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UWSP Suzuki Institute students learn music like a language


STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point is again hosting a very special musical program. It’s the Aber American Suzuki Institute, where musicians and singers starting as young as four years old learn music using the Dr. Shinichi Suzuki method.

Director Pat D’Ercole says they have students and their parents from over 30 states and 6 foreign countries attending this year’s two week long institute, but the teaching goes on all year.  “We have a year around program that started in 1967, and that’s where we give lessons to children year around, but in 1971, Margery Aber started the American Suzuki Institute. It’s the oldest institute outside of Japan. It was the first one started outside of Japan, and since then, about 70 institutes happen each summer, and they’re all modeled after this one.”

D’Ercole says the Suzuki method of teaching music is much like learning a language, where students imitate sounds before they ever read music.  “They’re in an environment where the language is spoken, parents are the teachers. They start early. There’s lots of repetition and positive reinforcement, and lots of reviewing. Once they learn a word, they don’t forget that word to learn a new one, and reading is delayed. We have about 5,000 words in our vocabulary before we actually start reading.”

Dr. Suzuki’s parents had a violin factory, and he used a violin to copy sounds he heard from a famous player before learning to read music. D’Ercole says the Suzuki method is now used for many different instruments and for vocalists.  "This week, we offer violin, piano, and harp, and the chamber music program is two weeks, so we have some advanced violinists, violists, cellists, bass here, and then in the second week, starting next Sunday, we’ll also have violin, lesser advanced violists, cellists, piano, and guitar.”

Students at UWSP’s Suzuki Institute will usually have four lessons every day. D’Ercole says they also have sessions designed to help busy students manage their days so they can practice efficiently every day.

The week ends with free, open to the public concerts. The schedule for the Suzuki Institute performances is available on their website.

(You can listen to our interview with Director Pat D’Ercole on our website, here.)