Shinichi Suzuki was born in Nagoya, Japan in 1898. He was the son of the founder of the largest violin factory in the world. At the age of seventeen he began to play the violin, and later studied in Tokyo. In 1920 he went to Berlin, Germany, to study violin with Karl Klingler for eight years. While in Berlin he married a German girl, and in 1928 returned to Japan to concertize. Later he taught violin at the Imperial Music School and the Kunitachi Music School. With three of his brothers he founded the Suzuki String Quartet. Some years later, Suzuki established the Talent Education Research Institute. There are now branches of Talent Education all over Japan, America, Canada, and many other foreign countries. Twenty years ago, Shinichi Suzuki founded a Kindergarten where calligraphy, mathematics, reading, English conversation, etc. are taught. Suzuki believes that through his method, graduation from a university could be reached at the age of seventeen.
While Suzuki was in Germany studying violin under Professor Klingler, he was surprised to notice that all German children at the age of three understood and spoke fluent German. He was suddenly struck with amazement at the fact that all children throughout the world speak their native tongues with the utmost fluency. People in general think that this ability that children everywhere display is natural; however, Suzuki concluded that any child is able to display highly superior abilities if only the correct methods are used in training. Indeed, all children in the world are brought up by a perfect educational method: their mother tongue. This was the real beginning of Talent Education, as he named it later.
The essence of Suzuki’s approach to learning a musical instrument is the mother-tongue approach, derived from the way a child learns language. From recordings the child becomes familiar with the Suzuki and other repertoire so that when lessons begin about age three his mind already knows the musical language he will slowly begin to play on an instrument and even later learn to read. As with spoken language mothers play an important role in the teaching process and so are given instruction on the instrument and also taught how to be patient and encouraging. New skills and concepts are taught in small steps a child can consciously master, and lessons last only as long as the child’s attention span. A key learning technique taken over from spoken language is repetition. With frequent repetition of everything from small skills to large pieces a child builds competence and confidence.