more information about Talent Education.
Some quotes on Suzuki's philosophy.
You can see a preview and some links to more books here.
The book is written by Suzuki and translated by Suzuki's wife Waltraud, who is German, and perhaps that explains the correct but slightly stilted "second language" tone of the book. But the brief epigrammatic style works, because the book is basically short passages on Suzuki's philosophy interspersed with some accounts of episodes in his life and how that contributed to the development of his philosophy and his school of "Talent Education". It is a book you can pick up and read in short bits and each part gives you much to think about.
Suzuki's premise is that "Every Japanese child can speak Japanese." This means that in his belief there are no "untalented" children. Learning to play the violin (which is his key emphasis) depends on exposure and much practice and training, and that is all. He calls it the "Mother Tongue method". He speaks of children who had motor disabilities or deprived backgrounds who still learned to play, and the general effects beyond musical skill that this had on their whole lives.
Learning to play the violin is not just about playing the violin, to Suzuki. It is a road to virtue, to cultivation of the human personality. The discipline and calm, loving environment of the Talent Education program nourish the child's spirit as well as develop his musical ear and ability. Some of the children go on to become world-class musicians, others don't. To people that would say, "I showed this to my child 500 times and he still did not learn,", Suzuki would answer that then, 500 times was insufficient for that child.
I bought this book way back in 2004 but this is the first time I read it all the way through. I think I get discouraged easily by books that talk about something that does not seem available to my children for whatever reason. I have to say that I think this is one way that decluttering and minimizing has helped me. I don't feel so emotionally guilty or frustrated or even envious when I see a "road not taken". There are so many good roads and one doesn't have to take all of them -- in fact, taking one road sometimes excludes others, as Chesterton pointed out. Understanding this is paradoxically freeing because without the guilt/sorrow reaction I can actually read about something like this and get some of the wisdom from it and see where some of it applies to our lives and even have hope that some type of similar opportunity might become available to my kids or possibly even grandkids.
Suzuki seems sympathetic to Catholicism and even talks about a pupil of his who was very talented in music and eventually went to discern a vocation to the priesthood (I can't remember if the book mentions whether he actually became a priest or not). But some of his philosophy might diverge somewhat from Catholicism. I think his point about education overlapping with pursuit of virtue is very valuable, though. I suppose that music isn't the only way to develop care and culture and discipline through beauty but it definitely seems like one that is classically and philosophically valued.
His life spanned the 20th century and he was middle-aged during WWII. He actually lived in Germany as a younger man and met Einstein, for one, and talked admiringly about Albert Schweitzer (a hero of my father's) who was a fine organist as well as a physician and missionary to Africa.
It's a very interesting book, and I'm keeping it around to try to go through again and see what parts apply to our homeschool and life in general.
Some Suzuki quotes
“When love is deep, much can be accomplished”
“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. 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.”
“What is man's ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty”
“Children learn to smile from their parents.”
“The real essence of art turned out to be not something high up and far off - it was right inside my ordinary daily self - If a musician wants to become a finer artist, he must first become a finer person.”
“Art expresses man”