Happy Birthday, Dr. Suzuki!

Our Children Can Celebrate!

They can develop talent~

Dr. Shinichi Suzuki was born on October 17, 1898, in Nagoya, Japan.  His life story is inspirational because he developed a unique method that allowed students from very young children to adults to learn to play the violin and other instruments.

He began to play at a rather late age–most likely age 17.  What is most fascinating about the man is that he thought through a way to teach a complicated instrument in a simple way. He broke the steps into even smaller steps to make the skill easier and accessible to all.

Two Focuses

Shinichi Suzuki violin pedagogue

One focus is on his method which is based on how babies learn to speak their native language, their Mother Tongue.  Babies are surrounded by people smiling and talking to them, repeating words, and encouraging all the time.  Suzuki had the idea that you could learn to play the violin by that same method.  It is such a strange idea for him to have come up with.  However, he was an observer of children’s development that far exceeded other’s skills.

Another focus. I like to think about him in yet another way.  I like to focus also on his idea of breaking down the steps to the smallest parts.  With this idea, there is a very specific way to understand the violin and how it works.  A way to figure out how to make beautiful music from an instrument with no markings on it!

His idea of small steps is very similar to that of other pedagogues who work with children with learning differences.  Teachers have discovered that children with dyslexia, for example, can learn to read when the process is broken down into its minuscule steps.  Children who have difficulty with math can be taught when the teacher understands what knowledge and skills must be mastered before the next step can be introduced. So it is the same, he thought, with teaching someone, even someone very young, to play one of the most difficulty musical instruments.

Significance of His Ideas

Perhaps this was the first time someone said you don’t have to be talented to play the violin.  You just have to have the right kind of teaching.  I think this attitude is so apropos to today’s children with their different learning styles.  They don’t have to be talented to read, to do math, to learn a second language.  They just need the right teaching method–one that understands the way they learn and the way the content can be taught successfully. And they need a teacher who has been trained to do just that.

That’s how Suzuki thought about learning the skills involved in violin playing.

He analyzed the instrument and the music

Introduced the basic skills that need to be in place before the next step

Taught to mastery those skills before moving on to the next step.

Never will we find sloppy playing if we implement and follow this method.

Suzuki, Never Satisfied

Furthermore, Suzuki was a life-long learner (He lived almost 100 years!), frequently tweaking his method as he discovered new ideas from his teaching, from his students.   What an inspiration for any teacher.

This is a man who changed the way we look at teaching violin.  If he were alive today, I feel certain he would continue to improve upon his Method.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Suzuki!

You can find more information here about Dr. Suzuki on the Suzuki Association of Americas website.

Find out about The Suzuki Alumni Project founded by cellist Yumi Kendall here and on FaceBook.

“Talent is no accident of birth. In today’s society a good many people seem to have the idea that if one is born without talent, there is nothing he can do about it; they simply resign themselves to what they consider to be their fate.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki


You might enjoy reading:

Baby Eli, Is Suzuki for you?

How does that triangle work?

Is there a Suzuki Method for 0 to 3-year-olds?