RAPID CITY, S.D. — More than 50 years ago, Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki realized that children around the world learn to speak their native language with ease.
He began to apply the basic principles of learning language to learning music and the Suzuki Method was born.
Dr. Suzuki developed an instrument learning method which is based around the idea that children pick up language by listening to those around them.
He thought the same concept should go for music as well – children can learn the language of music by listening first.
Carol Knowles, a teacher with Black Hills Suzuki School, says, “It’s language based, so you learn how to speak before you learn how to read, so music works the same way. We teach the kids how to play before they start learning how to read music.”
A student must learn respect, friendship, collaboration and patience. Some other features of the Suzuki approach are parent responsibility and involvement, encouragement and constant repetition.
Black Hills Suzuki School has been in the Black Hills for about 40 years, helping to develop each child’s character through the study of music.
Knowles says, “It’s a gift you give your children and it’s a lifelong gift, it’s very fun, it can be very positive. It’s a discipline on the other hand, too, and you just start off with little bits of proactive everyday – it’s a great way to build a relationship with your children.”
The program is complimentary to what the schools and other groups offers, they work together to build up the orchestra program in Rapid City.
Samsom Ptacek, a former student and now mentor, says, “I think we know with schooling, it’s a little harder to learn a language in a classroom, where you have someone writing on the white board you know, how to conjugate a verb or whatever, so kind of the Suzuki Method, instead of that teaching that memorization and all that it’s almost like speaking the language of music you learn from listening- you play it back, or repeat it back.”
Children begin as young as two years old, and are proactive daily, even for just minutes at a time. It’s said to be a more natural way of learning, but still training to be a skilled musician.
Nicole Zimiga began the program at three years old, and admits it was difficult at times, but appreciates the challenge it gave her. Zimiga, 15 years old, says, “There was also times when it was really discouraging and really hard pieces of music, and I kind of learned how to work through problems – I learned how to work with other people and it’s really shaped who I am.”
The Black Hills Suzuki School performs extensively in the community with six or more concerts and solo recitals each year, and offers a summer camp.
They have about 110 students in the school and eight staff members.
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