Dr Shinichi Suzuki was born in Nagoya, Japan on the 17th Oct 1898 and died 27 January 1998 at Matsumoto at the age of 99 years.
During his life he had a major impact on the field of musical education throughout the world. His method, which involves learning initially by ear, has been used by millions to learn many different musical instruments and gain a good appreciation of music. Many have excelled and made a significant mark on the musical scene.
Suzuki & History of Suzuki Method-Dr Lydia Mordkovich, a professor of violin playing at the Royal Academy of Music in London, said Suzuki was single-handedly responsible for a worldwide soaring interest in the violin after the Second World War.
“It is such a very, very complicated instrument to learn, especially for young children. Suzuki found a way to make it approachable for kids. He was a great man and an absolutely wonderful pioneer,” she said.
The Suzuki method is based on the concept that by listening and imitation children can learn to speak any language – and play music too, without having to read music first – from the age of three. Originally conceived for the violin, the method of instruction has been expanded to include other instruments.
Suzuki believed that, given the right training, anyone could master music. Firstly Suzuki has created a philosophy and methodology which proves that people – and especially young children – have far more capacity than is commonly believed. It has certainly proven that every child has got a true musicality built-in. As long as the child and parents can make it feel fun; it will automatically develop the musical abilities to a very high degree.
Not everybody reaches “world class” in skill, but some do, and the others certainly find that music of all kinds brings joy, for the rest of their lives.
Shinichi Suzuki was born in a small fishing village on the east coast of Japan.
His grandfather was a Samurai and so his father continued the family tradition of leadership after Japan joined the modern world in the 1870’s. He started a factory manufacturing violins and was so successful that it became the worlds largest. His children grew up using violins as toys and not musical instruments.
As a teenager Shinichi Suzuki worked in the Suzuki violin factory in the dispatch area. He only became interested in music in his late teens after hearing a violin playing “Ave Maria” on an early gramophone player. He decided to learn to play it himself and copied it by ear.
The family was wealthy and was able to support their children’s social and education pursuits. His father agreed to fund musical studies.
Shinichi became ill in his early 20s and it was agreed that he take an extended overseas trip to recover. Instead Shinichi headed straight for Berlin to follow his passion and study music.
In Germany he had difficulties learning the language and recognised the enormous abilities of young children who learn to speak languages with ease. He quickly became immersed in the scene and met his wife, a German pianist and singer.
After eight years the depression arrived and he was called back Japan to help his family. The Suzuki Violin factory and business was going through difficult times, so he decided to take up teaching in Tokyo.
Whilst in Tokyo he was asked to teach some children. He quickly found that he enjoyed the challenge and devised different methods to achieve success.
This led to his Discovery. One night as Dr Suzuki was drinking with friends; the realisation of the answer to a puzzle came to him. How do children learn to speak so quickly? The answer was by being immersed in the language and much practice and encouragement by parents.
He discovered all “Japanese know Japanese.” This discovery laid the foundations for what we know today as the Suzuki Approach or Method and are based on the same principles.
World War Two intervened and he had to stop teaching. After the war he developed the method further for teaching the violin in much the same way children learn to speak their mother tongue.
After success with his first students, he founded the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto in 1947 where teachers from all over the world are now trained.
Through the pioneering work of Professor John Kendall and others, the Suzuki Method spread to the United States in the 1960s and Teacher Training Centres were established at a variety of Universities. This has been replicated through out the world and Suzuki students have achieved in every form of musical endeavour and are present in all major orchestras.
Today there are approximately 300,000 teachers and students in 34 countries worldwide.
The New Zealand Suzuki Institute (NZSI), was formed approximately 20 years ago. Dr Suzuki visited New Zealand in January 1989, and was impressed with the progress and enthusiasm of the members of the New Zealand Suzuki Institute.
The NZSI has continued to grow rapidly in the nineties and is only constrained by the number of trained teachers available. A Teacher Trainers committee has addressed this and numbers have grown 35% in the last three years. A feature is the number of former students now becoming teachers.
The NZSI now has branches throughout NZ with over 120 teachers and 2500 students studying a variety of instruments including violin, cello, piano, flute and guitar. It is estimated that approximately 50000 Kiwis have learnt to play a musical instrument using the Suzuki method. New Zealand students, have won national and international competitions and acclaim, and make up an increasing percentage of our local and national orchestras.
One of the features of the Suzuki Movement in New Zealand are the frequent free public concerts organised to enable students to perform as individuals, in groups and orchestras. These performances are of a surprisingly high standard and serve to build self-confidence in the performers.
The winter Olympics in Nagano cultural events included a celebration of Suzuki Music with a range of concerts. Three New Zealanders took part in these performances.
In our history there are a few who make a significant contribution to the world. Dr Suzuki is one. He will be remembered by all with a twinkle in our eye and much love.