Musical Families is a unique teaching approach that strongly relies on and expands Dr Shin’ ichi Suzuki’s (1898-1998) mother-tongue method of music instruction. This method is based on the idea that if the method of learning a first language is applied to any subject area, anyone could learn anything. The fact is that the first language learning method is the most successful educational method that humanity has yet come up with in terms of its typical level of achievement and its success rate (99%).

Dr Suzuki was convinced that any educational method that labeled as inferior any child who had succeeded in learning their first language was itself deficient. While it used to be believed that one could only learn certain things if one had the talent for it, Dr Suzuki has repeatedly proven that talent is an ability which can be developed in all cases.

A significant difference between conventional music teaching and the mother-tongue method is that Dr Suzuki had quite a specific aim for his method of music teaching. It was not aimed only at producing brilliant musical technique, but Dr Suzuki hoped to make the world a better place by applying musical technical development to the refinement of character. He hoped to produce noble human beings who would make the world a better place both by their individual musical achievements and the quality of their relationship with others.

It so happens that the mother-tongue method owes its success to the fact that it is done in family settings. Over many years I have found that knowing how a family works will provide the best result for knowing how the members of a family learn. When any family member learns anything, all the others will be learning something as well. That is just the way it works in families. My method of conducting family based lessons in homes is an attempt to accommodate different learning styles and speeds by choosing a range of musical instruments that are suitable for individual family members.

For some years there has been a growing community of families who have been working along these lines, learning their music through guitar, violin, ukelele, piano, recorder, singing and recently clarinet and flute. It is envisaged that students on any instrument who wish to take further study will be assisted into advanced tuition in the most appropriate situation. To this end regular workshops and camps are conducted during various school holidays often in association with the NZ Suzuki Institute.