History and Development of the Suzuki Method™ for the Organ
The Suzuki Method™ for the organ was developed by the Swedish Suzuki teacher Gunilla Rönnberg and organist Lars Hagström.
It began in 1998
In 1998 Gunilla Rönnberg contacted Dr. Haukur F. Hannesson, now Chairman of the European Suzuki Association (ESA) and Chair of the International Suzuki Association ISA, with a proposal to develop the Suzuki Method™ for organ. Gunilla’s background as a trained Suzuki piano teacher since 10 years and trained organist gave her a firm basis to take on this task.
The ISA and ESA gave Gunilla and Lars permission to run a test project for a year. In August 1998 Gunilla started 12 organ students. Six of them were former Suzuki piano students age 8-10, and six were beginners who age 5-6. By choosing this division in age of the initial student group, Gunilla could test the proposed teaching material at different levels from the beginning.
Development of organ technique for small children
In November 1998 the students had their first concert, and it was astonishing to see the 9 and 10 years old former Suzuki piano students, now playing the organ in a very skilful way. The concert in January 1999 was recorded and Haukur F. Hannesson presented the recording to the International Suzuki Association’s Board of Directors together with a proposal for printed music and a progression of pieces from Book One to advanced organ music. In March 1999, the International Suzuki Association officially made the organ a Suzuki Method™ instrument and granted permission to Gunilla Rönnberg and Lars Hagström to develop the method for the organ.
One of the biggest challenges was to find a good way for developing the progression of organ technique, tonalization and relaxation for small children. The coordination between hands and feet was an easier task to solve, with pedal melodies to develop the pedal technique and chords base notes in the pedals in manual pieces to develop coordination between hands and feet from the beginning.
Gunilla has through the years continuously started new beginners on the organ to continually refine the teaching of organ technique. Furthermore, she has explored and developed playing technique for higher levels of playing. One of her main emphasis is to make students play with beautiful musical expression. Gunilla’s students have given a great number of concerts during the years Suzuki organ teaching has taken place. This has attracted attention and been much appreciated in Sweden and other countries.
Suzuki organ teacher training
Gunilla Rönnberg was appointed Suzuki Teacher Trainer on the organ by the European Suzuki Association in 2002. She has since then trained approximately 60 Suzuki organ teachers in Sweden at ESA Suzuki Teacher Training Levels 1 and 2 and has also given teacher training courses in the USA, in Chicago and Salt Lake City.
Other places where Gunilla has had lectures in the Suzuki organ method is Minneapolis, Los Angeles, London, Turin, Copenhagen, Esbjerg, Cambridge and Sidney.
As a result of Gunilla’s Suzuki organ teacher training in Sweden, organ has become a popular instrument for young children. Professional organists have been encouraged by their churches to train as Suzuki organ teachers and many are planning to do so or have already taken the first level teacher training course. Activities for children have also included summer music courses for Suzuki organ students.
Now Gunilla starts teacher training courses - Level 1, at Lärkvallens training center for organists who want to become Suzuki organ teachers. During 2014 it will also be possible to take part in teacher training courses on the web as a complement to the courses on Lärkvallens training center.
Publication of Suzuki organ books and recordings
The continuing development of the Suzuki Organ School is led by the Organ Committee of the International Suzuki Association. The members of this committee are Gunilla Rönnberg, Chair, representing the European Suzuki Association and Ernest Zenoniani, organist from USA, who represents the Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA) on the committee. Lars Hagström has a long experience of teaching organists. Because of that he finds inspiring and developing literature for the higher music levels. He also records the music.
Volumes 1 through 6 of the Suzuki Organ School have been published by Alfred Publishing Co. Inc. in the United States. Alfred Publishing are the publishers of Suzuki Method™ core materials for all instruments. Suzuki Organ School volumes 7 and 8 will soon be published.