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The Suzuki Triangle

by Mary Ann

The Suzuki Triangle is a concept in Suzuki philosophy that refers to the relationship between student, teacher and parent. Just as each point of a triangle is important to maintaining its shape each member of the learning team is important to the child’s success in mastering an instrument.

Parents are the fist corner of the triangle. Dr. Suzuki stated, “I always say that fathers and mothers are the main persons in education. Who else fosters their own children but parents? The responsibility and joy both belong to parents.” Parents are the home teachers of their children. Diligently, parents attend lessons at which they observe what and how their child is taught so that they can reinforce the lesson at home. Besides attending lessons parents play the Suzuki CDs daily and create a positive musical environment in the home. Parents, who see their child every day, have a deep understanding of their child’s strengths, weaknesses, moods, learning styles, and abilities.

Assisting parents with the education of their children is the role of the teacher - the second corner of the Suzuki Triangle. Teachers are the subject area experts. Teachers explain, demonstrate, and reinforce the concepts of the subject with the student. Teachers work with both the parents and the students to ensure that the correct information will be taken home into the daily practice sessions. While teachers have more extensive knowledge in the subject area parents have a more intimate knowledge of their particular child. Both the parent and teacher perspectives are valuable.

No less valuable is the perspective of the student - the third member of the Suzuki Triangle. The student matters - regardless of age. Although adults tend to see practicing as “work” young children tend to see everything - including music practicing - as “play”. It is “play” to learn how to walk - even when falling down over and over. It is “play” to learn coordination. It is “play” to learn communication and social skills. Until a certain age everything is “play” unless an adult insinuates otherwise. Learning to PLAY the piano is the same. The young child sees it as another opportunity and enjoys the time interacting with the parent during the “practice” (aka “play”) time. If a parent starts to drop hints that other children may be progressing at a faster pace than his or her child it is then that the child starts to feel inadequate and gets a competitive attitude. If a parent turns practice time into a chore by demanding that a child “do this piece at this time and do it right no matter what” then the play turns into work. A parent needs to take the child-like perspective into mind and make sure the joy and enthusiasm stay in the effort of PLAYING the piano.

As children grow older they developmentally change the way in which they learn yet their perspective is still valuable. While the child is young the parent has 100% responsibility for what his or her child learns at lessons and at home. As the student grows in age and maturity that percentage drops for the parent and increases for the student. By the adolescent years the student may be ready to come to lessons on his or her own - taking nearly 100% responsibility for both lesson and home learning. When that occurs the parents need to gracefully step into the role of supportive cheerleader rather than home teacher. Since change is inevitable (and desired) we must as parents and teachers alter our roles in the student’s education as he or she grows.

Always remember the Suzuki Triangle is an equilateral triangle - parent, teacher, and student are equally important to forming the correct shape. All three must be in constant communication with each other for the benefit of the student. The goal of Suzuki Training is “happy children, happy hearts”. We are not teaching piano. We are teaching children.

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