Category Archives: Stories about Dr. Suzuki

Listening !

pink CD playerObviously students need to listen to their Suzuki Music more than twice as long as their practice time in order for the model in their minds and hearts to be stronger than the “model” of their own playing.

These days, I have become very concerned about the QUALITY of the sound which projects our student’s Suzuki recordings.

o-IPHONE-6-facebook   I have discovered that most of my students are listening to MP3’s ripped from their purchased CD’s. Many of them listen to their iPhones (or the equivalent) in their homes or wherever they are during the day and in the evenings.

Unfortunately,  iPhones have tiny and very inadequate speakers! Recently I have been asking all of my students to bring their listening devices to me during their lessons so that I can ascertain the quality of the sound they are hearing.  In each case, students who have been listening primarily on inferior equipment have poor tone and difficulty learning new pieces! Their parents tell me that they themselves simply cannot hear the difference but the students absolutely can!

I think that inferior listening equipment is connected to students not wanting to listen!

We go to such lengths to make certain that the student’s violins can produce a good sound. In order to catch the tone and musical sensitivity of the masters playing on the recordings, I feel strongly that their listening equipment must also play clearly and beautifully! THEN perhaps they will want to listen to the recordings more often!!

I have been on rides with students in their cars and have been impressed with the quality of the sound from theSW-10722 beautiful speakers in the cars. For most students, their cars are also surprisingly quiet inside- almost hermetically sealed! This allows for quality listening over their car speakers and so I have no complaints about their listening in the car in most cases. However, car listening is never enough!

ipodListening with earbuds is good for “active” listening. Active listening involves activities such as watching the score for notes and dynamics, or ghost bowing in the air along with the music. For this type of listening earbuds are wonderful – especially when one is shared with a parent!

However, I believe that MOST of a student’s listening should be “passive” listening as a sort of background soundtrack for their life.20121217-bluetooth-speakers-134edit

Quiet and consistent listening in the background is key to the Suzuki Method Mother tongue approach! For this reason, passive listening with earbuds seems divisive and unnatural, cutting students away from their parents and families. I do not think that earbuds are the solution to proper listening.

Appropriate Suzuki listening equipment needs to be provided by the parent to ensure that the Suzuki music is heard in a beautiful way thought the home and play areas.  The Suzuki music should be quiet yet audible for everyone to hear together. Quality speakers can be purchased for very little money these days, especially compared to the cost of the violin, violin lessons and the progress that can be doubled by correct listening!


Some “docking stations” for ipods, iphones etc. are equipped with proper speakers. I am still researching the best docking speakers to recommend.   I would love to hear your suggestions!

60 10 3 Japanese date  lesson with Suzuki 005

Dr. Suzukis large stereo equipment in the background while he is helping my left knee remain relaxed and helping me stay rooted to the ground.



As I was growing up learning the Suzuki Method in the 60’s and 70’s, I had no choice but to listen to the large LP records. I listened on my father’s large record player. I remember putting my ear to the large speaker to carefully learn the shifts in the 2nd movement of Vivaldi A minor. In Japan, Dr. Suzuki showed me the proper way to listen. He turned on the large record player and allowed the record player to start itself.  He sat down in a comfortable chair with the room dimly lit and simply enjoyed the beautiful music while relaxing together with me.

In order for our students to understand the subtle musical nuances, phrasing, tone color, bowings and intonation of each piece prior to learning the piece, listening MUST occur with the best sound quality possible!

Please help your student’s parents to remedy this situation!

I believe that in this way listening will become more enjoyable for everyone and therefore occur more frequently!



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Filed under Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, Family, for parents, Listening, music, Stories about Dr. Suzuki, Suzuki Method, Suzuki Sensei, Talent Education Research Institute, violin

363 word report on Studies with Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Dr. Suzuki loved chocolate.  When he opened my first gift to him, he looked up at me with the saddest eyes and asked, “Not chocolate?”

Every day after a 2 ½ hour morning group class, Dr. Suzuki would ask a few students to find the “most delicious cookies” for Cookie Time because he knew that that was what we enjoyed!    ( )

And he often mentioned this word; “service.”

Dr. Suzuki was quintessentially kind.  His method of kindness was much deeper than his consistent smiles or greetings.   His kindness stemmed from sensitive observation and thorough understanding of a person’s true, specific, long term needs and desires. He was selfless, ingenious and magical.

Dr. Suzuki gave to us in unusual, wise and unexpected ways.  His methods involved projects engaging several people.  These projects, seen as spontaneous were actually the result of weeks, months, years, and even decades of delicate, persistent planning and hard work.

His kindness to all of us encompassed everything!  You name it; he helped us with it, from taking us out to steak dinner to privately curing a student’s deepest wounds.

The only thing I know that engenders this form of true kindness is an absolute pure spirit of love.

Suzuki Sensei‘s greatest genius of love lay in his ability to put into “Perpetual Motion” a long sequence of seemingly unrelated events occupying several people (knowingly or not).    The results of these sequences would eventually create a deep, personal service causing a fantastic change for many different and specific people around the globe.

Are we not also the extension of Dr. Suzuki’s most passionate and cherished Perpetual Movement?   We are all here as a result of Suzuki Sensei’s profound connection with one person at a time.  As a community of parents and teachers and students, at the core of this very moment,  we are
continuing his legacy of kind and selfless love.

I believe with all my heart that today we are fulfilling Dr. Suzuki’s most cherished and fervent wish.

How clever and magical will we be?  How far will we extend his true spirit of service?  To what lengths will we shine?

The brightest eyes,

The widest smile,

The biggest Tone

Dr. Suzuki

Dr Suzuki during Group Class talking about tone 006

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Filed under Art, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, Family, for parents, for students, Friends, music, School, Stories about Dr. Suzuki, Suzuki Method, Suzuki Sensei, Talent Education Research Institute

Hito wa Kankyou no ko Nari…. People are the Children of their environments…


People become the child of their environments

People become the child of their environments

This Painting from Suzuki Sensei means (in my translation) “People become the child of their environments” or as it is more often translated, “Man is the son of his environment”

This has been my shikishi forever. Every time I received a painting from Dr. Suzuki, it said that phrase out of the hundreds of quotes that he made, this was always mine.

“Repetition is important!” as we all know from working with these amazing, loving children.

A few days ago, while at my parent’s beautiful home, I asked my Mother (who is a Suzuki Teacher Trainer of Great Note, hee hee) whether or not she had any spare shikishis (or paintings) from Dr. Suzuki. You know, greedy child that I am, I wanted more and … particularly, I wanted a NEW one…
with a NEW saying. Only at this very moment is the full import of this hitting me as I am in tears.

You see, she found one in her stack, all signed and dated the the very year of my Graduation. It is protected beautifully in a lovely silver and gold holder. And, you guessed it. It has painted so nicely and beautifully
Hito wa
Kankyou no ko

With mountains in the background and a lovely tree… the tree of life.

And so this morning as I pondered… (as I am wont to do in the early morning time) I remembered… I remembered my first concerts in the huge auditoriums wearing my scratchy petticoats and stiff satin dress, patent black leather shoes and dangling my feet on the nice cushy chair while watching and listening to beautiful music.  We listened.  We watched beautiful ballets, orchestral performances – almost any cultural event meant that we would be in attendance. I remember my very first Nutcracker performance. I remember hearing and watching Issac Stern perform at the Capitol Theatre as I sat in the mezzanine and studied him closely. I remember making the audio tape of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to send to my Grandmother and Grandfather so far away, and later, i remember playing Bach Adagio for him in the Jackson Lake Lodge …. at his request, his only request as an exchange for the beautiful Vaillaut Violin that I now own.   I remember. I remember.

I know for a fact that we only listened to classical music and musicals at home. A bit of Disney.  My mother taught piano all day long because she loved to do it and also, in order to help pay for my violin lessons which I began at age 5. I distinctly remember her asking me as we were driving along, “Would like like to learn how to play the violin?” Of COURSE I would. I remember thinking for only split second and saying,

From my first violin lessons

From my first violin lessons


When I was 5, my Mother was getting her Master’s degree in Piano. I used to color quietly (I hope) in a corner and listen to even more beautiful music. (Hito ha kankyou  no ko nari)  I thought all Mommy’s in the world when to school and sang in the Hallelujah Chorus.  When I was 17 and Graduated from Realms High School, there was never any question about what I would do upon Graduation. It was fervent desire to continue to study the violin at Graduate levels.

I remember the very day that my Mother got out her scatchy old violin in the basement (by the piano).  She showed me the Green Zen-On bookand we found the old fashioned RED plastic record of Suzuki Sensei playing Twinkles, Lightly Row etc. in the back of the book. How excited we were because then we knew, I could learn it too! (If I could hear it/listen to it, i could play it)  Incidentally, she was dreadful at the violin and we are all very blessed that she sticks to the piano. 🙂

And on through the years…. To my first Institute at age 10, then all around the country to see Dr. Suzuki in San Francisco and to have thousands of lessons… Ms. Dorothy Delay, Aspen Music Festival,  Isaac Ostrow, Miss Yuko Mori,  Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, Andrés Cárdenes, Won-bin Yim, Kurt Sassmannshaus, Dr. William Starr,  and Dr. John Kendall, Nick’s Grandpa. …

and it has just never stopped. My Mom ran the Institute here for 15 years where I began to not only teach, but to study HOW to teach. And later I had so many opportunities to rehearse and perform with amazing symphonies.

Of course.

Of course.

Even a few days ago, there was my Father with his camera and my Mother my video camera, videoing not only my Students, but my Grandstudents (students of my older students) during their recital as I held my precious violin (A gift from Grandparents, my Mother and my Father, please bless his heart 100,000 times for kindly listening to my early squeaks and squawks). She needed to video them because I needed to hold the violin “just in case” any one student needed a note prompt. Just in case – to pave the way for their success as Beth Titterington taught me so long,long ago 😉 Or sometimes I simply walked to the very back of the auditorium as Suzuki Sensei often did, and I “Air Bowed” with them for spiritual support.

And so, back to the fact that we are ALL children of our environments. Suzuki Sensei has given us a gift. You see, my Parents and Grandparents love me SO MUCH. They gave me the gift of music! My Mother paved the way for my success. For life. For the Present. And then, they let me go to Japan at a very young age for a very long time. They let me grow. And grow. And we all continue to study.

And now, at more than twice the age that I was when I first went to Japan, I am only just now beginning to understand the importance of the prophetic words of Suzuki Sensei…”Hito wa Kankyou no ko nari” …. Thank Goodness that he kept handing those beautiful paintings to me to me! This is because people DO become the children of their environments. We become tone. In Suzuki Sensei’s words- “You Become tone.” (one of his highest praises). What kind of tone will we become? What kind of tone are we offering our student and children and the people who surround us?  The start determines the destiny.

I nod and smile. Sensei, Arigatou Gozaimashita. ありがとう ございました

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Filed under Concerts for Children, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, for parents, for students, Friends, ideas, Listening, music, Stories about Dr. Suzuki, Suzuki Method, Suzuki Sensei, Talent Education Research Institute, Teaching, violin

New Idea~!

Sit calmly in a comfortable chair….

Along with your students and parents ….

Be very still and quiet  and together gently listen to the wonderful tone of Fritz Kreisler on a DVD.   VERY good speakers are preferable (although whatever kinds of speakers are available will work- iPods won’t work for this unless they have speakers or a docking bay).

I would call this Group Training for Listening…

Suzuki Sensei taught this to me one evening when I kept practicing certain spots of my Graduation piecin his studio.  I played his albums carefully, certain spots over and over, in HIS STUDIO after hours, thinking that I was sneaking around behind his back (lol- well it wasn’t locked) I thought I needed to practice with the record…

He knew I needed something else.

He shuffled into the studio quietly and said calmly, “That isn’t the proper way.  Here, let me show you how this is done.”

He started the record player, very slowly at the beginning and indicated that I should sit down somewhere ….. he sat down in his extremely comfy, plush chair and we…..  listened together.  It seemed like a very long time, but it probably was less that 5 to 10 minutes.

I remember that it was dark, warm, relaxed and comfortable.  We did not talk.

I suggest starting with Liebesleid or Liebesfreud. Always Fritz Kreisler (famous for the “Kreisler Highway”?) Despite Fritz Kreisler’s slight intonation weirdness due to the oldness of the recordings, he has the best Tone and the best Heart.  Besides yours.) Write to me or comment below for the names of his other favorite artists…

There is also a book about his life that you could read…

Thank you.  🙂

PS  I’m toying with the idea of doing my Teacher Trainer application entirely online.  It’s less daunting…. for me 🙂  What do you think?

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Filed under Listening, Stories about Dr. Suzuki, Suzuki Method, Suzuki Sensei, Talent Education Research Institute, Teaching

Dr. Suzuki’s Message to Graduates

A Message to Graduates from Dr. Suzuki

Congratulations on your achievement. Please remember as you are advancing with your music, the study of tone becomes foremost. There are many kinds of sound. Please work with your teacher to study tonalization…

  • beautiful sound
  • ringing tone
  • clear. clean smal tone

When listening to the performing artist on the CD, you can hear many kinds of tone.
And from listening, you can begin to understand the musicality, the shaping of phrases, the singing tones.
You will want to study so that you can play just as well as the artist’s performance.

This is an important way to study.  So from now on, please listen to your CD and to yourself very carefully.
Please study well so that you will be able to play the next graduation piece wonderfully.

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Elbow First

Elbow First

Please look over these points about violin playing by Dr. Suzuki:

Important Points on Violin Playing ~

(1) Practice the correct half-circle motion with the right elbow (upper arm).

(2) In order to make nice tone while playing down-bow, you must use the elbow.

(3) To make a ringing sound, use the half-circle motion of the elbow (upper arm) and the panda strength in the thumb.

(4) From the start of the tone, the elbow should carry the bow. It is very important to teach the correct posture of the up bow (it is a mistake if the wrist carries the bow
(5) To make nice tone, the strength of panda and the half-circle elbow motion should always work together.

(From an abstract of Dr Suzuki’s Teaching Points for the National Teacher’s Conference in Hamamastu, Japan 1987)

Obviously elbow motion is very important to Dr. Suzuki!!!

Consider this example:
“I am baseball champion” says Dr. Suzuki as he winds up to do a pretend pitch.
“Pitcher’ he says. He particularly enjoys this word. With a Japanese accent, it sounds a bit like “peecha”. I’ve seen grown women flinch when his supposed “ball” is launched into an audience. People really duck! Then he imitates a “miserable pitcher”. He flings the “ballwith only his forearm, wrist and hand. This makes no one flinch. The imaginary ball simply flops to the floor. It looks very hilarious and quite weak by comparison. “This is a mistake”, he says while everyone laughs. Yet, so many people
who are laughing play and live this way every day of their lives– rarely making a bold action in the world! We are all laughing at ourselves.

From my notes while in Japan:

Details and consistent action make quality.

Details come from Panda. Panda makes tone color, delicacy and nuance.

Action comes from the elbow or the upper arm. Upper arm action and the direction of this action determines the tone volume. The direction of the motion is toward the string, or more specifically, towards yourself. Suzuki Sensei often says to move your bow “To me” meaning towards yourself. Your arm moves toward your heart. This is making a daring and precious gesture which is in harmony with nature. It is opening your spirit to the world and becoming clear. People who hear the tone produced this way feel it in their hearts more than their ears. This is what is meant by “depth of tone’.

Consistency comes from balancing an economical use of this action. It is controlling and directing your life energy in a appropriate way. Not using a constant blur of energy in every situation, but creating equilibrium of ebb and flow. Dr. Suzuki can disappear very quickly when the moment is not right. Then reappear when it is necessary. Sometimes a little more ebb and a little less flow. Always have a bit of it in reserve. Then, sometimes more flow and less ebb. It seems silly, but Suzuki Sensei said to play music like you eat cookies–one at a time. Enjoy each one. Not a constant hand over fist flurry of cookies into your mouth! (His demonstration of this is particularly funny) Oh, and by the way, when you move your hand to take a cookie, notice that you reach by moving your upper arm first! Then your fingers delicately pick up the cookie. Cookie research…

Another example you might remember:

“It is like walking. What moves first? Not the foot — the hip! The hip initiates motion. The foot receives motion. And what is the most important point when walking? Balance! Balance first; Panda first (balance the bow) then, motion from upper arm. Then, beautiful tone.

From my diary while studying in Japan

Dated 2-27-86

I understood I like the best

what is good

the middle

quality- this is good~

and this is what I should always give

to others first

not surface fake stuff

but from the very center

Dont just give it all away too soon! Not all at once

This is a waste!

Don’t take it all for myself! Ths is foolish.

Of course, save some for later.

for others,

and for yourself!

Give the energy you have saved in the 1/l ,000,000,000,000th moment of time when it is just right. Give intensely and thoroughly. No regrets or it isn’t a real gift! And give to the best possible place. Which is the best moment? When? Where? Musical sensitivity! Service research! This means truly noticing exactly what people need and when they need it. Do they want what you have to give? Are they ready for what you have to give? If not, then giving has no meaning. This takes investigation and noticing what others are doing. What is important to them? When you can feel the needs of those around you, then you will eventually be able to understand the feelings of Bach and Mozart as well. You can sense the musical phrasing and the places which need a richer or brighter sound and the places which should be smaller and quiet.

Your heart is written all over each action you make. Are your motions giving, taking or inert? Saving energy or neither taking nor giving for the moment means you can become more consistent and balanced. This is the advantage of “latent power”– available energy to give when it is needed. This is like the position of your elbow when you place the bow at the frog. The elbow is raised to accommodate the position at the frog. It is poised in a position of possibilities. The amount of energy you want to put into your sound is determined by how much you allow your elbow to respond to gravity. When the elbow responds only slightly and remains poised in an upper position the result is a smaller, less energetic sound. This means you have saved the latent, potential energy for later. This can be very exciting, say in the case of creating a crescendo. Then you can give in a bigger and better way when it is just right! But the elbow must always return to the upper, poised position at the frog in order to make the latent energy available once again.

Dr. Suzuki has spent a lot of time compelling people to lower their elbows. He has tried pulling down elbows with his hand, putting rubber bands on the elbow and hooking it to the left loot, and many other methods. Did he want us to simply “fix” the elbow in that lowered position? NO! As soon as we began to get stuck in that position, he would jump up and start pushing elbows UP!! It wasn’t about the position of the elbow, it was about the motion of the elbow. He was getting us to be aware of the elbow motion and what it can do for our sound, rather than only using other techniques (bow speed, contact point vibrato or force) to intensify the sound. No matter what, the elbow had to “wake up” and pull the bow!! “Elbow motion… always moving” were the words he used to describe the way to use your elbow as an active participant in tone production.

Physics wise– imagine the old fashioned ice-skaters game called “the whip”. You remember this from the Peanuts Christmas Special”, right? The people in the middle are moving very slowly and as more people join on either side, holding hands, each one has to skate faster and faster to catch up and join the game. Once they are all holding hands at the edge of the circle, they are pulled along very quickly. Yet, the middle people are barely moving in order to propel the very fast moving outer circle.

The center of this ‘whip” is like the upper arm– the elbow. When the impetus to move the bow begins with the upper arm, the hand moves quickly with little effort and quite naturally as well. The hand receives motion from upper arm. Tone comes from the center. This is why elbow or upper arm motion first makes more sense than hand motion. What would happen to the people on the outer edges of the whip if the center people stopped moving? They would gradually stop. No tone.

Elbow motion creates tone.

Dr. Suzuki’s true genius lies in this; ceaseless kindliness, observance and fast action in a precise way directed from his heart. As my friend Ken Selden said, “Man, this guy is QUICK!

“Perhaps it is music that will save the world” ~Pablo Casals.

This is the Suzuki Movement….

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Filed under Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, how to use the bow, Stories about Dr. Suzuki, Suzuki Method, Suzuki Sensei, Talent Education Research Institute, Teaching, violin

where love is deep?

My little student has just made it to the tennis semifinals in our city. The bad news is that he has to miss group class. His mom was really worried, but honestly I just think it's mervelous.

I remember Dr. Suzuki showing us a photo of a student who had sent in her application to be on the Suzuki Tour. In the photo she was playing ping pong and she looked so excited! He loved it!!

This is how I feel about my student – I am thrilled for him! If he wins we will need to reschedule his lesson on Tuesday. He is scheduled to perform the solo Gossec Gavotte on our recital on Saturday June 10th. He has been studying violin for a little over one year. I predict that the tennis playing will help him to peform even better.

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Filed under Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, Stories about Dr. Suzuki, Teaching, violin