Cookie Time

Notes from my studies with Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Every day after group class and before our individual lessons, Suzuki Sensei gave us Cookie Time. Suzuki Sensei once said that he would like to change the name of his school from the “ Talent Education Research Institute? to “The Cookie and Music Conservatory?. He added that “Cookie? needed to precede “Music?.

First cookie, then wonderful tone.

I have to admit that I did get pretty plump in Matsumoto. As the trays of cookies were brought in by the students, the gaijin1 would refer to it as “feeding time at the Kaikan2.? At first I would simply look at the cookies and try to find the ones that I would like to eat. There were so many kinds with so many unusual tastes. Salty combined with sweet was one taste sensation I could do without. Also the “anko? or bean paste centered ones were not my favorite. There was a particular type called Mrs. Gallaudet cookies that I really liked. Pocky sticks were always a sure thing, and Koala chocolate biscuits were also good. Often the Japanese cookies were individually wrapped and it was hard to tell if you would like that type without opening it up and giving it a try. When I found one that tasted particularly good, I would memorize the wrapper for future reference. Soon I had my favorites all picked out.

But really there had to be more to Cookie Time than just sorting out one’s favorite cookies. Just as soon as I had decided which kinds of cookies I liked the best, I began to find extra cookies in unusual places. These extra cookies were always my favorites and they showed up on my music shelf or in the secret pocket of my violin case. Sometimes they would be readily available on the coffee table in Suzuki Sensei’s studio after a particularly difficult lesson. At first I thought it was merely a coincidence. Then one day I found a Mrs. Gallaudet cookie right in the pocket of my dress! All right now, something was up! Who was playing this trick of reverse pick-pocket?

Suzuki Sensei would laugh. People were always laughing and enjoying themselves at Cookie Time. Suzuki Sensei would toss the cookies to students across the room in classic baseball pitcher fashion. After all, he was a great baseball champion in Jr. High School! Suzuki Sensei would often mention that service was important, and once he said that the reason he was such a great baseball champion was that he was actually a miserable pitcher. “Service for the other team!? he laughed. If we caught the cookie that he pitched our way, we would receive the A-OKAY sign. But then he would turn around and wave his hand at us as if to say, “So you are great at catching cookies. Is this some great accomplishment?? Apparently it was not.

I began to realize that the point was not to simply catch the cookies and eat them. Gaining a few extra kilos brought that point to me quite clearly. I obviously needed to figure out a way to escape from Cookie Time without being a fuddy-duddy. I began to cut back on my Cookie Time treats. Finding a way to participate in and enjoy Cookie Time while keeping my cookie intake below five cookies per day became my new objective. I began to notice which types of cookies my friends liked. Then I would stock up on those types and hide them in my friends’ things. Often I would end up with an even bigger stock of favorite cookies on my shelf! The game was afoot. I began to understand a deeper purpose to Cookie Time.

Sometimes late into the evening, I would study 100,000 bow circles or some other delicate point we had explored during group lesson that morning. As I practiced I would find myself getting hungry. Eating was never a simple thing to do in Matsumoto. It was expensive, time consuming and a bit exasperating to try to find foods that one liked. I would think of going to see if the obento shop was still open and wonder about spending my money there. As I finally would decide to put away my violin, Suzuki Sensei would walk into the kenkyusei room with a plate of cookies and smile and put them down on the table. I could continue to study “tone-tone-tone?.

Sitting next to Suzuki Sensei during a Tea Party 3, I became engaged in an endless game of “look the other way and I’ll sneak something delicious on your plate?. Of course, with Suzuki Sensei, I felt like the elephant trying to outwit the fox. Finally he turned around to talk to someone for several moments with his back completely turned to me. It was a very obvious a comical gesture. This was my chance! I daringly put a piece of cake onto his plate. He kept turning his back and facing farther away from me. I waited with anticipation for him to turn back around and find the cake! Suddenly he turned back, looked at his plate and seemed to be pleasantly surprised! I was so smug and happy about my strawberry success as I finally looked back at my plate to find a huge bright red strawberry on my own previously empty plate. I could have sworn there had been no more strawberries left at that Tea Party! I had noticed that because I really liked the strawberries…

As the realization of this magic dawned on me, Suzuki Sensei took the sweet cake I had placed on his plate, gently broke it into two equal pieces, and gave one half of it back to me. Before he popped the other half into his mouth he looked at me and said:

SO teach.


1) Foreigner

2) Meeting Hall

3) The huge Graduation party held in the afternoon in honor of a T.E.R.I. Graduate after his or her Graduation Recital. The entire Graduation event usually took all day. The Tea Party involved lots of tea, flowers, fruit, cakes and cookies

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3 Comments

Filed under Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, Stories about Dr. Suzuki, Suzuki Method, Suzuki Sensei, Teaching

3 responses to “Cookie Time

  1. After reading this I just have to say,

    Mmm, cookies.

  2. What a great memory to have ( see I did come back eventually *smile* )

  3. Wiry – cookies are great! But now I’m on a diet (again)…

    WendyWings – Yay! You’re back! 🙂 It is a great memory. It’s just so cool how he did that magic trick. Today I help my students work magic too. I hope you return again. Thanks for commenting!