Shinichi Suzuki (violinist)

Shin'ichi Suzuki (鈴木 鎮一 "Suzuki Shin'ichi" October 17, 1898 - January 26, 1998) was the creator of the international Suzuki method of music education.

Considered to be one of the most influential and controversial pedagogues of the 20th century, he often spoke about the ability of all children to learn things well, given the right environment.


Born in Nagoya, Japan in 1898, Shinichi Suzuki was surrounded by the sound of violins at his father’s violin making factory. As one of seven children, Shinichi spent his childhood not learning how to play the violin, but working at the factory putting up violin soundposts. A family friend encouraged Shinichi to study Western culture, but his father felt that it was beneath his son's station in life to become a performer. It wasn’t until the age of 17 that he began to teach himself how to play the violin, after becoming inspired by a recording of Mischa Elman. Without access to professional instruction, he would listen to recordings and try to imitate what he heard.

At the age of 22, Shinichi persuaded his father to allow him to study in Germany, where Karl Klingler eventually became his private violin teacher. Shinichi never attained any formal education past his high school diploma. While in Germany, he spent several years under the guardianship of Albert Einstein. He also met, courted, 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 Shinichi lost one of his brothers. The family was also left penniless and Shinichi decided to leave his teaching positions and move to a nearby city where he constructed parts for wooden airplanes to raise some money. Poor and hungry, at one point almost dying, he began to teach violin lessons to the orphan children in the outer cities where he lived. He adopted an orphan boy, Matsui, and started to develop teaching strategies and philosophies. Shinichi combined his new practical teaching applications with traditional Asian philosophy.

Shinichi Suzuki died at his home in Matsumoto, Japan on January 26, 1998. Students, teachers, and performers all around the world mourned the loss. Robert Klotman said, "With the passing of Shinichi Suzuki, the music world has lost a distinguished philosopher-pedagogue. He was more than a music pedagogue, 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. There have been many emulators, but no one will ever replace him" (Racin, 1998).

Contributions to Pedagogy

Shinichi Suzuki's experiences as an adult beginner and the philosophies which surrounded him throughout his life were recapitulated in the lessons he developed to teach his students. It was very important to Suzuki that his teaching was not viewed as a "method" as it is often referred to (see "Suzuki method").

"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). At the time Hermann was writing, Suzuki actually held no doctorate. He subsequently received honorary or ceremonial degrees, but he was and is referred to as "Dr. Suzuki".

Suzuki developed his ideas through a strong belief in the ideas of "Talent Education", a way of instruction that he developed during the time he was beginning to build his ideas. 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 through scientific research or controlled experiment.

Suzuki employed the following ideas of Talent Education to his music pedagogy schools:
#The human being is a product of his environment.
#The earlier, the better – not only music, but all learning
#Repetition of experiences is important for learning.
#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.
#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


*cite book
last = Cannon
first = Jerlene
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Diamond in the Sky
publisher = Summy-Birchard Inc.
date = Copyright 2002
location = Warner Bros. Publications 15800 NW. 48th Ave., Miami, FL, 33014
pages =
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 1-58951-400-9

*cite video
people = The Cleveland Institute of Music
title = Nurtured by Love: the life and work of Shinichi Suzuki
medium = Video Documentary
publisher = Telos Productions, Inc.
location =
date =

*cite book
last = Suzuki
first = Shinichi
authorlink =
coauthors = Translated by Waltraud Suzuki
title = Nurtured by Love: A New Approach to Education
publisher = Exposition Press
date = Copyright 1969 by Shinichi Suzuki, 19th printing April 1981
location = Smithtown, New York
pages =
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-682-47518-1

External links

* [ Bio of Suzuki on the SAA website]
* [ Details on Suzuki and his method]

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