Thoughts on my Suzuki training and teaching

I have always been proud to have the same birth year as the start of the National Health Service in the UK,1948, a year in which Shinichi Suzuki was already establishing his mother-tongue method to teach children to play the violin. Having dedicated my working life within the NHS, I discovered Nancy Daly’s training course for Suzuki recorder teaching in 2014 (well past retirement entitlement). With much pleasure I set about getting my recorder playing up to scratch for the audition to become a trainee. Then having been accepted I dropped my 44 hours a week work to become a locum doctor to start the Suzuki training. 

The process has been a mixture of naivity (not really realizing what I was committing to!), hard work, constant encouragement by the trainer and other trainees, fun, and a wealth of new experiences. Learning more about the history of the instruments, composers in the repertoire, child development and psychology, and practical aspects (to address performance anxiety) in a way that built on previous skills has given me new ways to identify and address the needs of my own pupils. At pretty much every stage I wondered if I should/could take on the next level. I am thrilled now to have completed all five levels, realizing that the learning never stops.

Continuous professional development in person and more recently through the wonders of the internet is a joy, where as always there is excellent and inclusive discussion by the observers and trainees. Watching expert teachers with my own pupils gives added insight into areas for my development and playing. The international array of teachers for the recorder gives an added dimension to developing and sharing of ideas.

So, from a keen amateur player to someone who has more understanding of the teaching process, I hope the two-way learning that occurs between teacher and pupil will continue to be a source of delight. I feel I have learned to listen and demonstrate more and talk and question less with pupils, always taking their cues when queries arise. Also due to the situation with Covid I have stopped after-school club activities which used the Suzuki principles and repertoire with groups of five to eleven year olds. I had introduced ensemble work with treble and tenor instruments, accompanying them on keyboard or providing a bass recorder line. A few have followed me into my private teaching, which I feel is more personally rewarding.

Here’s to another 50 years of the Suzuki. The community interaction and support has been amazing, with especial gratitude to our wonderful trainer, Nancy Daly. 

Alyson Elliman

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