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Suzuki Method Creator Dies at 99

January 26, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ Shinichi Suzuki, who pioneered a method used worldwide for teaching toddlers to play musical instruments, died today at age 99.

Suzuki developed what became known as the Suzuki method of music instruction in the 1950s and founded a world-renowned music institute.

He died of heart failure at his home in Matsumoto in central Japan, said Hiroko Yamada of Suzuki’s Talent Education Research Institute. Suzuki had been bed-ridden in recent years because of various ailments.

The Suzuki method is based on the concept that by listening and imitation, children can learn to speak any language _ and play music _ by age 3. Originally conceived for the violin, the method of instruction has been expanded to include other instruments.

Suzuki believed firmly that given the right training, anyone could master music. One of his mottoes was: ``A talent is not something given naturally, it is something you foster.″

Yamada said more than 300,000 children in 34 countries are currently learning music with the Suzuki method.

Sanford Reuning, who studied with Suzuki in Japan and is a past president of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, said Suzuki revolutionized the teaching of music. ``Now it’s common practice to begin kids at age 3, 4 or 5. Whereas, as recently as 20 years ago, kids didn’t really start until they were 10 or 12.″

Suzuki, Reuning said, ``was very concerned that all children have an opportunity to develop their inborn talents. He really believed ... that all of us are born with tremendous potentials.″

``He was a great humanitarian. He had concerns for the children of the world, not just his own country,″ said Reuning, a music professor at Ithaca College in New York state.

Born the son of a violin manufacturer in 1898, Suzuki went to Germany in 1921 to study the violin under Karl Klingler. After returning from Germany in 1928, Suzuki began his career as a violinist with the Suzuki Quartet.

He joined the faculty of the Imperial Musical School in Tokyo from 1935 and also taught at the Kunitachi College of Music, Kyodo News said. He founded a music institute in Matsumoto in 1946 and later reorganized it into the Talent Education Research Institute.

In 1964, Suzuki went to the United States with 10 children and introduced his method.

Suzuki’s funeral will be held at the Matsumoto Catholic church Wednesday.

Suzuki is survived by his German-born wife Waltraud, 94. He had no children.

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