Both of my children have spent collectively about 10 years of Suzuki music training. My oldest is a violinist and my youngest is a flute player. I am at once impressed and jealous of their method of learning music. As a trumpeter, I didn’t have anything like the Suzuki program, a program that includes ten books, a well-thought-out progression of pieces to learn, an emphasis on playing by ear and memory, and a comprehensive philosophy of music education for the young developed by Shinichi Suzuki around the year 1945 in Matsumoto, Japan.
The trumpet education I had instead was perfectly good and adequate. I learned interesting music at a rapid pace. However, not a lot of time was spent getting me set up correctly on the instrument. The progression of etudes, solos, duets and scales was pretty random. I spent no time listening or memorizing my pieces. In addition to all of this, I began trumpet at age 12 in a band program, waiting to begin private lessons at age 14, whereas the Suzuki program typically begins young musicians from 4 to 7. This earlier window of learning is crucial to the development of the musical brain, as a number of studies have shown. I had taken piano lessons from age 5 to 7, so perhaps I had some benefit from this early experience.
I would love to see an actively cultivated Suzuki program tailored to the trumpet (I actually think the cornet is a better balanced instrument for very young hands, because it’s shorter). Many of the pieces from the violin method could be used for the trumpet books, with some transpositions, of course. Even as I am writing about this, I have become aware of an incipient Suzuki studio that has started in Sweden. Once this studio has had some success, perhaps we can build upon this in the United States.
In the end, however, whether you call it Suzuki or another name, I would like to see a new teaching method that included these elements:
- An attitude of joy, patience and love conveyed to the student at every opportunity
- A series of tuneful pieces that incrementally introduces the elements of musical rhythm, keys and notation
- A high-quality recording of these pieces for the students to listen to
- Emphasis on playing by ear
- Emphasis on starting young
- Performances from memory
- Emphasis on setting up the embouchure and other basic mechanics
- Group classes each week
- Studio recitals about twice a year, in which the students play a piece from memory
- Solo repertory recitals about every year that include all of the pieces worked on during that time (about 10 to 20 pieces)
- Musical “mind games” (fun ways of teaching musical notation)
- An association of like-minded teachers for support
- A summer camp for more intensive work during the day with like-minded teachers coming together to share their teaching collectively
“Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill.”
—–Shinichi SuzukiNo tags for this post.
H Stan, when I taught young people I found it very helpful to do so from the piano, so that from the very first lesson, exercises could be make more fun and more musical by adding piano accompaniment. Also I think that a monthly class where everyone plays a piece in front of the other students gets them used to the idea of performing even if they are only playing Yankee doodle .I found that it created great solidarity amongst the students, the ones who had dyslexia and had to struggle seemed to get the biggest support from the others.
Thanks for the post, Graham. Teaching young trumpet players in a very well-thought out way seems to me to be of the utmost importance. Hey–would you care to do a blog interview at some time in the future? Let me know!
Sure Stanley. There are plenty of things that I would like to comment on but the days go by so quickly, I am very busy and dont make enough time to keep up with the vast number of subjects that seem to flow from your keyboard on a daily basis. I will get back to you on the topic of mouthpieces as there have been some recent discoveries that merit more recognition. All the best Graham.