Shinichi Suzuki (violinist)

Birth name Shinichi Suzuki
Born (1898-10-17)17 October 1898
Origin Japan
Died 26 January 1998(1998-01-26) (aged 99)
Genres kineme music
Occupation(s) Musician, pedagogue, philosopher
Instruments violin

Shinichi Suzuki (鈴木 鎮一 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.[1] 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.[2]


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.[3]

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.[4][5] 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.[1] 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.

He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.[6]

Shinichi Suzuki died at his home in Matsumoto, Japan on 26 January 1998, aged 99.

Contributions to pedagogy

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).

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.[7]

Suzuki employed the following ideas of Talent Education in his music pedagogy schools:

  1. The human being is a product of his environment.
  2. The earlier, the better – with not only music, but all learning.
  3. Repetition of experiences is important for learning.
  4. Teachers and parents (adult human environment) must be at a high level and continue to grow to provide a better learning situation for the child.
  5. The system or method must involve illustrations for the child based on the teacher's understanding of when, what, and how (Kendall, 1966).

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 and stems from his encouragement of others to continue develop and research the education of children throughout his lifetime.

Suzuki philosophy

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.


Suzuki has since been accused of being a fraud by Mark O'Connor, U.S. violin teacher and founder of his own teaching method, who asserts on his blog site that Suzuki was actually rejected from the prestigious Berlin music school at auditions, and only met Einstein once to sell him a violin.[8] O'Connor's assertions have been refuted by Suzuki teacher-trainer Lois Shepheard, who made repeated trips to Japan where she studied with Dr Suzuki, learned to speak and read Japanese, had discussions with and observed various teachers around the world, read some of Dr Suzuki’s texts in Japanese as well as their English translations, and has taught the Suzuki method.[9] The International Suzuki Association (ISA) has also issued a statement in rebuttal of O'Connor's allegations.[10] Further documentation countering O'Connor's claims has been provided online by cellist Amy Sue Barston.[11] Contrary to the O'Connor's assertions, Talent Education Research Institute (the headquarters: Matsumoto, Japan) has introduced the letters from Prof. Karl Klinger that were written to Suzuki when he was studying with Prof. Klingler. These were messages about lesson dates and the pieces that he wanted Suzuki to study with him. Also Talent Education Research Institute introduced a card from Dr. Albert Einstein on their site. The message with a self-portrait on the card says, "Dear Mr. Shinichi Suzuki, For our remembrance Albert Einstein."[12]

Awards, honors, and nominations


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


  1. 1 2 Suzuki, Shinichi & Waltraud (1966). Nurtured by Love.
  2. Wood, Enid. "Shinichi Suzuki (1898–1998): A Short Biography". Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  3. Kerstin Wartberg (author); Ursula Mueller-Gaehler (translation into English) (2009). "Suzuki's family background - Life between tradition and progress" (PDF). Shinichi Suzuki: Pioneer of Music Education. Deutsches Suzuki Institut. pp. 8–29. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  4. 「愛に生きる:才能は生まれつきではない」 ("AI NI I KI RU : SAI NOU WHA U MA RE TSU KI DE WHA NA I") by 鈴木鎮一 (SUZU KI SHIN ICHI), Published in 1966, ISBN 4-06-115486-9 (2007 Printing), pp.150–166
  5. "Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education" by Shinichi Suzuki (The 1983 English translation of the above-mentioned book, 「愛に生きる:才能は生まれつきではない」, translated from Japanese to English by Mrs Waltraud Suzuki, with language consultants Mrs Masako Kobayashi and Ms D. Guyver Britton), 2nd Edition (ISBN 0-87487-584-6), pp.75–78
  6. Delta Omicron
  7. D'Ercole, Pat. Suki Association of the Americas.
  8. "Japanese violin teacher whose method has been used by millions LIED about his training, LIED about learning with Einstein and is the 'biggest fraud in musical history', say experts", Dailymail,
  9. "Response to Mark O’Connor’s ‘Say It Ain’t So, Shin’ichi Suzuki’"
  10. "Inaccurate and false statements by American fiddler Mark O’Connor about Shinichi Suzuki"
  11. "Just in: Suzuki empire strikes back at fraud allegations"
  12. "TERI(Japan) Personal History of Shinichi Suzuki". Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  13. Hermann, Evelyn (1996). Shinichi Suzuki: A Man and His Music. Alfred Music.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Suzuki, Waltraud (1993). My Life with Suzuki. Alfred Music.
  15. "New England Conservatory of Music: Honorary Doctor of Music". Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  16. "University of Rochester: Honorary Degree Recipients, 1851– present". Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  17. "Cleveland Institute of Music: Youth & Adult Studies". Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  18. Barber, Barbara (September 2009). "Longmont Suzuki Strings: Play for Peace – Pennies for Peace". American Suzuki Journal. 37 (4).

Further reading

There are also several biographies of Suzuki, including

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