Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998)
educator, violinist, philosopher, humanitarian
S. Suzuki was born in Nagoya, Japan to the father of a violin maker. At the age of 17 he heard a recording of the famous violinist Mischa Elman playing Ave Maria and was so moved by what he heard that he took one of the instruments home from his father's factory and taught himself how to play the violin by imitating the sounds he heard on the record. By the age of 22 he had an opportunity to travel to Germany and study with renowned violinist Karl Klinger. It was also in Germany where he met his wife Waltrud and befriended Albert Einstein.
Suzuki returned back to his country to play in a string quartet with his brothers and to teach the violin. A man came to Suzuki and asked him to teach his 4 year old son and Suzuki pondered over how he would convey the complexities of playing the violin to this young child. The answer came to him by this simple observation - every child learns to speak their native tongue. In Suzuki's words:
"...all Japanese children speak Japanese! Since they all speak Japanese so easily and fluently, there must be a secret: and this must be training, Indeed all children everywhere in the world are brought up by a perfect educational method: their mother tongue. Why not apply this method to other faculties?"
Nurtured by Love
Suzuki took the elements that go into learning a language and applied them to learning to play the violin. These elements include:
- Beginning early
- Step by step mastery
- Learning in a community
- Positive encouragement & active involvement from the parent
- Reading after learning having control of the instrument
For his work Suzuki was named a Living National Treasure by the Emperor of Japan and nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Currently there are over 8,000 Suzuki music teachers world wide.