What did Dr. Suzuki mean by environment?
When Dr. Suzuki first began to develop a system for teaching children to play the violin, he came to the conclusion that every child had the ability to play the violin. That was really a shock to most people who had felt only certain children were born with the talent to play. His attitude is very positive and inclusive. Every child can learn to play. All they need are 3 things: a proper environment, a lot of positive support, and good teaching.
When he explained his ideas about teaching children how to play the violin, Suzuki spoke about 9 important elements essential to a child learning to play such a complicated musical instrument. One of the 9 elements is “a nurturing and positive learning environment.” That environment would help ensure a positive experience with the violin, an opportunity for the youngster to grow in musicianship.
What exactly does he mean by “environment”?
If we think about what environment means, we would include the space we live in, our neighborhood, and probably the school our children attend. For adults, we include the environment at work; is it friendly, competitive, hostile? We can visualize how we would react in each of those work environments with either stress or enjoyment. Even for adults, an environment that nurtures growth of skills is important. It is even more important for children.
The environment for the child to learn to play a musical instrument includes the physical space and the attitudes of those around. It would be nice to have an area of a room where the violin could be kept safely in its case. A place where there won’t be a lot of distractions which might pull the child away from the goal to practice. Ideally, it wouldn’t be a noisy space. It would be a space the child could think of as being his or her practice space just like you provide a space for children to associate with doing homework.
However, above all else, the environment for your child to be successful for mastering the violin (or anything else in life) is you. You are the key to a positive nurturing environment. You are it!
Parents are the best model.
As Christine Goodner explains in her book, Beyond the Music Lesson, you, mom and/or dad, are the practice environment. Your support and involvement in your child’s life is the most important piece of the child’s environment. Your belief that your child will absolutely learn to play the violin through whatever it takes is the environment in which this “miracle” will happen.
Your belief that your child will learn to play the violin will influence how you approach daily practice. And daily practice is where it is at. The violin lesson happens one day a week. Group class is one day. But the other days belong to you!
Providing lots of praise during practice so that it is always a positive experience is the environment that makes learning happen. Parents always talk about the violin with positive terms. Parents won’t allow siblings to criticize the attempts during the early learning stages.
Parents always boost the child’s confidence reassuring them that while this might be a difficult challenge, they will be able to do it. Suzuki knew that each child develops at his or her own pace. But they will develop. Children learn that the hard work will result in a skill that not many other children possess. And that is where the payoff is. They have achieved something great!
We give our daughter violin lessons because we don’t want to deprive her from working hard to reach a goal.
Suzuki wanted to develop character first, then ability. Parents are the key figures in creating that environment for character first.
By playing a musical instrument, the child would gain the satisfaction that comes from the ability to do something well. Suzuki’s aim was not “to produce professional musicians but to expand children’s sensitivities, self-esteem, discipline, determination, and cooperation “ thereby making noble human beings” of all children.”
And that’s the simple Suzuki explanation of environment.
“The fate of a child is in the hands of his parents,” Dr. Suzuki
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