17 October 1898|
26 January 1998 (aged 99)|
|Musician, pedagogue, philosopher|
Shinichi Suzuki ( Suzuki Shin'ichi, 17 October 1898 - 26 January 1998) was a Japanese musician, philosopher, and educator and the inventor of the international Suzuki method of music education and developed a philosophy for educating people of all ages and abilities. Considered an influential pedagogue in music education of children, he often spoke of the ability of all children to learn things well, especially in the right environment, and of developing the heart and building the character of music students through their music education. Before his time, it was rare for children to be formally taught classical instruments from an early age and even more rare for children to be accepted by a music teacher without an audition or entrance examination. Not only did he endeavor to teach children the violin from early childhood and then infancy, his school in Matsumoto did not screen applicants for their ability upon entrance. Suzuki was also responsible for the early training of some of the earliest Japanese violinists to be successfully appointed to prominent western classical music organizations. During his lifetime, he received several honorary doctorates in music including from the New England Conservatory of Music (1956), and the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, was proclaimed a Living National Treasure of Japan, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize.
Born in Nagoya, Japan in 1898, as one of twelve children, Shinichi spent his childhood working at his father's violin factory (current Suzuki Violin Co., Ltd.), putting up violin soundposts. A family friend encouraged Shinichi to study Western culture, but his father felt that it was beneath Suzuki to be a performer. He began to teach himself how to play the violin in 1916, however, after being inspired by a recording of Mischa Elman. Without access to professional instruction, he listened to recordings and tried to imitate what he heard.
At the age of 26, the Marquis Tokugawa, a friend of Suzuki, persuaded his father to allow him to study in Germany, where he studied under Karl Klingler. In Germany, he claimed to have spent time under the guardianship of Albert Einstein. He also met and married his wife, Waltraud Prange (1905-2000). 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 and started to take interest in developing the music education of young students in violin. During World War II, his father's violin factory was converted into a factory to construct seaplane floats. Consequently, it was bombed by American war planes and one of his brothers died as a result. During this time, he and his wife finally evacuated to separate locations when conditions became too unsafe for her as an ex-German citizen, and the factory was struggling to operate due to lack of wood supply. Suzuki left with other family members for a rural mountainous region to secure wood from a geta factory and his wife had to move to a "German village" where other Germans and ex-Germans were sequestered. Once the war was over, he was invited to teach at a new music school being formed, and agreed to the position with the condition he would be allowed to develop teaching music to children from infancy and early childhood. He adopted into his family and continued the music education of one of his pre-wartime students, Koji, once he learned he was a wartime orphan. He and his wife were eventually reunited and moved to Matsumoto where he continued to teach.
Shinichi Suzuki died at his home in Matsumoto, Japan on 26 January 1998, aged 99.
Shinichi Suzuki's experiences as an adult beginner and the philosophies that he held during his life were recapitulated in the lessons he developed to teach his students. Schools of early childhood education have combined his philosophies and approaches with pedagogues such as Orff, Kodály, Montessori, Dalcroze, and Doman.
"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).[verification needed]
Suzuki developed his ideas through a strong belief in the ideas of "Talent Education", a philosophy of instruction that is based on the premise that talent, musical or otherwise, is something that can be developed in any child. 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"-- Shinichi Suzuki, (Kendall,1966)
Suzuki also collaborated with other thinkers of his time, like Glenn Doman, founder of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, an organization that studies neurological development in young children. Suzuki and Doman agreed on the premise that all young children had great potential, and Suzuki interviewed Doman for his book Where Love is Deep.
Suzuki employed the following ideas of Talent Education in his music pedagogy schools:
The epistemological learning aspect, or, as Suzuki called it, the "mother tongue" philosophy, is that in which children learn through their own observation of their environment, especially in the learning of their first language. The worldwide Suzuki movement continues to use the theories that Suzuki himself put forward in the mid-1940s and has been continuously developed to this day, stemming from his encouragement of others to continue to develop and research the education of children throughout his lifetime.
Suzuki Talent Education or the Suzuki Method combines a music teaching method with a philosophy that embraces the total development of the child. Suzuki's guiding principle was "character first, ability second", and that any child can learn.
In 2014, 16 years after Suzuki's death, U.S. violin teacher Mark O'connor, who sells a competing method, wrote a blog post claiming that Suzuki lied about his training in the 1920s. The allegations were quickly refuted by Lois Shepheard, a teacher of the Suzuki method who learned Japanese in Japan and studied with Suzuki, by the International Suzuki Association (ISA), by cellist Amy Sue Barston,  and by Talent Education Research Institute (headquartered in Matsumoto, Japan). In particular, the Talent Education Research Institute provided the letters by Prof. Karl Klinger written to Suzuki when he was his student mentioning lesson dates and the pieces that he wanted Suzuki to study with him, and a self-portrait from Dr. Albert Einstein signed "Dear Mr. Shinichi Suzuki, For our remembrance Albert Einstein."
Suzuki wrote a number of short books about his method and his life, several of which were translated from Japanese to English by his German born wife, Waltraud Suzuki, including
There are also several biographies of Suzuki, including
This article lacks ISBNs for the books listed in it. (July 2011)