• Rachel Samson

5th Condition for Developing Great Ability: Use the Finest Teachers

Updated: Sep 25, 2019


This is the 5th and final section of a 5-part series outlining Shinichi Suzuki's "Conditions for Developing Great Ability" from Chapter 2 of his book Ability Development from Age Zero. If you would like to listen to the Intro, you can hear it here.


The fifth and final condition for developing great ability is to use the finest teachers. Dr. Suzuki says, “Developing the adults of tomorrow is an important job,” something upon which we can all agree. There are many ways to become educated-- attend an institution, learn from a chosen master, connect with a knowledgeable community, or learn from a book, website or course! Regardless of the method, it is definitely important to think about what it is that makes a fine teacher.

A fine teacher must be someone qualified to give you good information and equipped to deliver it well. But the true making of a fine teacher is in his or her character: humility, compassion, integrity, genuineness. Someone who cares, and someone who can show you how to grow. We don’t seek an education to be stomped on, squelched, or shut down-- and so, we shouldn’t tolerate teachers who are careless, thoughtless, and negative. Nor do we seek an education simply to be inflated and told how brilliant we are-- and so, we shouldn’t tolerate teachers who flatter and overpraise while building very little skill. Please seek educators who are knowledgeable, strong, aware, compassionate, motivated, and committed to continued learning. By employing a qualified teacher, you benefit your child and the surrounding musical community.

Another important thing of note-- what works for one family may not work for you. It can really work out great when your child and her best friend study with the same teacher. What a boost in the motivation department! But sometimes, what works with one family’s finances, schedule, expectations, and chemistry doesn’t always work well in your family’s framework, and that’s ok!

With that in mind, here are a few questions and characteristics to consider when selecting a teacher:

Experience-- Do they know what they’re doing, or is this their first rodeo? What’s their reputation?

Success-- Are their students getting results that you want for your child? How is their studio retention? If you had a trial or observation lesson with them, how did it go? What did they work on? Did they set any goals? Did they clearly give the explanation/tools needed to achieve those goals?

Personality and chemistry-- How do you click? Do they “get” your child? Do you think you can build a cooperative and beneficial relationship with this person?

Good influence/presence-- Is this the kind of person you want your child around?

Effective communication-- Do you understand the ideas they express? Does your child follow? Are they equipped to teach using more than one tool or explanation to approach the same subject?

Lifelong learning-- It's reasonable to look into their teacher training, how much and how current (the SAA website provides this information for teachers who are current in their membership dues).

Performance-- It’s also within reason to investigate as to whether your teacher performs regularly and collaborates with others. People place varying degrees of importance on this aspect of musicianship, but I definitely think it’s worth mentioning so you can decide if it’s important to you.

What do you think? Is there anything else you look for in a teacher?

That wraps up the five aspects of Dr. Suzuki’s “Conditions for Developing Great Ability.” I hope that taking each one of these points into consideration has made a difference in how you will choose to move forward in your child’s musical journey. Thank you for taking the time to listen (or read, or watch,) and I welcome your thoughts and feedback. Signing off with gratitude and sincerity, this is Rachel Samson from Chili Dog Strings. Take care!


Rachel is passionate about applying the legacy of Shinichi Suzuki in her teaching, and strives to deliver to parents the necessary tools to help their children succeed. Rachel and her husband Neil Fong Gilfillan operate Chili Dog Strings in Frisco TX.


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© 2019 by NEIL FONG GILFILLAN and RACHEL SAMSON.

Special photo credit to Keli Cardoso de Melo who took so many of the photos we use on our website :)