Accepting non-Suzuki non-beginners (piano)

Laura said: Aug 18, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

A parent requests that you take on their child as a student, who has had a few years of non-Suzuki piano lessons, often using a book method such as Faber or Bastien.

So far in my experience, everyone like this has been curious about Suzuki and more than willing to transition. Depending on the student’s progress to date—including everything from technique and musicality to reading ability, I make either a full or partial transition to Suzuki. If little progress in playing skills and reading is still at the single-note stage, I will start at the very beginning with Twinkles, as with a completely Suzuki beginner. If the student is playing some pieces pretty fluently and is a good reader, I might just go through a selection of Book 1 pieces—enough to challenge them technically, but not so much as to bore them in terms of learning all of the pieces—and then head towards Book 2 as quickly as possible if they have caught up in technique. I make sure to give them enough material to maintain and further develop whatever reading ability they already had, while slowly changing the focus to Suzuki-style development of aural learning,, technique, and musicality as required. Sometimes we learn Suzuki repertoire the Suzuki way, and then learn other repertoire the reading way. If it’s a more intermediate or advanced student who is into some more seriously repertoire and reads accordingly, it honestly doesn’t matter… I just “teach them piano”. I mix and match these approaches depending on the individual student.

My question how involves something that has not yet come up: what to do when a beginning student simply wishes to continue in the book method they have started? Almost all other students in my studio are full-Suzuki, or started Suzuki (and have transitioned out in terms of expanding repertoire)—and it reflects in their playing. A non-Suzuki student, particularly at a beginner level, would sound like a fish out of water at recitals.

Do you insist on transition to Suzuki, either full or partial? Or are you willing to help students continue along a non-Suzuki path they have already started?

Emily said: Nov 10, 2013
 59 posts

My suggestion is to try implementing Suzuki, but start with partial. It’s best to see how the student reacts to the differences in training. Let them know if you feel it would better assist them in their studies, and in what ways. If they become increasingly comfortable with the style of study, try to implement more of the techniques. It’s all a matter of making sure that the student understands what they’re being taught, and helping them stick with it.

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer

Sue Hunt said: Nov 11, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

As an adult non-Suzuki non- Beginner, I was totally captivated by the instant repertoire.

As an 8 year old child, I resisted playing what I thought were babyish tunes in my first year of piano.

Does anyone have the answer to this?

Lori Bolt said: Nov 11, 2013
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

One other issue needs to be addressed when considering taking a formerly traditional transfer student: is the parent going to be able to make the transition and be an effective partner in the Suzuki Triangle?

@Laura: Weigh the pros and cons of having a student who does not want to change methods. There are several things to consider….not the least of which is how you’ll feel about teaching traditional.

Lori Bolt

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