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Shin'ichi Suzuki (鈴木 鎮一 Suzuki Shin'ichi ?, October 17, 1898 – January 26, 1998) was the inventor of the international Suzuki method of music education. Considered an influential and controversial pedagogue, he often spoke of the ability of all children to learn things well, in the right environment.



Born in Nagoya, Japan in 1898, one of seven children, Shinichi spent his childhood working at the his father's violin factory, 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 at 17, 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 22, the Marquis Tokugawa, a friend of Suzuki's, persuaded his father to allow him to study in Germany, where he studied under Karl Klingler. Suzuki never attained any formal education past his high school diploma. While in Germany, he spent several years under the guardianship of Alfred Einstein. He also met and married his wife, Waltraud. 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. During World War II, his father’s violin factory was bombed by American war planes and one of his brothers died as a result. The family was left penniless by this, so Suzuki decided to leave his teaching positions and move to a nearby city, where he constructed parts for wooden airplanes to raise some money. Extremely poor, he gave lessons to orphaned children in the outer cities of where he lived. He adopted one of his students, Koji, and started to develop teaching strategies and philosophies. He then combined his new practical teaching applications with traditional Asian philosophy.

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

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.

"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 method of instruction he developed. 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" (Kendall, 1966). Like many self-taught teachers, Suzuki developed his theories of early childhood education from personal experience and anecdotal evidence rather than scientific research or controlled experiment. 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.[1]

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. The worldwide Suzuki movement continues to use the theories that Suzuki himself put forward in the mid-1940s.

Further reading

Suzuki wrote a number of books about his method and his life, several of which were translated from Japanese to English by his German born wife, Waltraud Suzuki, including

  • Nurtured by Love
  • Ability Development from Age Zero
  • Man and Talent: Search into the Unknown
  • Where Love is Deep

There are also several biographies of Suzuki, including

  • Diamond in the Sky (a biography for children) by Jerlene Cannon
  • Shinichi Suzuki: The Man and His Philosophy by Evelyn Hermann
  • Shinichi Suzuki: Man of Love by Masaaki Honda


  1. ^ D'Ercole, Pat. Suzuki Association of the Americas.
  • Cannon, Jerlene (Copyright 2002). Diamond in the Sky. Warner Bros. Publications 15800 NW. 48th Ave., Miami, FL, 33014: Summy-Birchard Inc.. ISBN 1-58951-400-9.  
  • The Cleveland Institute of Music. Nurtured by Love: the life and work of Shinichi Suzuki. [Video Documentary]. Telos Productions, Inc..  
  • Suzuki, Shinichi; Translated by Waltraud Suzuki (Copyright 1969 by Shinichi Suzuki, 19th printing April 1981). Nurtured by Love: A New Approach to Education. Smithtown, New York: Exposition Press. ISBN 0-682-47518-1.  

External links



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