What is the Suzuki Method?

Click here for the longer answer, but it is both a teaching philosophy and an international curriculum. Dr. Suzuki developed the Suzuki Method in response to World War II, believing music could bring all people together. We use music as a vehicle to develop many character traits, some of which are: a deep love of learning, recognizing the beauty in others and in the world, understanding the value of hard work, perseverance/grit, the belief that your best self is a measure against your own potential, not other’s achievements.

What makes GSA different from other music schools?

There are many differences but perhaps the most important is the quality and training of our teachers. Parents would never allow their children to be taught school subjects by teachers that had no teacher training. Music education should be no different. Training matters, and on-going teacher development is critical. Our teachers are simply unmatched in training, experience, and commitment to their craft. We even do training with teacher trainers through our school. Ask around or come to one of our many events and you will hear the difference. The other big difference is our sense of community. Our Suzuki parents are amazing! They support each other and all of the children. Our Suzuki kids are also some of the kindest, most encouraging, supportive, and hard working kids you will ever meet. They cheer and support each other, and their spirit is contagious.

What is the learning environment like? What is your teaching philosophy?

We believe strongly in many things, some of which are:

  • Every child (and every human) is capable of making music. Making music is a part of the human experience.
  • Children learn best in environments where they feel deeply loved and respected, not where they feel ashamed or inferior.
  • Children learn best in non-competitive environments, but instead are taught to develop intrinsic motivation and drive.
  • Children learn best where joy is present.
  • Striving for excellence and deep mastery is how true self-esteem is built.
  • All children (and all humans) learn differently. It is important to reach each child in ways that work for each individual brain.
  • All teachers should receive training on HOW to teach. Teacher training should be on-going and life-long. Teacher training matters.
  • Parents are the strongest models for their children.

Please keep in mind that there are numerous books on Suzuki philosophy. Suzuki and Montessori also have many shared beliefs. If you want to learn more, we suggest “Beyond the Music Lesson” by Christine Goodner, or “Nurtured by Love” by Dr. Suzuki.

What kind of a time commitment are we talking about?

At a minimum we see the students twice a week: once in a group class with peers, and once in a private lesson. The practice parent (the parent that is learning alongside the child) needs to attend the private lessons. The practice parent also practices daily (yes, daily) with the child. Practice sessions will vary in length at home (and should). There will be days when a child has a lot to give and wants to keep going, and then there are days when both the parent and the child are doing really great to just do one small thing. For a young beginner you could think somewhere between 5 min and 15 min. It is important to keep in mind the moods and emotions of both people when practicing. As for long-term planning, the vast majority of our students and families stay active in our program until their child graduates from high school, and truly that is our goal. We (the teachers) love these children, and often feel like a 3rd parent after seeing the child grow from toddler to adult. We regularly work with an individual child for over a decade, depending on the age they begin lessons, and we teachers become very invested in the emotional well-being of each child (and the parent) and often continue relationships well after college graduation.

How can I explore your program without committing?

In the summer months we have a very fun camp called “Jump Start to Twinkles.” We have free Parent Info Nights, and you can always come and watch our free concerts and recitals. If you want to observe some group classes or lessons, please email us and we can give you some options. We love for parents to observe our teaching. It will give you a great feel for our program and we truly do want parents to understand our program, the philosophy, and the curriculum before they join us. We are far more interested in a long-term investment in each individual child than we are simply having a lot of students. Suzuki is never going to be the right fit for every family, but anyone that wants to be a part of our community will surely feel welcome, supported, and hopefully “nurtured by love” through their musical journey.

How do I choose an instrument for my child?

This is probably our most asked question. You can expose your children to various instruments and very rarely, they will have a set opinion. If you like the instrument they chose, go with that. If you really don’t like that instrument or can envision any issues, pick an instrument YOU, the parent, can support in your home for the next 15 or so years. It’s more important for the practice parent to be excited about the instrument. Part of our method includes building an identity with the instrument regardless of what you choose, and your child will develop an attachment. Keep in mind that students are always standing for violin and viola, and always sitting for cello and guitar. Larger instruments are harder to carry, smaller instruments make higher pitches. If your child has any sensory issues, contact us for a consult.

Why don’t you offer piano?

One of the real secret weapons of The Suzuki Method is the group class. When you make music with your peers, it comes alive. Just like a language, when music is not made with others, it becomes very hard to grasp fully and continue being motivating. Piano is often a lonely instrument, and there are less opportunities for students to make music with their peers. When you play a string instrument there are orchestras to play in, chamber music to perform, and it is in these peer groups that our students often fall deeply in love with music making. We do not offer piano very intentionally.

Can we just try it out for a couple of weeks or take a few lessons?

No, not really. We have a summer camp for new students wishing to explore an instrument, we would encourage you to come observe our classes, and we do offer one free trial lesson for each interested student, but beyond that you really have to commit to longer-term study if you want any chance for success. Music is a skilled-based activity, much like reading, and you wouldn’t expect your child to attempt to read a few books and then determine if they wished to continue; you innately understand that reading is a skill that needs time and development, and only gets more enjoyable with practice and proficiency. It is the same with music. It takes years to really develop the skills to play well. If you are looking to dabble, we are probably not the right program for you. However we have never heard of a student doing music long term and regretting it.

I want my children to participate in lots of activities. Does this align with your school?

No. For starters, we believe in the importance of play, free time, and even boredom in childhood. There is so much research about over-scheduling kids and the negative effects. The implus comes from a loving place (“I want to provide all these opportunities for my children,” and “won’t this help their future college prospects?”) but in reality, it simply stretches kids too thin and they can’t truly excel at anything. When choosing activities for your kids, we recommend choosing things that have transferable skills, and that parents enjoy supporting. We also strongly suggest no more than one other serious activity outside of Suzuki (a sport is often a nice balance) so that children do have time to simply be a child. If adding Suzuki into your life only makes it too hectic, and not joyful, this is not the program for you. As for college prospects, it is far far better to learn how to excel at one thing (again, hopefully that activity has transferable skills, like you find with music lessons) than to be mediocre at many things. Childhood is fast- let’s try to slow it down just a bit for all of us.

Why would I want to practice with my child? 

Another aspect of this method is relationship building between the practice parent and the child. It is essentially a way to parent: you are helping your child problem solve, not solving the problems for them but helping them navigate their own solutions. You are discovering how their brain learns, what motivates them and what deflates them. It is one of the most bonding acts anyone can do with their child. It is also incredibly hard, and humbling, and requires the ability to re-think your parenting. Personally, I have found being a Suzuki parent has been so much harder for me than being a Suzuki teacher but I am so grateful for the parenting skills and lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning) and I wouldn’t want to parent my own children any other way. It’s not for every parent, but if it appeals to you, then most likely you will cherish this Suzuki journey. You also won’t be practicing with your child forever; actually the goal is to create independence from the beginning and we want the children to own this process and their instrument. Parents leave the lessons at different ages (every child/family is different) and we have kids independent as young as 3rd grade, but in general late elementary/middle school is when parents start to leave the lesson. 

Isn’t Suzuki for the helicopter/Tiger parent that tries to control their kids or live vicariously?

I think on the surface it can be appealing to these types of parents because of the parent involvement but actually, it’s really the opposite. A “Tiger parent” is all about blind obedience: “jump because I say jump.” A Suzuki parent is focused on intrinsic motivation. We want kids to jump because they want to jump and it makes sense to jump. We want them to want it for themselves. That is actually much, much harder than giving orders. It requires us to lead examined lives as parents (“Is there a way I (the parent) can do this better?”). It’s about listening and observing your child to get to know them and how they learn. It’s incredibly humbling, and also incredibly rewarding.

Is my child too young or too old to begin at your school?

Dr. Suzuki used to say, “You’re rarely too young and never too old..” We have a wonderful Suzuki Early Childhood program for babies and toddlers age 0-3 years old (or when they are ready to start an instrument). We have students begin on instruments often around 3, but we get many older beginners every year including many students who begin in their school programs, or transfer in high school. 

Can my child play the music they want to choose?

Not really, at least not for a while. We use an international curriculum which is built on a systematic development of skills, and our teachers are highly-trained to help nurture and develop these skills within this repertoire. Each piece of music comes with a unique set of technical challenges, and it can be hard to judge these for your child, just like in reading some things are appropriate and some things are not, your teacher will know what is an appropriate challenge and what may be inappropriate to work on in your lessons. 

My [name of acquaintance] did Suzuki. Isn’t Suzuki only for beginners?” “At what level do you move to traditional teachers?”

Many people have preconceived notions about the Suzuki method, and unfortunately most people’s “Suzuki” interaction has been with teachers without any training; you can literally find these teachers in every local music shop (see “What Makes GSA different from other music schools”). The Suzuki method has become synonymous with beginning instrumentalists because executed correctly, it is one of the only fully-fleshed curriculums designed for beginning children at a young age, however the curriculum extends well beyond early childhood, and the philosophy beyond that. Our faculty has extensive experience teaching at every level, from college, to conservatory, to prep programs including those of Juilliard, MSM, Peabody, and NEC. When professional musicians observe our advanced High School classes they frequently comment on how they closely resemble their College/Conservatory studio classes, and any musician with a serious background would feel at home there. Finding fully-qualified teachers who understand how to navigate the full spectrum, from the earliest stages through high school, novice through pre-professional, is paramount to success of our program. 

Do you accept transfer Students? What if my child didn’t do Suzuki lessons previously?

We absolutely accept transfer students. If they are trained well, they will fit in seamlessly regardless of their background. If they have areas that are underdeveloped, whether in technique, musicality, theory, or any other area, we are fully capable of filling in the gaps while finding a good peer group for them, and challenging both their weaknesses and strengths. Our school’s high level can sometimes be a shock to observers who are coming from other programs or teachers, but we generally find this is motivating and helps the transferring student grow rapidly in this new challenging environment. 

Do you only do “Suzuki” lessons?

We find this question usually stems from a misunderstanding of what we teach. Suzuki is a philosophy and a curriculum, but in which all of our students are constantly working on technique, theory, sight-reading, and musicality. In other words, our instrumental and musical information is as traditional as it comes. Most of our teachers have experience teaching for Universities, Conservatories, or College Prep-programs, and instill the same knowledge to our students they would to any students in those other “traditional,” “non-Suzuki” classes. What makes us “Suzuki” teachers is the combination of teaching philosophy and curriculum we use to achieve all these things, which is more complete and comprehensive than any other method. If you mean you are looking for a less intensive program, have trouble making a twice-a-week commitment, or are looking for private lessons in your home, this program is not for you. 

My middle-school child is struggling with motivation and time commitments. Is your school equipped to help? 

Children often don’t have the words to express difficult feelings, so many do say they want to quit when what they mean is that this is hard, or there is a fear of failure, or many other things. We believe in the very important value of sticking with hard things, not giving up, and accomplishing deep learning. There is also a tremendous amount of research that backs up the value of long-term study on one instrument (meaning at least 6 years). Also, since our students are also in a group class, there is constant support, and positive peer pressure to continue. Group class is our fun, social secret weapon, and kids love it! 

Do you have recordings/videos of your students online for viewing?

We try to respect the privacy of our students and we do not post many videos of their performances. We have some videos and photos on our YouTube channel and on our Instagram. You will also see our students leading local Youth Symphonies, School Orchestras, and All-State and All-Region festival in both CT and NY. However if you would like to get a better impression of our our students in action, we encourage you to come to one of our many free recitals and concerts. The dates can be found on our school Calendar, or contact us for more information.

How do I sign up and/or is there space for my student?

You sign up by clicking here and Registering. You must pay a $300 deposit when you register. This allows us to begin the scheduling process for your private lesson. Private lessons are scheduled on your availability as well as openings in our faculty’s studios. If we can not find a time that works for your family, we will refund your $300 deposit and place you on our Waiting List. Group class times are set in advance and you can find them here. (add group class times link) To sign up for our SECE (once a week music class for infants 0 months through age 3), Register by clicking here. We have two class times; Mondays at 10:00 am and Saturdays at 10:00 am. We will CLOSE enrollment on these classes when they have 10 students in a class. We do not allow more than 10 littles ones in each of these very special classes.

What are the fees?

For a full run down of our Tuition and offerings, click here. We are a comprehensive school and your tuition covers the weekly group class, weekly private lessons, recitals, concerts, parents classes, special events, and all other activities we provide. We do not do single lessons, or month-to-month signups during the academic year (though we do prorate the tuition if you join mid-year). We want you to be a member of this community and we never charge to participate in our many extra events. Also please keep in mind that the more events you attend, the farther your money goes.