SECE class

SECE class

Image by Donna Ngai

There are many “tall tales” about conversations with, and quotes from, Dr. Suzuki. One of my favorite tales goes something like this: A mother is speaking with Dr. Suzuki about how to create the perfect environment for a Suzuki method student. Dr. Suzuki kindly but firmly tells her that creating the perfect environment in which her child can grow to be a fine musician will require a few things: First, that she play the recording of master performers often and daily. Second, that her child will need to attend regular lessons and group classes where he can learn from his teacher and other children. Finally, that she and her child will need to practice daily together. And then she should have another child. That second child will be raised in an ideal Suzuki method environment.

I believe that Suzuki Early Childhood Education (Suzuki ECE, or SECE) creates the environment that the younger sibling of a dedicated Suzuki method family would experience. It is likely, that much of what the fabled “second child” is experiencing is not so much the increase in musical environment, but the increase in parent training. SECE works with the whole family—not just a child. In the nitty-gritty of a parent’s everyday life, it can often be difficult to find the love, success, joy, and achievement in a day’s work for a child. This, however, is exactly what SECE teaches and encourages parents to do—notice and celebrate the small steps.

Suzuki ECE works with families to look for the little things—the literal “baby-steps” that add up into so much accomplishment over time. This last summer I had the joy of joining an SECE training class at the Hartt Suzuki Institute in Connecticut, both as a teacher workshop participant and as a mom to my two-year-old son in the class. Joining us in our daily demonstration class was a newborn baby. Watching a two-week-old baby turn into a three-week-old baby during a week of SECE is so much different than watching a two-week-old baby turn into a three-week-old baby under normal circumstances! Most parents are excited to dream of what their child will be like in a month, a year, or five years, but an SECE baby accomplishes so much that is noticed and celebrated. It is amazing to dream of what he could be by one year old, five years old, as a preteen, or even as an adult. His parents are learning to notice the smallest details of his success and awareness and will be able to continue developing his environment to support that positive growth.

Families in Suzuki ECE learn to be patient with their children. SECE teaches them to ignore the internet’s opinions of where their child should be and instead to observe their child to see where they are today developmentally. Parents develop a faith that their child will succeed when the time is right. They learn to silence some of the outside voices that spread worry and fear—that their child might be delayed, that their infant might not make it into the best school (whether that’s pre-school, elementary school, high school, or even college!), or worst of all, that they are doing all of their parenting wrong. By learning to notice the developing ability in their very young infant or child, they can replace their worry and fear with encouragement and are able to provide the emotional support that children use as a launch-pad into success.

In my work this year with SECE, both in my workshop training and home SECE program, I have had the pleasure of watching that two-week-old become a three-week-old who can recognize music (far faster than any study I have ever seen would say a child can recognize a familiar tune). I have seen babies learn, by watching the other children in the class, that when the glissando goes up, their arms go up. I have encountered a two-year-old keeping a perfectly steady beat for an extended period of time and singing tunes she learned only earlier that day. I have witnessed the nuance of a young child learning, not only to pass a ball, but how to regulate his motion and correctly move his hand in order to make that pass. I have observed the “shy” child coming out of his shell to happily interact with others and try something that he had chosen to first observe and process before doing himself. I have had the chance to see a three-year-old develop the proper technique for playing an instrument, as well as the ability to master a complex rhythm on that instrument, and I have been part of a community that cheered on that same three-year-old for a genuine and concrete accomplishment—a real celebration that many children will never experience. I am confident in the abilities of these young children and know that what they each do as they grow will be outstanding.

If all children were nurtured and observed the way that Suzuki Early Childhood Education children are, I’m fairly certain that our world would be a better place. If we look for the success in our little ones instead of their stumbles, find the joy in the mess, and embrace that growth doesn’t always happen on a fixed timetable, our babies could grow into creative, confident, and loving people. If only Pablo Casals had seen what SECE looked like when he said, “Perhaps it is music that will save the world.” I’m pretty sure he would have instead said, “It is music that will save the world.”