Tag Archives: Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Spruce up your child’s learning environment

April 9, 2014 by and

Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, a violinist and educator, stated, “Man is the son of his environment.” As parents, we strive to provide that essential climate where children can grow without any barriers to their success. But what is an excellent environment? Incorporate these five Environmental Cs for a great start.


In his book The Joy of Inspired Teaching, Tim Lautzenheiser suggests, “We should create an environment that is conducive to risk and failure.” If these two elements exist, the comfort level for a child increases. Children who are concerned about being right are less likely to try something new. We can change the notion of “failure” into a positive idea by telling our children the many stories of great men and women whose “failures” have created some of our greatest inventions—think Edison’s incandescent light bulb.


If a child shows a spark of interest in something, carry it through to the absolute end. Just because we have a certain agenda in mind doesn’t mean the child will follow that plan without deviation. Sometimes, the deviations are what create the hooks for the child. Emotional connection greatly strengthens their learning process. One violin student was very inspired by fiddle music but not interested in developing excellent string crossings. Eventually, her string crossings developed into a strong ability by mastering fiddle tunes loaded with string crossing patterns.


This idea demands thoroughness. The great violin pedagogue Ivan Galamian taught: “The basic procedure is to present to the mind…problems that progress from the simple to the ever more complicated. One very important principle has to be kept in mind, a principle that applies to any type of practicing: Whenever one problem is mastered, it is useless to repeat it over and over again.”

We can master any challenge by extrapolating the problem and encountering the material from as many angles as possible.


A creative environment is a place where all aspects of our learning modes are challenged. This would mean that both the right and left brains are engaged and, if possible, the child is receiving visual, aural, and kinesthetic input.

For example, in teaching the meaning of a musical term, first point out the word in the music and write its definition (visual). Then, demonstrate the musical term (aural). Finally, tie the musical term to a feeling or experience (emotional). While the student incorporates the musical point into their playing (kinesthetic), encourage their efforts (social). In this way, each possible connection for the student has been engaged.

Any suggestions from the child about what to do (child-driven creativity) means they are contributing to the learning process, making the parent’s job easier.


Dr. Suzuki said, “Whatever students do well, however well, is a step in the right direction. It will deserve your honest praise.” Always find something that can be complimented in a specific way. For example, “The detail in that drawing is excellent.” Kids generally want to please and repeat activities for which they’ve received accolades. Encourage children by noticing what they are doing right, even when it’s considered “expected behavior.”

Environment is absolutely critical to learning ability and also largely dependent upon what we make of it. For example, in John Steinbeck’s book East of Eden, two characters discuss the destiny of two young boys.

“I don’t very much believe in blood,” one character said. “I think when a man finds good or bad in his children he is seeing only what he planted in them after they cleared the womb.”

“You can’t make a race horse of a pig,” said the other.

“No, but you can make a very fast pig.”


Early Music Education

December 3, 2013 by

Most students are introduced to band and orchestra in the later years of their elementary education. But that doesn’t mean they have to wait until those years to begin learning how to play an instrument.

Like any skill, playing an instrument requires time and effort. Ask most professional musicians, and they will tell you that they’ve been involved in music since before they were in school.

As a parent, you might be wondering when your child should ideally begin this education. The answer: Pre-K (ages 3 and 4).

Studying music in these developmental years is a great way to help children develop concentration and memory skills that prepare them for that very important first day of school. Not to mention, they can learn hand-eye coordination and alphabet recognition before kindergarten, which will put them ahead of their classmates.

“String instruments and piano are especially good for young children,” says Anne Madison, piano teacher with Omaha Conservatory of Music, who teaches musicians as young as 4. “There are so many benefits to music education for children that it’s hard to know where to begin.”

Madison, herself, took piano lessons from a young age up until she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Baylor University. She even went on to study at the Vienna Conservatory in Vienna, Austria and teach on the faculties of the Carinthia International Piano Academy and the Tyrolean International Piano Academy in Austria. Today, she serves as Chair of the Piano Department for Omaha Conservatory of Music, where she has been a member of the artist-faculty since 2001.

“There’s a large and growing body of research that shows the significant difference that music can make academically and socially. But as a teacher, I am most moved by the impact that I see it makes first-hand in the lives of the students I teach.”

Some of the benefits Madison sees among her students are the ability to express themselves and work well with others, the development of self-confidence and self-discipline, and the ability to set and pursue long-term goals successfully.

“Even when they don’t always have immediate gratification, [it helps them] to be creative thinkers and problem-solvers; to explore the human condition as it has been expressed in music in different cultures and times; to become poised when speaking and performing in front of an audience; and to connect with the community around them and with something greater than themselves.”

Madison believes it is never too early to start building a child’s love and understanding of music. “There are even popular Kindermusik classes designed for babies!” she adds.

For children ages 3 and 4, Omaha Conservatory of Music offers private lessons on violin, cello, and piano. These lessons also follow the “Mother-Tongue” philosophy created by Japanese violinist and famed music educator Dr. Shinichi Suzuki.

In basic terms, Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy applies the processes of learning a language to learning a musical instrument. Young children are able to learn music in the same way that they learn their native language—through parent involvement, early beginning, listening, repetition, encouragement, learning with other children, graded repertoire, and delayed reading.

Creating an environment that is rich with beautiful sounds immerses children into better comprehension of music. Repetition is important as well. Just as words are repeated in early talking phases, pieces of music should be repeated in a child’s musical vocabulary. Also, the encouragement of the parent and teacher for each step of progress allows each child to learn at their own pace in a positive and fun environment.

Beginning a musical journey with your child during the Pre-K years gives your child the strongest start for future academic success and will give a lifelong gift—the joy of music!

Violin and Cello Sprouts classes are also offered at OCM throughout the year as an introduction to the instrument. This gives students a chance to try an instrument before signing up for private instruction. For more information about classes and lessons, visit omahacm.org or call 402-932-4978.