from Nurtured by Love ~by Shinichi Suzuki
Aspiring to Ever Higher Quality
The first piece our young students learn is the “Twinkle Variations”. Only after hearing a recording of the piece at home every day does a child learn to play it on the violin. Carefully, carefully, she practices. Once the child has learned to play the entire piece, the teacher will say, “Aha, now you’re able to play ‘Twinkle’ all the way through! Let’s move on, then. We’re going to start you on lessons for playing ‘Twinkle extremely well.”
This is indeed a most crucial point, aimed at heightening the quality of the child’s ability. It marks the beginning of lessons in pursuit of better tone, more precisely executed motor functions, and increasingly refined musicality. Using these teaching materials, we foster ability. This approach of ours enables all of our students, without exception, to acquire solid proficiency. Their tone gradually improves, their movements grow ever more fluid and dynamic, and their performances become more and more musical. Ability, in other words, develops.
I am convinced that every child grows to become respectable, and I have never once been betrayed by this conviction. I am determined to help every child become praiseworthy. Unless I do this, I cannot live with myself. In order to confirm whether our students are developing their abilities, I conduct tests of various kinds. Below for example is one game I play with them to assess their proficiency.
How Many Legs Do You Have?
To children who are already able to play the “Twinkle Variations” with sufficient ease I give the following instructions while they play the piece: “All right, let’s have a game. You’re going to answer my questions while playing violin, ok? Be sure to answer loudly, and don’t stop playing, whatever happens.”
I then raise my voice to ask them, “How many legs do you have?”
Amused, the children answer in unison at the top of their lungs “Two!”
Of course, if they can do this while correctly playing the piece, it means the they ability they have acquired is soundly developed. If there is a child among them whose ability has not yet been sufficiently fostered, it will take everything in him simply to continue playing, with the result that he is unable to utter a syllable. If he nevertheless produces an answer, his hands stop playing.
“How many eyes to you have?”
“How many noses?”
Even as the children continue to play through “Twinkle”, laughing sweetly away, they are further developing the capacity to enjoy such games with me. Everyone, without fail, develops in this manner. And this acquired ability nudges their overall ability to an even higher plane. This is no different than the fact that we all have the ability to handle a variety of tasks while speaking Japanese without mishap….
Calling Out to Children’s Vital Forces
With more advanced students, the test-game methods become more sophisticated.