Now I am pretty sure most of us are aware of the Suzuki method for children which is very popular, but I was wondering about some things on the man himself, Shinichi Suzuki.
Was he a great violin player? Are there any recordings of him playing well known classical music like Tchaikovsky or Bach? Or was he more towards playing more "children" music (By no means any disrespect) and teaching children?
I'm aware that he started playing the violin at around when he was 18, but did he ever become like a almost "professional performer"? It seems very intriguing that we know a lot about the method, but not so much about the man himself
The Suzuki method isn't just for children -- it works excellently for students of all ages.
Comparing Suzuki to cult leaders (Jim Jones or David Koresh, for example), is in poor taste. Suzuki believed in his approach. As far as I know he didn't take children for wives and he didn't lead people to their deaths.
Thank you, Paul.
Gordon, words have connotations outside of their definition when used as jargon. Perhaps you should try meditating on the difference between conversational meanings and technical meanings?
Gordon, could you go into more detail about why you dislike Suzuki?
I don't dislike Suzuki. I'm not using cult in a bad sense.
A friend of mine who went to the Paris Conservatory was a student of Suzuki when he was a child and young adult in Matsumoto. I just asked him the op's question.
As part of Suzuki's stated inspiration for defining a new approach to teaching violin playing was his own frustration with learning violin at a later age and contrasting that with the ease with which every child learns their own language, which went so far as to use 'mother-tongue' as part of the name of the method at one time, we can suppose that he wasn't satisfied with his own learning on the violin, and need not get hung up on how great a player he was in considering the value of the approach he promoted.
I think Suzuki was a competent violinist playing at a professional level, but he was certainly not a soloist-class virtuoso, and never claimed to be. Suzuki's recording of the Franck is available on YouTube, and is certainly an artifact of his time, and neither the pianist or violinist are perfect:
You can hear him playing a Bach Gavotte on the first CD of The Recorded Violin Vol 2. I am afraid that this recording doesn't really suggest that he was a great concert artist, though he never claimed to be one. (I have nothing but respect for the man as a teacher and great human being, but, well, let's just say this CD doesn't exactly do him a favor by placing him alongside the likes of Vasa Prihoda and Nathan Milstein.)
My violin teacher, Jane Harbour, was at the Suzuki School in Japan for several years during which, in her later years, Shinichi Suzuki was her personal tutor for 6 months.
Now that the dust has settled a little on this thread, I will mention that I have met a lot of "Suzuki teachers" because my kids' teachers have used Suzuki books and some of the methods, and they have attended various Suzuki camps where we have met a lot of teachers -- all of them wonderful people, with zero exceptions. I have noticed a wide range of "reverence" for Dr. Suzuki. On the "very reverential" end of the spectrum are teachers who, when asked a question about violin playing or practicing, are likely to start their response with, "Dr. Suzuki would say ..." followed by a statement paraphrased from Suzuki himself. There are also teachers who expect parents to undertake some training in the Suzuki philosophy (usually minimal to trivial, like reading a short book).
I think it’s possible that the “Dr. Suzuki” comes at least in part as a direct translation from the Japanese “Suzuki-Sensei.” Teachers in Japan at any level are treated with much more respect than is typical here in the US, and are addressed with the honorific “Sensei” which literally translates to “teacher” but which conveys the level of respect that in the US is more specifically attached to “Dr.”
My grandfather was a mid-century Suzuki teacher in Tokyo. My take on it is that Suzuki’s motivation was similar to that of El Sistema- to raise cultured citizens. IMHO, a very noble liberal education, even Jeffersonian ideal. To even think his goal was to be compared to the traditional pedagogues, Galamian, Flesch, Auer, Delay, or even Fischer today, totally misses the point.
My grandfather had an Italian gardener who addressed him as ‘Doctor.’ A sign of respect.
Jeewon, your point on Ghandi is well taken. Still a better choice than Arafat. :)
Jeewon, I don't know if you meant to post other links, but those don't even mention Gandhi. I don't think you lay blame for domestic violence at the foot of someone who died 80 years ago, unless you are trying to illustrate some kind of butterfly effect. He had his issues in terms of his family life, and he had prejudiced views towards the South Africans around him in his early life (which he seemed to reckon with), but I'm not sure how those would relate to the work he did for his fellow Indians and to-be Pakistanis. I mean, if we apply the standard that a Nobel Peace Prize winner has to have delivered permanent world peace, then I guess there are no winners.
My intention wasn't to divert a thread about Suzuki into a discussion about the pros and cons of Ghandi. My apologies to the OP.
I would have to see more about whether his liberation movement had anti-women tenets. I know he had bizarre and abusive ideas and practices, specifically when it came towards sexuality, women and his family, but his salt march and clothes boycott very much empowered women economically, and I could very well be wrong, but I don't know of him coming out against women's rights or anything connected with his political organizing. It's unfortunate that his "canonization" means that a lot of his abhorrent personal views are put on display and might be used to push a lot of bad views, practices and laws, but I'm comfortable separating his personal views (even if they did spill over into the public) from the very public work and sacrifices.
Jeewon, no doubt Gandhi did some really odd things. I don't think that detracts from his accomplishments but that's debatable. However I find it hard to believe that this proponent of nonviolence advocated fathers killing their daughters. Is there a legitimate source for this claim?
To India's credit, they did have a female head of state, Indira Gandhi, (no relation to the Mahatma) for sixteen years (starting in 1966). That's something that in 2020, the US, Japan, and Mexico cannot claim. But the center left Congress Party of Nehru and Gandhi has been diminished in terms of influence over the years. Indira Gandhi's daughter in law, the Italian born Sonia Gandhi, is currently the President of the Congress Party (I believe she could have been Prime Minister if she had wanted the job).
My daughter went through the Suzuki Books up to Book 6, I think. Her teachers basically used them as repertoire books and the only problem we had was that by the end of Book 5, she decided she had enough of Bach. She still isn't too crazy about Bach and perks up every time she gets a new piece that is not Bach.
A note has to be well prepared and played whether it is part of a scale or a piece of music. And my beginners never sounded "dreadful"!
Playing an open string musically is an essential skill. I think I saw a Tchaikovsky Romance or something recently which had a long low G in it. Screw that up at your peril.
“However, I don’t think people should play music before developing technical ability via scales and etudes.”
Open strings? Sounds like a great idea. Maybe that's why a significant fraction of the notes in the first piece in Suzuki Book 1 are open strings.
If you happen upon the Leopold Auer method books (and they are currently in print and available), you will see that the entire first book is on open strings. I think that students should be encouraged to think about any note they play as music, even something dry like Schradieck - Of course, there are limits to the time anyone should spend on something like that.
Remember, Suzuki method was developed for young children. Imagine telling 3 year old preschoolers that they have to learn scales and etudes before they can play Twinkle Twinkle? The counter argument will be, kids that young do not need to be playing violin but I think that decision should be left up to each child, family, and teacher.
Maybe now we know why the Suzuki approach got millions of kids playing the violin and the Auer method didn't.
they have to learn scales and etudes before they can play Twinkle Twinkle?
I've heard of pre-twinkle, and my cello-daughter did a year or so of that (she was 4). But my violin teacher starts even the tiniest children on Twinkle and seems to do just fine with that.
Henry, I was responding to a poster who thought students should start with scales and etudes.
I was responding to a poster who thought students should start with scales and etudes.
I do think there is some kind of interview to make a determination whether the child is ready, but I really don't know.
One of my local Suzuki programs wants a kid to be able to sit still for the 30 minutes of another kid's lesson before they are deemed ready to begin. Plenty of
Twinkle is crucial.
I agree that although technique and all those things are very important, but boring, that it is very important to incorporate fun into learning or else they lose interest and/or motivation quickly. It's tough sometimes doing carl flesch thrids and sixths constantly over and over again :/
Yes scales in thirds are hard. But they're VERY good for you. Do them very slowly and pay close attention to your hand positions and your sound. We're not little kids any more -- we know we have to put in hard work if we're going to see improvement.
I think the open strings method actually makes a lot of sense, and you can make music out of fifths - Just don't tell the kids that it isn't music!
Lydia, I don't think my daughter can sit still for 3 minutes and she is 9!
Kiki makes a good point. Screening the parents is probably just as important as screening the children. Maybe more so. I think we've had threads on here before about what Suzuki teachers are looking for in a good violin parent, but it's been a while.
In Japan, the parents are much more involved with the Suzuki Method than they generally are in the US, so it isn't surprising that a GOOD Suzuki teacher auditions the parents as well as the player.
Screening the parents.
Older kids are going to see "going back" to open strings as a punishment. They have already eaten from the tree of knowledge, and their technical issues are now ingrained, and will require a much greater amount of time and energy to undo. If you teach something the right way the first time, it builds the kind of foundation that everything else rests on, and then needs only minimal correcting along the way. If you build something on a rickety foundation, then every new element you add is liable to crumble at any moment. I have taught zero children!
I have taught zero children!
Christian, when I say young children, I mean preschoolers. If you want them to get RH "right" before you introduce LH, then you'd be waiting for many years and chances are, they'd quit before they ever learn how to have a perfect bow hold and a relaxed, fluid bow arm.
Kiki, I guess I'm out of my depth on the Suzuki philosophy, but I don't understand why a 4 or 5 year old would have more success dealing with both hands at once than just working on holding the violin up with the left and focusing on the right before adding the left in. I don't see how getting the bow hold would need to take years, but again, I have taught ZERO children. I'm not caught up on the idea of getting the right hand perfect, but it certainly follows to me that the bow hand is more foundational (because you aren't making a sound without it), and that one should be careful to not introduce two new feats of coordination at once, and that working in an iterative fashion is going to be more successful than tossing a kitchen sink at someone.
as far as I understand, the point of box violins seems to be mostly to practice posture and get kids excited to get their real violin / teach them how to treat it so they don't bash the real thing into objects when they get it. There might be some bowing through a toilet paper tube etc in pre twinkle to get the feeling of the motion, but you can't really perfect a bow hold with a 4 year old anyway because most of them don't have the coordination to hold the bow in the adult position (same reason preschoolers use chunky crayons / markers) - they're holding the bow with the thumb outside the frog.
Paul, I live with two Chins from Myanmar and I disagree with you about Aung San Suu Kyi. She has very little power and much is still going wrong, but things would be even worse if she were not there.
Apropos of John's comment, I know the pendulum swung back against Aung San Suu Kyi in the last few years, but I'll be curious to see how history will ultimately judge her - I do wonder if it will be more that she just never really had the power to do good, or if it will be that she either did not care about the Rohingya or actively participated in their destruction. It's hard to know if you're getting the full story as it happens.
Many Suzuki teachers don't use box violins, anyway. The pre-Twinkle stuff evolved post-Suzuki himself, as far as I know, and is effectively lore passed around the Suzuki teacher community for "how do you get a three-year-old with the attention span of a gerbil on meth to do something vaguely violin-related for three seconds by making it sufficiently fun".
Lydia: which is exactly why I will never be a Suzuki teacher lol!! I decided long ago I'm not cut out for attempting structured learning with 3yo gerbils :) :) Props to those who do! I'll stick with my 7 and 8yo beginners who can hold a thought and self-direct at least a little. But still, I owe quite a lot of my teaching philosophy and practices to Suzuki influences. Some of it's just plain good sense, and I wouldn't be able to trace how much was original to Suzuki, but there really is a wonderful body of ideas and teaching philosophy both in the training and materials, and in the broader community of Suzuki teachers. Though I admit all the orchestra students I had from that line drove me a little crazy... :)
I'm aware of the Suzuki books but is there some kind of handbook for teachers? Obviously the Suzuki method is not in the workbooks, or at least not much of it. What is the definitive source for teachers wishing to know the basics of the method without getting accreditation? Maybe somebody can sum it up here?
There is no handbook, accreditation OR certification. I don't know where you are located--US? There is only registered training from a Teacher-Trainer, which is obtainable at Institutes around the US (usually 1 week), with lots of training by a Teacher Trainer, and many hours of observation of lessons by registered teachers.Or you can arrange for some individual training with a teacher trainer, one-on-one, short term, or long term. Probably a large number of Institutes are cancelled for this summer, but we shall see how everything opens back up. You can see the Suzuki Association of the Americas website for Institute information.
Suzuki is not "defined by" using the books, teaching pieces or technique a certain way, doing certain activities with 3 year olds, etc. even though there are certainly common things that teachers do. There is no "certification" (no exams, no review board) but you take training which is then "registered" with the association. There are plenty of teachers who call themselves "Suzuki" without having taken/registered courses, and even among those who have, there are still plenty of differences in the nuts and bolts of how they work.
I have the greatest respect for Suzuki and and the Suzuki Program.
"Doctor" in its Latin origin means "teacher", as does "sensei" in Japanese, both with an underlying stratum of authority.
My childhood teacher gave "traditional" lessons. As I said earlier, his only criterion was that I could already read (printed words, not music, but I could read both because I had already studied the piano for a year). I had a short attention span and my parents were paying for half-hour lessons. So, my actual lesson lasted about 15 minutes, and for the rest of the 15 minutes, my teacher would play his violin -- passages from pieces that demonstrated various techniques. He would show me very up-close what he was doing with his hands to make things sound a certain way even though all of it was years off. I think what I took away from it was the range of what is possible with the violin.
Thank you all for the wonderful responses. Though it may have taken some terms, I guess I have more general knowledge of who this man actually was. Thank you
Suzuki started on A major. Lots of teachers I know had chosen another beginners book over Suzuki in the first few chapters, then continued on Suzuki.
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