Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Power of Learning Music

Young LionHeart at a Levine School of Music Suzuki Violin Recital.

Each fall before we embark upon another year of homeschooling, I do a bit of purging.  Since LionHeart is switching from Suzuki violin to piano this year, I thought maybe it was time to get rid of his Suzuki violin notebook.  For some reason, I was not able to throw it out.  Instead, I started flipping pages, reminiscing about my young violin player.  In the process, I stumbled upon some powerful words of wisdom from Dr. Shin'ichi Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki Method, regarding the Power of Learning Music:

1.  Dr. Suzuki says that "one on one education is a very unique and powerful way to learn."  As a homeschool parent, I know that to be true.  He goes on to say that the learning is customized for the student, the relationship between the teacher and student is unique and this relationship creates another level of personal accountability.  I agree.  Male children need multiple levels of accountability as they grow into young men.  Finally, he says that the "lessons are both intense and personal."  When my boys finish African drumming instruction for an hour, they are hot, tired and hyped! I would definitely call that "intense" instruction.

KingMan at a Levine School of Music Recital.

2.  Dr. Suzuki says that music instruction develops the "ability to listen."  We all know how our children can pretend to be hard of hearing when we are asking them to do something they don't want to do.  But music instruction teaches listening on two levels according to Dr. Suzuki: a) listening to instructions and b) listening to oneself.  He goes on to say that the deep ability to listen opens up "expanded opportunities for gathering information and knowledge" and the ability to "tune into oneself."  This is especially important when children reach the teen years.  Years of music study help children grow to really be able to "hear" better from parents, teachers and coaches.

Young LionHeart imitating his brother at church.

3Dr. Suzuki says we are born with "the ability to observe and imitate." We all know that children imitate what they see, so what they see should be worthy of imitation a friend once told me. A student taught by a master is able to use those imitation skills to create other successful experiences.  Dr. Suzuki goes on to say that "when you imitate something awesome you get to enter inside of it, see up close the secrets of what it is made of.  This is the validity of imitation." I saw that last night as my children's drum instructor demonstrated a rhythm they were about to learn.  LionHeart's eyes lit up as he observed the mastery. I could see the anticipation in his eyes saying, "when will I master that rhythm!"

4.  The Ability to Memorize.  Because Suzuki students are taught by ear first, Dr. Suzuki says they develop a quick "visual and aural memory."  Well, African drumming students learn complex rhythms from memory as well.  This training of the brain from an early age transfers into every area of a child's learning.

5.  The Ability to Concentrate.  Sitting still for long periods of time can be difficult for LionHeart.  But not when it comes to music study.  In his African drumming class the group is taught together.  He has to sit patiently and quietly listen to the instruction of the other drummers.  In the process, he develops concentration and he learns the rhythms of the other instruments from observing.  Dr. Suzuki says that "the beauty of music is that it simultaneously stimulates so many different parts of the brain."  The intense concentration and focus displayed during a child's musical performance is similar to what athletes refer to as "the zone," according to Dr. Suzuki.

6.  The Ability to Perform.  My children did not acquire this quality from their mama who is painfully shy.  Dad, on the other hand, did not have a shy bone in his body.  But I know this inherent quality was further developed through the study of music.  Dr. Suzuki says, "the ability to perform is really the ability to share what you love."  Naturally, these presentation skills carry over into areas where public speaking is required.

7.  Discipline! This quality is so very important for children, especially for males.  Discipline, or the lack thereof, can mean the difference between success and failure in any area. According to Dr. Suzuki, "nothing helps a child develop the ability to do something on a regular basis, like doing something on a regular basis."

8.  The ability to preserve.  The list of reasons why this quality in a young man is so important -- well there is not enough space to even list.  But I'll name a few.  The obvious places perseverance helps a child succeed are in education, sports, relationships - and later in life - work, starting a business, marriage and rearing their own children.  According to Dr. Suzuki, "children really want to conquer difficult situations and please their parents."  We can help them by instilling the skills necessary to weather frustrating times with "good humor and affection."

I guess this is the reason I was not ready to throw out LionHeart's Suzuki notebook from 2009.  There were still some gems inside waiting to be found.


  1. We use the Suzuki Method as well.
    Your boys look like they thoroughly enjoy drumming.

  2. Hi Leslie. I love the Suzuki Method. I was really engaged and actually learned the songs too.