Group lessons are in integral part of the Suzuki Method of teaching. Group lessons provide an opportunity for students to have friends and peers with them on their musical journey. During group lessons we spend time that we don’t have during lessons to specifically work on music reading, music theory, and performance skills.
A large scale study of Suzuki teachers in Canada and the US revealed the top 5 benefits of group classes:
Social and community building benefits (cooperation)
Greater personal musical or artistic development (mastering the repertoire)
Motivational and/or fun for students
Building development of artistic traits (ensemble playing)
Building personal traits (confidence)
In group lessons “skills such as learning to listen well, to lead, to follow, to accompany, to watch, and to create a sense of cohesions [provide] a powerful experience.” Group lessons teach a "different skill set [than] the private lesson. You are able to touch on things you would never have time for in just the one on one. The friendships made also help to motivate the children.”
With these friendships and peer interactionsmodeling occurs between the students. In fact, "Research done by Eric Mazur of Harvard shows that the fellow student can do a better job of teaching a student if the teaching professional facilitates the learning environment. Why? Because the student who has just recently mastered the material has a better understanding of the common misconceptions faced by a new student than the professional teacher who long ago mastered the material.”
This teaching and modeling occurs naturally in group lessons. In my experience students see others playing pieces that they are working on or have heard on the CDs and realize , “If he/she can do it, so can I!” As another Suzuki teacher said, "One of the best things about group classes is that it motivates students. When a child sees one of their peers perform a piece, it builds confidence.”
During group classes students benefit from direct instruction and practice in music reading and theory. We will learn through games, musical activities, and group playing at the piano. Students will also have the opportunity to perform several pieces for their peers. This is a performance opportunity that may be seen as one step up from a regular lesson (since someone besides the parent and the teacher are listening), and, at the same time, it is a less stressful environment than a recital.
I agree with the teachers at the Suzuki Music Institute of Central Florida when they claim, "It has been our experience that students overcome performance anxiety and look forward to playing for each other. Regular performances help students to memorize their pieces, and for some of the more recalcitrant students, who are reluctant to memorize their pieces, memorized performances by other students set the standard.”
Besides all the “bottom line” reasons why group lessons are powerful in your child’s Suzuki training, they are just fun. We play games. We get to know each other in a different environment than private lessons. Students personalities blossom. We laugh. We learn. We grow.
Brad Gant put it beautifully when he wrote, "Music lessons can be a solitary experience. Students practice alone. Lessons are alone with a private instructor. However, music is a language. It is meant to be shared. It is through this sharing that learning is accelerated. Group classes provide the environment to share, to learn and to grow. These learning communities are absolutely essential to encourage the positive growth of music students.”