What age is best to start?
– This really depends. Somewhere between 3 and 6 is best. From personal experience, 7 is nearly always too late for Suzuki teaching. But all families are different. The key is ‘catching’ the child at the right point. A child starts to be ready when s/he can sit through someone else’s lesson quietly and says at the end – ‘I really want to do that!’ But the parents have to be ready too. Observation is important for both teacher and parent to assess when is right for everybody.
Do I need musical experience as a parent?
– No. We teach you too so if you’ve no previous experience you will learn alongside your child. Many parents come and have some lessons in advance of their children but this is not always necessary.
Do I have to have a piano?
– Yes I’m afraid so. Many people ask me if they can get one once their child has had a few lessons and appears to like it. But I’m afraid your child will only like the second and third lessons if they have progressed since the first one! – and to do this they need to practice a little bit everyday at home with you. To help you feel ready and sure you want to begin I encourage observation of other children’s lessons before you commit. This is free and very useful for everyone involved. I also like to meet separately with parents to have a good chat about their child and what is expected from both of us.
Will a keyboard do?
– No. The only way I can explain it is to say it’s a bit like having ice skating lessons and then practising on roller-skates. It just feels completely different and the child wont be able to practise the sounds and touch that I’ve taught them. A weighted electric piano is different. I own one myself and it can be useful. Ultimately it’s still not a real piano. It’s more like practising to ski on a dry ski slope. It’s an extremely good imitation! So I do teach families with electric pianos if there is a very good reason forit. However I really encourage wherever and whenever possible to try and buy or rent a real piano (see related sources).
Can you come to us to teach?
– See the section on my studio and you’ll understand why not. Suzuki studios are an open space however so brothers and sisters can always come and watch. I provide colouring pencils and things for them to do so they don’t have to sit and actively listen all the time.
Will my child learn to read music?
– Absolutely! Just as in learning a language children will learn to read once they’ve mastered the basics of music. We just like to build their confidence and show them how well they can play before we throw in that extra skill.
Do you cover grade exams?
– I have lots of experience putting kids in for ABRSM and Guildhall exams. But I also believe strongly that they aren’t necessary and most Suzuki students don’t bother with the first three or four grades. If a child is going to do well and it is of particular benefit to put them in (ie to help them get a place at a school) I am perfectly willing to do so. However there are lots of goals in Suzuki which help them to progress without putting them in a room alone with an examiner. Concerts are the main thing.
The Suzuki equivalent to formal grades exams is Graduation – this is when children graduate from one Book to the next (meaning they can play all the pieces in that Book) and as part of it they are invited to perform their “graduation piece” in a national concert. This is a big event and is often held in an impressive venue (recent graduations having taken place at St John’s Smith Square, Westminster and the Purcell Room).
No child fails graduation. Children simply graduate when they are ready, and their teacher agrees that they are ready. They make a recording of their “graduation” piece’ and it is audited (not marked) by a different teacher from their usual one. They receive a detailed report on the things done well and suggestions for future practice targets to get even better. They then receive a certificate upon graduation, often presented in a formal setting such as a public concert so the child is applauded by their audience.
When can I stop practising with my child?
– This really depends on the child, when they started and how motivated they are. Independent learning at some point is of course necessary. The chances are, the more help you have given them early on the quicker they will progress to being able to practise completely on their own. Often this happens around age 10 or when the child goes to secondary school.
Will my child get a music scholarship if they study the Suzuki method?
– We get this question a lot. Of course music scholarships are few and far between and different schools look for different things. Pianists are not always the favoured candidates because they don’t play in the orchestra. But having put several children in for scholarships over the years one thing is for certain: children who express themselves through their instruments and who are engaging as performers are the ones that shine through. And I really believe that the Suzuki method can bring this out in people successfully.