I feel magically captivated to watch Jennifer do violin/music work with the children every day. It is striking to notice the similarities of the Suzuki and Montessori methods with the biggest similarity being the focus on the development of the whole child.
Jennifer recently introduced the concept of singing “solo” and as a part of the explanation to the children she focused on “singing from the heart”. It was moving to see the children place a hand on their heart as they took turns singing.
Both methods, Suzuki and Montessori emphasize that the environment is the key to the development. Talent in the Suzuki approach and intelligence in the Montessori approach are not viewed as inborn, but are developed as the young child interacts and adjusts to his or her environment. Dr. Suzuki based his approach on the belief that “Musical ability is not an inborn talent but an ability which can be developed. Any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability, just as all children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue. The potential of every child is unlimited.”
The environment Jennifer offers at Zen Montessori to children is unique in its set-up. With Suziki’s method, there is usually a learning triangle of parent, student and a teacher. The parent is required to attend the lessons (once or twice a week) and practice every day with the child. In addition, music schools require a parent to attend months of lessons without the child in order to be able to provide the nourishing learning environment at home.
Jennifer takes the role of a practice parent and combines it with being the teacher every day! You can see the child’s eyes light up when she plays a beautiful yet complex piece with ease and grace, inspiring the child to try harder and giving the child hope that someday he or she will get there. Children also have a chance to practice together making the music experience truly a social one! They often plan their day to do the violin practice together. The violin work fits right in with all the other Montessori materials on the shelf. A child gets to make a choice when to practice similar to choosing which Montessori material the child would like to work with throughout the morning work cycle.
As the child grows older and gets ready to graduate our Children’s House there is an opportunity to transition into a traditional partnership of parent, student and a teacher. By this point, the child has acquired a skill of playing a violin and has moved past the initial very challenging part of learning the instrument. Even if continuing violin is not a choice upon graduation, the benefits of the exposure to it at a very young age are simply astonishing: concentration and focus, feeling comfortable in front of an audience, determination to try difficult things, dealing with mistakes effectively, a medium for expressing emotion, becoming a sensitive listener with a fine musical ear, developing self-confidence and a lifelong love of music.
This cooperative spirit, coupled with an empowering learning environment and the joy of sharing music with friends lead to incredible progress and skill level that children are very happy and proud to share! Dr. Suzuki believed that learning beautiful music helps children develop into better human beings, people with more compassion, love and appreciation of others. It is out dream to help children be happy, productive and joyous human beings!