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Kids Learn to Play the Suzuki Way in Norwalk

Heavenly sounds drift from a small second floor studio tucked away on Quincy Street in Norwalk. In this semi-industrial neighborhood, children as young as 2 are making beautiful music under the guidance of Becki Christopherson and her faculty at the Talent Education Suzuki School .

Almost as surprising as the setting is the fact that these young performers are playing by ear, without any written music. That's the basis of the Suzuki method, which was developed by Shinichi Suzuki to teach music to children in post-war Japan.

"The material is presented one step at a time," says Christopherson, who studied under Suzuki. "It's inappropriate to try to teach young children who may not even read words how to read music. They learn to play an instrument the same way they learn to speak, by hearing and repeating. Without the emphasis on learning to read notes, they have the luxury of being able to focus on sound."

The results are impressive. After nine years, the school has grown to 156 students, some of whom have developed from preschoolers taking their first musical steps to accomplished teenagers playing in local orchestras.

Christopherson says, "We really encourage them almost to the point of mandating that they participate in school orchestra and area groups," such as the Norwalk Youth Orchestra, Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra and Fairfield County Strings.

The Suzuki School also performs in the community at least once a month, and some of the older students have played at weddings and receptions for pay. "They learn that music can be a profession as well as an art," says Christopherson.

Suzuki believed children who learned music became "good citizens" with "beautiful hearts." A short visit to this hidden gem gives proof that beautiful hearts and music are in good supply at Talent Education Suzuki School.

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