Love of Music Cultivated by Yamaha Method
Yamaha is a well-known method of studying music that originated in Japan in the mid-1950s. It strives to develop students’ comprehensive musical ability in an environment that inspires a love of music and a lifetime of active music participation. Its courses first teach students to express themselves creatively through the language of music, and along the way they build performance, improvisation and composition skills. The Yamaha Method has produced award-winning professional musicians, successful music teachers and many music lovers worldwide. I recently had the chance to visit the Florentine Yamaha Program in Chinatown, established in 1986.
Here I was able to observe the Junior Music Course for 4-5 year olds taught by Ms. Junko Arita (Other class offerings include Music Wonderland for 3-year olds and the 6-8 year old Young Musicians Course). Classes are usually 6-8 students, but because it was the last meeting before summer vacation, it was a smaller group that came bounding in ready to sing and play. For a warm-up, the students moved to the front of the room to begin singing scales. As Ms. Arita made hand motions for the different musical notes, they imitated and then sang on their own as she pointed to specific notes for them to follow. The next exercise was learning how to write the G-clef, which the students clearly had practice at doing.
When the children finally went to their respective electronic keyboards, they didn’t start playing right away. Instead, they engaged in solfège, a singing technique used to teach pitch and train singers in sight reading. It was amazing to see young children have such accurate musical ears as they followed Ms. Arita’s lead in this exercise. When they moved into actual piano playing, Ms. Arita would sing and say the note’s name so the students could then play that note on their keyboards. They went through a song section by section in this way, until they were able to play the whole thing.
I stepped out of class for a minute to discuss the Yamaha Method with Olympia Moy, director of Florentine whose mother had initially introduced the approach here. According to Moy, the emphasis on group lessons is because Yamaha’s definition of success is more than perfect playing. It also includes the creation of students who are adaptable, and who can play well with others to whom they are accountable. As a result of the well-rounded Yamaha method which has the keyboard as a teaching tool, students can go on to play other instruments in addition to the piano or sing in a chorus. They might go on to become serious virtuosos or just music appreciators, as they are provided with a solid foundation of musical theory that gives them these options. Ms. Arita echoes this sentiment with, “No matter what age or skill level, they all come away with a love of music.”
When I returned to the classroom, the students were engaged in a soulful rendition of “Sayonara,” the song used to close the class. They would be parting for their summer vacation, but be back in September ready for more learning and further putting into practice of their music knowledge.
—– Reported by Stacy Smith