Is the Suzuki Method for you? A chat with instructor Bethany Stephan

Children the world over learn to speak their native language with ease. Shinichi Suzuki applied the basic principles of language acquisition to the learning of music, and called his method the mother-tongue approach. The ideas of parent responsibility, loving encouragement, constant repetition, listening to recordings, step-by-step mastery, and group learning are some of the defining features of the Suzuki approach.Discovery3

Indian Hill Music School is now offering a Suzuki Program for Violin or Guitar for ages 4+.  Learn more about this unique and effective approach from instructor Bethany Stephan.

Q. What makes Suzuki different from traditional instrument lessons?

A. Suzuki a great step-by-step approach that can be easily tailored to the individual needs of the child and incorporates a lot of games and repetition — two things most children love.

Unlike traditional lessons, students in the Suzuki program attend one private lesson and an additional group class each week — an incredible opportunity for your child to be motivated by and grow relationships with their peers and learn about ensemble playing,  and for parents to build relationships with others in the program and trade experiences. When a student studies the Suzuki repertoire, there is an immediate bond with other Suzuki students across the nation and the world.

“If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline, and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.” – Shinichi Suzuki

Suzuki’s ultimate goal was to develop beautiful human beings, so engaging in the Suzuki Method is not only about developing solid musical abilities – it is also about encouraging growth in character.

Q. Is Suzuki all about learning to play by ear?

A. Absolutely not! The philosophy is really that the best way to learn a spoken language is through hearing, imitating and repetition followed by learning how to read after a child can speak it. Suzuki took this and created a parallel for the language of music, so once a child can play songs with a certain fluidity (speak) then they are taught how to read.

When a child begins to read will vary from student to student. In the beginning, the focus is on developing the ear and setting a solid foundation for posture and technique. Suzuki students often find later in life that they are able to easily improvise or play in bands because of this early ear development.

Q. Why is parent involvement important?

A. Developmentally speaking, parents are the greatest support system a child has. Within the context of Suzuki lessons, parents act as cheerleaders, ensure practicing is happening, and act as an extension of the teacher at home.

Q. Did you take Suzuki lessons as a child? 

A. Yes! I was five years old and watching my brother take lessons weekly. I became a bit jealous, asked for my own lessons and the rest is history — I now play with the Orchestra of Indian Hill and have taught violin for almost 15 years.

Q. To whom would you recommend the Suzuki method?

A. Suzuki is a great way to start for young children (elementary school age and younger) and parents who want to be involved in their child’s education and are prepared to dedicate some time building a special bond with their child through a new activity. As a Suzuki teacher, I believe that every child can learn how to play the instrument well with the right tools, practice and environment.

Please call our main office at 978-486-9524 or visit the Suzuki Association of the Americas website to learn more about the Suzuki approach and the Suzuki program at Indian Hill Music.

About Bethany Stephan

BLandbyB.M. and Performance Certificate, University of Denver; Suzuki Association of the Americas Teacher Training (Books 1-8); M.M., Carnegie Mellon University. Principal teachers: Andres Cardenes, Linda Wang, and Mary West

Bethany Stephan’s varied performance and teaching career has taken her around the globe, including Austria, Iceland, Central America, and Spain. Her current orchestra positions include Orchestra of Indian Hill, Albany Symphony, West Virginia Symphony, and the Santo Domingo Music Festival Orchestra (Dominican Republic). She has also performed with artists such as Josh Groban, Ben Folds, and the Transiberian Orchestra. Bethany’s teaching career of over fifteen years has included teaching both traditional lessons and the Suzuki Method. She is also experienced in coaching chamber music, teaching group classes, leading orchestral sectionals, and substitute teaching orchestra ensembles. Her previous faculty experience includes the Lamont Pre-College Academy (Denver), the Mounds View School District Summer Orchestra Program (St. Paul, MN), Sewickley Academy (Pittsburgh), Pittsburgh Music Academy, and in Panama through the Orchestra of the Americas. In addition to teaching private lessons at Indian Hill Music, Bethany teaches group violin classes at our Ayer Shirley After School Program. As a lover of many music genres, she enjoys fiddling in the American and Irish style. When not performing or teaching, Bethany can be found in nature, with many good books, or social dancing.

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