dolmetsch onlinesuzuki and the recorder

Suzuki and the Recorder
Landa Melrose
General Scretary

British Suzuki Institute


Niagara Falls NY: a spectacular waterfall on the tourist trail in the USA. 1968: the year of student riots in Paris. For Katherine White, then a performer and Music Education graduate teacher, the issue at Niagara Falls in 1968, was neither the natural scenery nor the distant politics. For her, it was to convince her supervisor that it was worthwhile screening for herself and music teacher colleagues, 'Happy Children of Japan', an early film of Dr Suzuki's Tour Group.

Thirty-four years later in 2002 at Culford, Suffolk, recorder teachers, Nancy Daly from the UK and Jaap Delver from the Netherlands, assisted in teaching at the first-ever European Suzuki training course in the recorder organised by Nancy. (A third colleague, Alice van der Meer who had shared their vision was unavoidably absent at the last moment).

The recorder joins the violin, viola, cello, piano and flute to become the sixth instrument to be taught in the Suzuki method in the UK. The pioneer course at Culford ran in parallel with the summer flute workshop led by BSI Course Director Sarah Hanley. Newcomers to Suzuki benefited from the experience of those on the flute course and both courses are planned together in August 2003.

What are the connections? Nancy Daly, now the first BSI Course Convenor for recorder, was introduced to the Suzuki method by a Steiner School colleague, who taught piano to her daughter. Like Jaap, she was convinced that the small child's ability to learn by ear was a proper foundation for learning music. Parental involvement provided the secure and reliable base by which learning could continue in the home.

A recorder teacher with over 25 years' experience, and currently working at five primary schools and at Wells Cathedral School, Nancy heard about Katherine White through the grapevine. In 2000 she travelled to Kent State University, Cleveland, Ohio on a BSI scholarship. Katherine White was teaching at the Suzuki Summer school. Jaap Delver also attended the summer course. Currently teaching in the Netherlands at four instrumental music schools, Jaap considered note reading for the very young too cerebral a process compared to the effectiveness of learning by ear. Teaching the Suzuki method was a gradual process bringing parents into lessons and buying the repertoire. In 1999 he began starting pupils in the Suzuki method and today reports the ever-growing interest in Suzuki amongst colleagues in Holland.

Why has the recorder, so long a favourite in primary schools in the UK, taken so long to be taken up by the Suzuki method? Public perception of the recorder as an 'easy' instrument is the bugbear of the specialist recorder teacher. Taught in primary schools by non-specialist instrumental teachers it can become an easy and undemanding introduction (by both sides) to music. By contrast, Nancy explains the Suzuki approach. Using the tongue in many subtle ways for articulation, differentiates the instrument from both reed and brass instruments. With almost no resistance to the short column of air inside the instrument makes playing it the closest thing to singing. Together with breathing and breath control and the introduction to the instrument of both hands simultaneously, the step by step Suzuki pedagogy produces the right technical basis for the greatest expression.

For Katherine White, special guest teacher at Culford, and today a Suzuki Association of America Registered Teacher and author/originator of the Suzuki Recorder/Oboe materials, the tone production and expressive performances of Mr Toshio Takahashi's flute recordings she first heard in 1972 were deeply impressive. She was undertaking an MA in Music Education. Absorbed in Dr Suzuki's environment from 1974 - 1976 she left with a Woodwind Graduation Diploma and with Dr Suzuki's endorsement she returned to the USA to form the first Suzuki recorder/oboe teachers' programme outside Japan. She is still the only fully qualified Suzuki recorder/oboe teacher in the world.

Today in the UK, twenty five years since Katherine White started her first teaching group, Nancy and Jaap acknowledge their indebtedness to her. Their vision, and that of their absent colleague, Alice van der Meer, is to introduce Suzuki teaching on this historic instrument not just in the UK but throughout Europe.

This article about the new teacher training course on the recorder appeared in the Autumn issue of The Journal of the British Suzuki Institute.

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