Suzuki School of Newton
History of the School
The Suzuki School of Newton was founded by Gwendoline Thornblade in 1986 with the mission of promoting early childhood cultural, intellectual and character development through a proven music education program that uses individual and group instrument instruction, music theory training, parent-child interaction and community performance experience. The teaching philosophy of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki was designed to help children, through their development as musicians, to build self-respect, self-confidence and a capacity for self-discipline. A key component was to provide students at the earliest levels with performance opportunities, sharing the music of the school with the community through public concerts. Instrumental instruction spans a range of instruments: violin, viola, cello, flute, recorder, guitar, and piano. Over the past 14 years, SSN has served over 700 students. The school now has approximately 150 students and has a team of 15 teachers, 2 accompanists and a very active board of directors.
What is the Suzuki Method?
Between 1945 and 1995, the Suzuki method touched over 230,000 youngsters worldwide, fulfilling the global vision of Japan's Dr. Shinichi Suzuki of bringing peace to the post-war world through the power of music. Suzuki applied to music the learning process known as the "mother tongue" approach, using children's by ear repeating small "syllables" of music, which are added together to become words, then phrases. The Suzuki method is thus able to teach very young children by using very small steps. A parent or caregiver attends the lessons in order to be able to help the practicing at home. However, the Suzuki method has continued to evolve and has been most successfully introduced into the public school as part of its core curriculum where the teacher plays a more active role without the support of the parent. It has been found that by creating a nurturing environment where music is welcomed and even expected, children learn naturally as if they had some "hidden talent." It is basic to this teaching philosophy that not only can all children learn, but also are quick to develop confidence in their abilities and performance skills. The education benefits of studying music at an early age have been well documented in the field of educational research.
The SSN model is unique in Massachusetts, combining instrumental training that is exclusively geared to young children with an innovative age-appropriate Solfege program that enables students to read, vocalize, conduct and compose original music. Solfege, a system of sight singing using syllables (like the "do, re, mi" song from Sound of Music), has been the basis for European music pedagogy since the early eleventh century. It is a remarkably sophisticated method that ultimately allows a musician to read sheet music without having heard the music before nor using an instrument.
What does SSN do for the community?
Five or six times a year, children's performances are a highlight for others. Students view performances as sharing, fun opportunities. The regimen intersperses group and individual exposures to gently develop confidence and poise. Even at three years of age, children are taught to practice their bows before and following a piece to normalize a relationship with the audience. There is rarely a case of stage fright.
The Suzuki School of Newton regularly participates in City of Newton events, public library performances, and nursing home activities. SSN has been a past recipient from Fund for the Arts in Newton (FAN) and the Newton Cultural Council to facilitate an outreach program for the elderly. SSN students have performed collaboratively with the New Philharmonia Orchestra of Newton under the baton of Ronald Knudsen.
As part of its role in serving the community, SSN offers full scholarships to families who are residents in a local battered women's shelter. The positive and nurturing environment of the school has proven ideal for this cooperative program. Outside the walls of the school, SSN has provided recorder lessons to the students of the Home for Little Wanderers in Jamaica Plain. This innovative and effective outreach program has had remarkable results in providing a healthy, emotional and expressive outlet to these under-served children. Within the school, no family is turned away for financial reasons. Need-based scholarships are funded by the James Thornblade Memorial Scholarship fund. The March 4, 2001 Faculty Chamber Music Concert and the March 31, 2001 concert of the Voice of the Turtle will help continue the school's mission of offering quality music education to all families regardless of their financial means. The Suzuki School of Newton receives organizational funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency that supports the Arts, Humanities and Sciences.
The school has a quarterly newsletter and has numerous concerts free and open to the public. To be added to the mailing list or to address any questions about the Suzuki School, please call Ms. Sachiko Isihara, director, at 617-964-4522 or e-mail to [email protected].