The Suzuki Approach

How it Works
Dr. Suzuki called his teaching method the Mother-Tongue Approach, inspired by the fact that children so effortlessly learn to speak their native tongue. Prompted and encouraged by the parents’ love and the family environment, the child responds and develops this most difficult of skills, that of intelligible speech. When a child learns to speak, the following factors are at work: Listening, Motivation, Repetition, Step-by-step Mastery, Memory, Vocabulary, Parental Involvement and Love. In the Suzuki approach, each of these principles is used in the learning of an instrument. Dr Suzuki closely follows the parallel with language learning and recommends that music should become an important part of the baby’s environment from birth (or even before). When the infant’s environment includes music as well as the sounds of the mother-tongue, it is understandable that the child will develop the ability to speak and to play a musical instrument (with technical guidance) before being required to read in either language. Formal lessons frequently begin as early as 3 1/2 years of age.
Children learn to speak by listening and imitating the spoken language they hear around them. In Suzuki teaching, much emphasis is placed on daily listening to recordings of the Suzuki repertoire, as well as music in general. The more frequently the students listen to the recordings, the more easily they learn to play. Constant listening to music performed with soulfulness and tonal, expressive and dynamic sensitivity, gives children a role model for their own playing. In the lessons, these qualities are stressed from the beginning.
Parental Involvement
Parents play a crucial role in Suzuki. Learning takes place in a collaborative learning environment, between teacher, parent and child. The parent’s role includes attending each lesson with the student, taking notes and then guiding them through their practice at home – they become the ‘home teacher’. Parents also need to play the recordings daily, help to create an environment of affection, support, encouragement and understanding, and also attend workshops, concerts, group lessons, graduations and summer schools with their child.
Positive Environment
A positive, nurturing environment is created in the lesson and is also essential at home. Children learn enthusiastically when they are supported with sincere praise and encouragement. They learn to recognise one another’s achievements, creating an environment of co-operation.
One of Suzuki’s major contributions to music education is the unique sequencing of the student repertoire. Each carefully chosen piece becomes a building block for future learning. Technique, musicianship and style are developed through the study and repetition of these pieces. This provides familiarity and hence excellent motivation to progress. Through the common repertoire within each instrument, children have a bond with other Suzuki students throughout the world. However, the spirit of Suzuki teaching is easily extended to learning all styles and periods of music.
Reading music follows the acquisition of good aural, technical and musical skills, just as reading language begins after a child can speak fluently. The stage at which the child begins to learn reading music varies according to age and general development. However, it will always be after basic playing skills have been mastered to maintain the focus on beautiful tone, solid technique and musical phrasing. Integrating ear training study and reading of musical notation with the Suzuki repertoire is also an important element of the child’s ongoing musical development.
Individual and Group Activities
As well as their individual lessons, students participate in group lessons. The common repertoire serves as a starting block for them to play together and later supplementary material gives them valuable ensemble experience and positive reinforcement of concepts learnt in their individual lessons. Students also take part in performances and workshops and observe other children’s lessons. All of these things are wonderful motivational tools – children love to do what they have seen other children doing.

Parent Participation and Commitment

Success in Suzuki study and in most musical studies involving young people depends upon the active and enthusiastic participation of the parent – and the support of the entire family. The parent attends every lesson with the child and plays the role of the home teacher, supervising the child’s daily practice. The child’s accomplishments arise from a collaborative learning process that takes place between the teacher, the child and the parent. This collaborative model is called the Suzuki Triangle. Before the child begins lessons, the parent does six weeks of Parent Training, where she/he learns to play the instrument, using the same repertoire as the child. This hands-on experience is supplemented by short readings and exercises that address the mechanics of guiding practice at home. As the child begins, a portion of the private class continues to be dedicated to the home teaching parent so that they may stay a step ahead of the children and continue to act as the home-based teacher. By continuing study, the parent also is better equipped to anticipate any problems they might encounter during their children’s first year of study. Pedagogical themes and techniques for successfully fostering and sustaining the home practice routine continue to be introduced throughout the sessions. All parents must attend Parent Training, continue their guitar study and be present in all of their children’s lessons. Audio and video recordings are done in the lesson to serve as a guide to home practicing. It is important that the parent who works with the child at home is the one who attends the lessons and the Parents’ Classes.
Registering for this program involves a commitment to your child’s study of the guitar and music – both in terms of her/his participation in private and group classes and your involvement in the process. It is important that the parent recognize the value of music education and its place in the child’s education in general. Recent neurological and educational research has firmly established the importance and value of music education in a young child’s cognitive development and strongly makes the case that your home practice should be considered a part of your regular school homework. This is a rigorous program – meaning that the expectations are for you to practice every day, following the given assignments and allocate time in your schedule in such a way that places the study of music and the guitar on equal footing with other academic subjects.
It is the parent’s responsibility to organize, schedule and direct the practice of the young student – this generally holds true up until the age of 12 when the student can begin to take some ownership of the practice. However, even these older students need guidance and supervision. Parents read the weekly assignment sheet and monitor the student’s progress for each of these tasks throughout the week. Repeated weeks of a student not completing a specific assignment indicates a collapse of parental responsibility – don’t blame your child! Your teacher will address a situation like this immediately through a parent conference so that it doesn’t become a pattern. In conclusion, the parent plays a critical role in conveying the importance of practice to the child. A commitment from the student, parent and the teacher is necessary to assure a productive learning experience.

Program Description

Tomas Rodriguez offers a comprehensive, honors-level guitar program for young people that is rooted in the Suzuki Method. The curriculum consists of private lessons, an ear training component and group classes. Parents learn and practice alongside the child, functioning as home teachers and custodians of an optimal home environment that encourages the young student. The program consists of 32 private lessons and 16 group lessons occurring between September and June. In addition, there are two formal recitals, in the winter and the spring. Participation in the program requires a full year commitment. The features of the program include:
There are two class times available: 50 minutes and 80 minutes. There are two formats: all remote instruction and hybrid remote/in-person instruction. Remote only instruction is only available to students 8 years and up and does not include group classes. All students enrolled in hybrid instruction participate in a bi-weekly group class and in at least two community-based public performances each semester. All students participate in the winter and spring in-person recitals.

If you are interested in enrolling in the program, you must attend a parent orientation, complete a class observation and do an in-person interview with the teacher to be considered for the program.   If you are interested in beginning this process, please fill out the Family Information Form

Pricing and Payment

Honors Program (Hybrid - Remote and In-Person)

Weekly individual lesson, ear training and musicianship program, guitar ensemble and other features

60 minute lesson


80 minute lesson