Nurtured By Love: Reflections On the Suzuki Method

By Alexa Massey, Cello, Instructor at The Lesson Studio

The Suzuki Method is a rich musical philosophy based on the life work of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki. As I come close to the end of my first year of studying Suzuki Pedagogy at the University of Denver, I have found myself reflecting on several significant points of the Suzuki method which have not only nurtured me as a person, but also shaped me as a musician and teacher.

The point that has affected me most deeply is Dr. Suzuki’s emphasis on talent being nurtured and created rather than inborn. Even growing up doing the Suzuki Cello books, I had not internalized this part of Suzuki philosophy until recently. Many people feel quickly discouraged and give up at endeavors at which they don’t immediately display exceptional “talent.” Suzuki inspires a pro-active sentiment, and makes me realize that my weaknesses are due to lack of effort, consistency, and/or lack of correct environment and instruction, rather than due to an inborn lack of ability. Dr. Suzuki has also made me take a second look at my apparent “talents”—and made me realize that my strengths are not due to a magical, inborn ability within myself, but rather the day-to-day conditions and priorities of my life, opportunities I’ve taken advantage of, as well as years of guidance from excellent teachers and constant support from my parents. It is these factors that have led to my success. Suzuki’s philosophies are motivating because one cannot feel hopeless about him or herself if they really put this principle into action every day of their lives. He teaches us that, “only through action can the power of the life force be displayed. Ability develops through practice.”

Dr. Suzuki’s work with disabled children has been especially moving to learn about. His “unorthodox” methods and relentless personal creativity show that, with effort and dedication, even a very young blind child can become a musical virtuoso, such as his Teiichi Tanaka, whom he describes in detail in his book Nurtured By Love. Dr. Suzuki’s dedication to this child helped him establish a way to express himself, build his self-esteem, offer him a social outlet, as well as give him opportunities to shine and touch people with his music through performance. I’m sure that his childhood and life were greatly enriched by music. Through his work with students such as Teiichi, Dr. Suzuki teaches us, “any child is able to display highly superior abilities if only the correct methods are used in training.”

While Dr. Suzuki turned out many talented young students, I believe that his method develops sensitivity, discipline, endurance, and a beautiful heart because of his belief that every child can. If music was treated like an exclusive “club” that only the elite or genetically pre-destined could join, then he would be building a foundation built on ego and personal insecurity. It would not reap true art. Because of his faith in all children, this philosophy instills real self-esteem and fine character that is not based on a child’s achievement, but rather the inherent worth of their soul and their infinite potential. His philosophy creates children with strength and humility of character. Dr. Suzuki lived the principle, “character first, ability second.” Dr. Suzuki teaches us to, “never loose your humility, for pride obscures the power to perceive truth and greatness.” By believing in the potential of every child, he was coming from a place of humility, greatness, and strength.

The world of music is so much more than a hobby or afterschool activity; it is a way of life, and something to keep the spirit alive in a world that will always have darkness.

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One Response to “Nurtured By Love: Reflections On the Suzuki Method”

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