Music at Heart - Suzuki Recorder in York

Posted in Suzuki category on 14th January 2013

Memorisation is a necessary precondition of understanding

Whether or not you agree with his policies, Michael Gove's statement, "Memorisation is a necessary precondition of understanding" (Speech, November 2012) strikes a chord with Suzuki teachers, pupils and their families, because it is a skill they have been practising for generations as a natural part of the learning process. "I put great store on memory training... The ability to memorise is one of the most vital life skills and must be deeply inculcated,” wrote Shinichi Suzuki, many years ago.

This week, Helen Rumbelow reports on the launch of a new national event, the Junior Memory Championship, initiated by Jonathan Hancock, primary school teacher and former World Memory Champion. The ability to learn things off by heart is being hailed as a new 'superpower,' and children are being taught to do this by using special memory tricks - turning lists of facts into crazy dreams. Suzuki pupils are no strangers to this superpower; they memorise music on a regular basis using their imagination and the technique of visualisation to help them - from a much earlier age.

In her article, Rumbelow cites the example of a rough school in the Bronx, where 90% of pupils started below average in maths and reading, and 100% of memory-trained students passed the state exams, most in the top tier. Were he alive today, Suzuki would celebrate their achievements as living proof of his strongly-held belief that all children can learn, not just a talented few, and that very high levels of ability can be developed in anyone through training - a belief that Suzuki teachers world-wide share whole-heartedly. Through training, Suzuki said, "Your ability to memorise gets better and better, and the time it takes to memorise gets shorter and shorter. You get so that you memorise immediately, and after you have learned something, you do not forget it."