Thursday, 28 January 2010

Shinichi Suzuki - statue in Matsumoto

Violin family
This statue of a little old man and two young children stands very quietly under a tree, tucked away behind the NHK building in Matsumoto. He is not the most widely recognised of men, nor the most famous - even in his adopted home town of Matsumoto. In the musical world, his name is synonymous with teaching children the violin. He shared the stage with then President Carter at the Carnegie Hall.

He was born in Nagoya, October 17th, 1898. He lived to the ripe old age of 99 - with plans unfulfilled for the decade after his centenary! He was a plucky old codger when I met him, chain smoking & carrying on three conversations at the same time. He had a reputation for being a bit of a tyrant in the classroom, but seems universally loved. He would notoriously turn off his hearing aid at recitals if he thought the performance was not up to scratch.

Suzuki's father was Japan's first violin maker. The young Suzuki spent eight years in Berlin, where he married Waltraud Prange. He had a long, and noted history of achievements which you can read about here. A living monument to Suzuki is the Talent Education Research Institute (better known as the "Suzuki Method"), the headquarters of a network of Suzuki teachers numbering 1,400 in Japan, with tentacles spreading to 38 countries. The main instruments taught are violin, 'cello, piano & flute.

Victoria Harkness teaches violin in Whangarei, New Zealand. Belinda Yourn, in Australia now I think, teaches flute. I wonder if Pablo teaches 'cello in Chile to children?! (Yes, friends of mine!) In all, 400,000 children follow Doctor Suzuki's Method - "All children grow, it depends how they are raised" he said. Every year Matsumoto has a 10 Piano Concert which is charming; March 30th will see the 52nd Annual performance of 3,000 young musicians at the Budokan in Tokyo.

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