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The Truth About Talent

19 October 2012

Every Child Can Learn

The Truth About Talent

The literature and research is now unequivocal – “Talent”: that elusive quality thought to be bestowed on the chosen few is in fact something that is developed according the environment that surrounds a child from the very beginning.  Books like “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle, “Genius Explained” by Michael Howe and “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell all unpack the myth around talent – the myth that some of us are simply gifted with high abilities and skills, while the rest of us are not.  In fact, what the researchers have found is that those people generally considered “talented” have all been exposed to particular experiences and environments that stimulated and ignited a path to mastery in a particular area.  The truth is that the characteristics of these experiences and environments can be re-produced for all children, giving everyone the opportunity to develop high abilities and the advantages that come with them.

The Mother Tongue Method

Since the 1950s, Shinichi Suzuki believed that “talent is not inborn”, and refined his methods and skills as a violin teacher to prove that belief.   Suzuki believed that musical ability and character are fostered and developed by the environment of the child, in the same way that a child learns to speak their mother tongue. In observing how children gain mastery over their native language, Suzuki recognised that here was a successful education method that is so commonplace that it works almost unconsciously – we take it for granted that children will learn to speak.  While the time-frame for mastery will be different for all children, every parent assumes and ensures that their child will learn to speak their mother tongue, and do so to a high level.

Every Child Has Talent

Suzuki distilled the ingredients present in this learning process, applied them to learning the violin and created a revolution in music education.  He produced student after student who was considered by the world at large as ‘talented’, but he insisted that these children were ‘normal’. “Every child can learn” he repeated in his books and lectures, “Every child is born with outstanding potential. Every child grows; everything depends upon how he is raised.”

“Human Education Through Music”

At the core of Suzuki Method is a concern for the character and humanity of each child we raise and work with.  As Suzuki himself stressed: “Our purpose does not lie in a movement to create professional musicians but to create persons of beautiful mind and fine ability.  We engage in human education through music”. 

Living in aftermath of post-war Japan, Dr Suzuki grew a deep desire to create a better world.  He was committed to his education method as a way of civilizing society by creating a new generation, thereby ensuring a brighter future for humankind and the planet.

As Suzuki parents, let’s ensure we do what we can to nurture our children to develop their character and abilities. Remember to play the recording every day, and enjoy some musical time each day with your child, whether it's reading a book, singing a song, beating a drum, or dancing around with a  tea-towel!