How did the U.S. get the Suzuki Method of teaching violin

John Kendall!

Born on August 30, 1917, Kendall helped revitalize string playing in the United States in the early 1960’s when he embraced  Suzuki’s revolutionary belief that every child can play the violin!   Kendall recognized that Suzuki had created a method to make this possible.

Kendall brought the Suzuki Method to America, in every sense. He took the revolutionary ideas of Shinichi Suzuki – that all children are born with talent, that a nurturing environment fosters excellence, that every child can – and translated the ideas not just into English, but into the American culture.  Kendall’s efforts are key to the Method’s success –that Americans could adapt the strategies to the American way of life.

When Kendall first saw the Suzuki children play violin

Kendall first visited Shinichi Suzuki in Japan in 1959 – the first American to do so– as a result of his seeing a film.  While at a teaching conference at Oberlin, he watched a film of 750 Suzuki students – young children – playing the Bach Double. I can only imagine how perplexing this must have been for him, a talented violin pedagogue. It’s understandable that Kendall’s experience with beginners made him skeptical that these Japanese children really could be playing at this level. So, he went to Japan to see the children for himself.

 John Kendall after he experiences the Suzuki Method

If the video with Kendall does not load, please click here.

Kendall organized the first concert tour by Shinichi Suzuki and 10 of his students in 1964, a tour that dazzled people across the U.S. through 19 cities and changed history. Kendall published English-language versions of the first two Suzuki Books, with pieces, teaching points, pictures and recordings. At the time the books were called “Listen and Play.” (These have since been replaced by the Summy-Birchard Suzuki Violin School books).

The Suzuki Violin Method

Teach children as young as 2 or 3.

Parent complete immersion in musical life including playing Suzuki recordings in the child’s home.

Use instruments made to fit the young child.

Teach students to learn real pieces by ear through imitation.  Not just scales.

Teach music-reading later

Intensive involvement of one parent,  trained along with the child who oversees practice at home.

Group class in addition to individual lessons. No more isolation!

What makes the Suzuki program so special is the opportunity to enjoy your child!

Building memories!  The early years of childhood end far too quickly.  What parent would not want to spend productive time with children when they realize the benefits of pursuing this endeavor? In the Suzuki lesson, you don’t just drop your kids off and then pick them up after the lesson.  There will be enough time for “drop off” when they are in school. The Suzuki Method is a journey with your children where you get to know them very well, their ability to cope with frustrations and to persevere, but most of all to revel in their successes with them.

Thank you, John Kendall. Thank you to all the pioneers who started Suzuki education in the 1960’s.  We can only imagine your excitement!


“I was greeted at the door by about 275 Japanese children playing Vivaldi’s G Minor Concerto.” John Kendall

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