the class; kids spend a lot more time with their parents during the week than they do with their teacher. The earlier the children begin learning music, the greater facility they will have with their instrument in the long run. The Suzuki philosophy relies on children learning music very much the same way they learn language: by being immersed in active or passive listening the child will have a mental context for the notes that they learn on their instrument. Shinichi Suzuki called this the mother tongue method.
Once the children have established good listening habits and exhibit proper posture they are ready to begin the long journey of building upon each fundamental skill they’ve learned through the graded repertoire and repeat it until it is mastered. As long as the parents and the teacher create a positive environment in the practice room and during the lessons, any child has the ability to learn music regardless of his/her background if all of the above conditions are met. One of the most important things for the teacher is to learn how to motivate the child early on in the process of lessons. There are a plethora of games and engaging activities that I have observed other teachers use in their lessons, others I have found through my research on the internet and even some that I have invented myself. I am always learning from other teachers and from my students in an effort to continually evolve and improve my abilities as a teacher. In my opinion, the number one goal for the music teacher working with young children is to keep the student actively engaged throughout the entirety of the lesson and although some children are easily and intrinsically motivated, others may require a sustained effort and a lot of patience on the part of the teacher. The trick is to learn to recognize when a child is actively engaged in the learning process and to find ways to stimulate them when they are not. It is then the parent’s job to ensure their children establish a regular practice routine and to use the tricks they learned during lesson observation to help motivate the child at home. The Suzuki triangle, or the parent-teacher-child relationship, is at the core of learning music through the Suzuki method.
We are so grateful that Adam is our children's guitar teacher. He is an amazing musician and role model. He brings an enthusiasm to his lessons that inspires our boys and fully engages them as players and learners.
- Scott and Beth
Email Adam for inquiries pertaining to classical guitar lessons or to set up a trial lesson in the Ottawa/Gatineau area.