Dr Shinichi Suzuki
(October 17, 1898 – January 26, 1998)
Shinichi Suzuki was born in 1898 in Nagoya, Japan. Born into a large family of seven children, he was the son of a violin manufacturer and spent much of his time as a child in his father’s factory.
At the age of seventeen and during a trip to a local book store, Suzuki by chance came across Tolstoy’s Diary. This book really moved him and this began a lifelong fascination with inner truth and philosophy.
At age 23, Suzuki moved to Germany to study violin with Karl Klinger. It was during this time that he was introduced to Albert Einstein, who in turn introduced him to a new circle of intellectuals.
This exposure served to further enhance his belief in the right of all children to become ‘sensitive and noble human beings of high character’. It was also during this period that Suzuki became greatly moved by the music of Mozart. He describes Mozart’s music as a tool by which ‘I can further the happiness of all children’.
After eight years in Germany Suzuki returned home with the intention to perform and teach music. Teaching soon took precedence in his life and it was the ideals presented through Tolstoy, Einstein and Mozart that formed the foundation of his future approach to music education.
Suzuki was teaching violin at the Imperial Conservatory and had formed a string quartet with his brothers, called the Suzuki Quartet, when one day he was struck with a discovery that ‘all Japanese children speak Japanese’. He realized that it was taken for granted that all children around the world master language, grammar and subtle variations of sound at a very young age and people in general felt that the ability children display was inborn.
He then concluded that any child is able to display highly superior abilities if only the correct methods are used in training. It was during this time that a father came to him and asked him to teach his four year old son to play the violin. At first Suzuki had no idea how to approach teaching such a young child, then he realized that his discovery about language would apply to learning a musical instrument. And thus the ‘Mother Tongue’ method was born.
Suzuki called his method ‘Talent Education’ which began an educational movement which has spread around the world. He spent the rest of his life teaching his philosophy in a search for human potentials.
Shinichi Suzuki died at his home in Matsumoto, Japan on January 26, 1998. Students, teachers, and performers all around the world mourned the loss. 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.