G-Notes: The Joy of Developing Talent

Gail Engebretson, Suzuki Violin Teacher


The Suzuki Method is based on the assumption that humans are born with very high potential for developing themselves. During the ages of 2-6 the part of the brain that is responsible for language is being developed. Music is a language and the ideal time to expose a child to learning music is during that time of development. The Suzuki Method is known as The Mother Tongue Method. So just as a child learns its own mother tongue/language by listening, imitating and experimenting, so they learn music. Listed below are a few other reasons why learning an instrument at an early age is very beneficial.

  1. It helps develop a sense of pitch and tone
  2. It teaches good listening
  3. Memory abilities are developed through the playing of all music from memory (which is important also in freeing the child's attention so that he/she may concentrate on posture, technique and pitch.
  4. Concentration and perseverance are required and developed
  5. A young child has an enthusiasm and curiosity that can be tapped into
  6. In a child's mind everything is still possible and learning an instrument doesn't seem difficult unless we make it so
  1. Lessons can begin as early as age 3. The younger the better.
  2. In the beginning, all music is taught by ear. The children listen to recordings of the music daily so it's easier to learn the songs on their instrument. Playing by ear helps them concentrate on good posture and good sound instead of a sheet of music. Music reading is delayed for about a year and then gradually incorporated.
  3. The parents are very involved. One parent is required to attend every lesson and will actually learn how to play the first song or two so they can help their child with practicing at home.
  4. All learning is approached in a fun gentle manner making this an enjoyable process.

I attended UW Stevens Point specifically to study the Suzuki Violin Method under Marjorie Aber, one of the first American teachers to bring the method to the United States. I worked with Miss Aber to establish one of the first Suzuki Summer Institutes in the U.S. I graduated from UW Point in 1974 with a degree in Music Education and accepted a position heading a Suzuki program in Calgary Alberta Canada.

In 1976 I had an opportunity of a lifetime to teach at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia. I ran a Suzuki program and music education program as part of their Early Childhood Development Center. At the same time I studied and then worked in their center for the development of children with neurological disorders. My work there taught me valuable information about normal and abnormal child development and techniques to enhance a child’s neurological development. Also through my work there I was able to travel to many countries around the world including Japan. Twice I spent a period of time studying the Suzuki program under Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, founder of the method. I also worked with some of his top teachers.

In 1981 I moved to California to establish my own Suzuki Violin Program, first in San Diego then later in the San Francisco Bay area. I taught violin and later beginning piano in a private studio there for 17 years.

In 1998 I moved back to Wisconsin and set up a very successful studio for Suzuki violin and beginning Suzuki piano in Madison. During that time I had a large number of students participate in and win awards in the state Solo/Ensemble competitions. Many of my students also participated in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony. Several of my past students have gone on to careers in music and some have even become Suzuki teachers themselves. But more importantly, most have continued to make music an important part of their lives.

At the end of 2015 I decided to move to Seattle, WA and start a Suzuki violin studio in West Seattle. This is where I am currently building a studio of students from age 3 and up. I will also be leading evening seminars on several topics around What to Look For in A Private Music Teacher and How to Successfully Support Your Child Through Music Lessons.

My approach to teaching moves beyond just the Suzuki Method. I see my job as teacher as helping a child to continue to find joy in music, to help them love the process of learning, and to help them foster a belief in their own abilities. Each child learns at their own pace and in their own unique way. I love the challenge of finding that pace and that uniqueness in each child, and have fun doing it. I especially love to work with the beginners and see them grow and progress through their music.

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