A First Discussion on the Value of Group Class by Jennifer Madge, Academy Director

Why is group class so important?  In celebration of the start of the 2017-18 group class season, here is a first discussion.
I grew up as a “traditional” student:  weekly private lessons with a teacher and practice alone in my room at home.  I did play with other students at school, but the music was different from what I studied in my lessons, and never a solo part.  I might have had one recital each year to prepare for and perhaps a competition or two.  These always seemed to be monumental events and if the outcome was not favorable, I was crushed, without an opportunity for redemption for many, many months.  In addition, there were often long stretches of time when I had nothing ready to perform as I was between pieces. 

One of the differences between the traditional method and the Suzuki method is the Group Class.  So many of the issues I didn’t love about my music study experience are completely eliminated by the Suzuki Group Class!  Students of approximately the same level gather together with a teacher to review and refine the literature from where they are back to the very basic Twinkle.  Instruments that are mobile usually play together as an ensemble and pianists usually take turns playing for each other.  Games and challenges are used to keep students engaged.  Non-Suzuki repertoire is added as well as harmonies to the known melodies.  Other musical concepts that may not easily be covered in the private lesson can be added in the group class.  

Group class provides so many benefits!  Let’s start with just three for today.  First is the social influence.  Children learn from each other.  Seeing other students struggling with the same tasks bonds one to another.  Seeing others succeed creates a congratulatory culture and encourages others to be supportive.  Parents get to meet, spend time with, and develop relationships with other parents who value music education.  Because of this experience with friends, practice the day after group class is so much easier to start than any other day of the week!  

Second is the ensemble benefit.  Being part of a group gets students engaged in making music with others.  Students really have to listen, watch, and play together.  The individual is now responsible to the group and not just to the self.  Watching the leader prepares the student for orchestral experience.  Being the leader gives the student the opportunity to learn to lead by example.  

Actively participating in group builds a working and usable repertoire.  This repertoire can be used for busking, family events like weddings and parties, sharing music in church, or talent shows.  The student is ready to perform at any given moment.  Contests and competitions are easily within reach and the student has a wide range of possible selections from which to choose. Regular work on memory makes future memorization less challenging. The result of this knowledge for the student is high self confidence and self esteem.  

I have many more points to share in future posts!  Please check back for more after you've been to group class!!