HirokoMy memory of Dr. Suzuki

The Suzuki Method originates in Dr. Suzuki’s realization that, given the right environment, even very difficult languages are easily acquired by children. He believed that, just as a child naturally learns his mother tongue, every child without exception can be brought up to be a fine human being if he or she is nurtured in a fine environment. He tried to prove this through his violin teaching, and emphasized the importance of an appropriate classical music environment and habitual listening to good classical music. He established the Suzuki Method Association, also called the Saino Kyoiku (Talent Education) Association, in 1950, and his teaching method was applied to piano, flute and cello as well. The amazing results were soon known throughout Japan and around the world.

Soon Japan saw little children playing works by Bach, Mozart and other great composers. Monthly group lessons were held for all student levels. Mothers packed lunch for the almost-daylong event. Annual Suzuki Summer Camps were held in Matsumoto. Dr. Suzuki always led the advanced level classes. A grand concert was held each spring in Tokyo. Usually the concert started out with the advanced level students, and little children patiently waited for their turn. These concerts always ended with “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” with Dr. Suzuki accompanying on piano. The 1970 World Expo was opened with a performance of young Suzuki students.

Dr. Suzuki’s daily routine included listening to children’s graduation tapes that were sent to him. Every day, he would wake up at 3:00 in the morning and listen to the tapes. He taped detailed instructions and comments and returned the tapes to the students. Our whole family used to sit in front of the tape-recorder and listen to his suggestions. Those tapes are my treasure now.

Dr. Suzuki’s primary goal in music education was not to produce a world-famous concert player. He wanted children to grow up to be fine human beings. He wanted them to enjoy and appreciate classical music even if their careers went in directions other than music, the path of which I have taken. He always told us to be careful not to hurt other people’s hearts. And he always wanted us to thank our parents: at the end of events and concerts, Dr. Suzuki and his students recited “Arigato” to our teachers and parents.

Now I am truly thankful to Dr. Suzuki, who guided me to a beautiful world of music since I was 5 years old. Although I did not choose a career in music, my life centers around my family and the musical world. I have kept music close to me my whole life and am currently a tenured first violinist in the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra. I also enjoy playing music with my family and friends in town.

Born and raised in Japan, I am currently Professor and Coordinator of the Japanese Program at University of Alaska Anchorage. I am also Director of Montgomery Dickson Center for Japanese Language & Culture at UAA. Received Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois. My husband is a native of Hong Kong and is a conductor who has led orchestras around the world including Japan, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, and U.S.A. My two children were born in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, where my husband and I were graduate students. My son is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at University of Pittsburgh in Linguistics. My daughter graduated from University of Michigan School of Music in Violin Performance, and has just completed a Master of Music degree at the Hochschule für Musik Hannover, Germany.