Dr. Shinichi Suzuki was born in Nagoya, Japan in October 17, 1898 to a family of seven children. His
father Masakichi Suzuki was the founder of Japan's first and largest violin manufacturing company, The
Suzuki Violin Factory (current Suzuki Violin Co. Ltd). Shinichi spent his childhood working at his father's
factory. Despite seeing how violins were made, he never realized then what a huge artistic beauty the violin
tone potentially can have. That changed when at the age of 17 Shinichi heard for the first time a recording
of Schubert’s Ave Maria, played by a famous violinist Mischa Elman. Suzuki was mesmerized by the artistic
beauty of the tone that a true master like Elman can draw from his instrument. That day Shinichi brought
back home a violin from the factory and began to teach himself how to play. He would listen to the recording
and try to imitate the sound of Elman’s playing. Later on he took violin lessons from a teacher in Tokyo.
Suzuki’s formal education ended with a high school diploma and he never attained any higher
At the age of 22, the Marquis Tokugawa, a family
friend, convinced Shinichi’s father to allow him to travel to
Germany to study violin. In Germany Suzuki selected a world
renowned violinist and pedagogue
Karl Klingler to become his teacher. While in Germany he also
became good friends with
Alfred Einstein, who influenced him greatly and introduced him to his
forthcoming wife Waltraud Suzuki (nee Prange).
After returning to Japan, he established
string quartet with his brothers and they began to give quartet
concerts. He also received a violin teaching
position at the Imperial School of Music and at the Kunitachi Music School in Tokyo. Suzuki’s family lost their
violin factory in World War II. Despite been extremely poor, he started giving violin lessons to orphaned
children and he even adopted one of his first students, Koji Toyoda, who later on
concertmaster of the
Berlin Radio-Philharmonic Orchestra, a professor at the
Hochschule der Künste in
Berlin and a president of the Talent Education Research
When Suzuki was asked by a man to teach his young son
violin, he started thinking of ways to teach music to very young children. He came to the seemingly obvious
realization that all children in Germany spoke German, while children in Japan spoke Japanese fluently.
Although these languages are different, it became clear to him that children were able to learn their mother
tongue with ease, with little regard to the relative complexity of each language. He noted that it is all
about the environment in which the child lives. A child raised in environment that speaks Japanese will
learn to speak Japanese, while a child raised in a environment speaking German will learn
After he made his discovery, he realized that all
children could potentially learn to play a musical instrument through a same process as they learn their
mother tongue. He called his method with various names; The Mother Tongue Method, The Talent Education and
Ability Development. As a humble individual he didn’t want his method to be named after his name. His
philosophy is that a musical ability is not inborn, but a result of proper training, a good musical
environment, encouraging learning environment and adequate practice. Talent is an ability that can be
developed. Every child has this potential from the birth.
In 1946 Suzuki established a school in Matsumoto,
Japan, which later became the Talent Education Research Institute (TERI). Today, there are estimated more than 8,000 Suzuki
teachers with over 250,000 students across 40 countries.
Dr.Shinichi Suzuki died at his home
Matsumoto , Japan on January 26, 1998.