Shinichi Suzuki Biography
Shin'ichi Suzuki (?? ?? Suzuki Shin'ichi October 17, 1898 - January 26, 1998) was the creator of the international Suzuki method of teaching music.
Considered to be one of the most influential pedagogues of the 20th century, he often spoke about the ability of all children to learn things well, given the right environment.
Born in Nagoya, Japan in 1898, Shinichi Suzuki was surrounded by the sound of violins at his father’s violin making factory. Born into a large family, one of seven children, Shinichi spent his childhood not learning how to play the violin, but working at the factory putting up violin soundposts. A family friend encouraged Shinichi to study Western culture but it wasn’t until the age of 17 that he finally taught himself how to play the violin after becoming inspired by a recording of Mischa Elman. He would listen to recordings and try to imitate what he heard. A couple of years later he took his violin to a teacher in Tokyo. At the age of 22, Shinichi persuaded his father to allow him to study in Germany, where Karl Klingler eventually became his violin teacher. While there, he spent several years under the guardianship of Albert Einstein. He also met, courted, and married his wife, Waltraud. Upon his return to Japan, he formed a string quartet with his brothers and began teaching at the Imperial School of Music and at the Kunitachi Music School in Tokyo. During World War II, his father’s violin factory was bombed by American war planes and Shinichi lost one of his brothers. The family was also left penniless and Shinichi decided to leave his teaching positions and move to a nearby city where he constructed parts for wooden airplanes to raise some money. Poor and hungry, at one point almost dying, he began to teach violin lessons to the orphan children in the outer cities where he lived. He adopted an orphan boy, Matsuisensei, and started to develop his teaching strategies and philosophies. Shinichi combined his new practical teaching applications with the old Asian philosophies peculiar to the Japanese culture.
Shinichi Suzuki died at his home in Matsumoto, Japan on January 26, 1998. Students, teachers, and performers all around the world mourned the loss. Robert Klotman said, "With the passing of Shinichi Suzuki, the music world has lost a distinguished philosopher-pedagogue. He was more than a music pedagogue, Suzuki was a unique human being who was concerned with the emotional welfare of all humanity and used his artistry to further his commitment. His teaching reflected his philosophy that there were no limitations to the capabilities of young people. There have been many emulators, but no one will ever replace him" (Racin, 1998).
The life lessons of Shinichi Suzuki and the philosophies which surrounded him throughout his life were recapitulated in the lessons he developed to teach his students. It was very important to Suzuki that his teaching was not viewed as a "method" as it is today (see Suzuki method).
"First, to set the record straight, this is not a 'teaching method.' You cannot buy ten volumes of Suzuki books and become a 'Suzuki Teacher.' Dr. Suzuki has developed a philosophy which, when understood to the fullest, can be a philosophy for living. He is not trying to create the world of violinists. His major aim is to open a world of beauty to young children everywhere that they might have greater enjoyment in their lives through the God-given sounds of music." (Hermann, 1971)
Suzuki developed his ideas through a strong belief in the ideas of "Talent Education", a way of instruction that he developed during the time he was beginning to build his ideas. At the 1958 National Festival Suzuki said, "Though still in an experimental stage, Talent Education has realized that all children in the world show their splendid capacities by speaking and understanding their mother language, thus displaying the original power of the human mind. Is it not probable that this mother language method holds the key to human development? Talent Education has applied this method to the teaching of music: children, taken without previous aptitude or intelligence test of any kind, have almost without exception made great progress. This is not to say that everyone can reach the same level of achievement. However, each individual can certainly achieve the equivalent of his language proficiently in other fields." (Kendall, 1966)
Suzuki employed the following ideas of Talent Education to his music pedagogy schools:
Suzuki wrote a number of books about his method and his life, several of which were translated from Japanese to English by his German born wife, Waltraud Suzuki, including