Susan Shields died on January 22, 2022, after a brief illness.

I was in Matsumoto studying with Dr. Suzuki in 1966, when one day after his weekly group lesson, he told me that we would be having our first Teacher Trainee from America and that he wanted me to help her. That was the start of our long, long friendship, both in Japan and America.

Susan was studying with William Starr in Knoxville, Tennessee, when Mr. Starr had his life-changing encounter with Dr. Suzuki. She decided to study with the wonderful teacher with whom Mr. Starr was so enthralled. Susan stayed in Japan for six years studying with Dr. Suzuki and Mr. Denda, graduating from the Suzuki Institute and teaching violin to Japanese children.

Meanwhile, I came to the U.S. and started teaching in Mr. Starr’s Suzuki program at the University of Tennessee. Many Suzuki teachers are familiar with Mr. Starr’s first book on the Suzuki Method, The Suzuki Violinist. Mr. Starr worked with Susan on the book’s contents and trusted her to direct him to the right sources.

Susan studied under and observed Mr. Denda, whose students were consistently outstanding. Susan took numerous photos, recordings, and notes of Mr. Denda’s instruction, some of which Mr. Starr used in his book. The box violins, which many teachers use for their pre-Twinklers, came from Mr. Denda. Susan introduced them to America.

During the 1970s, Susan and I taught in many Suzuki summer institutes, instructing students and teachers. We were among the pioneer Suzuki Teacher Trainers. Mr. Starr’s Knoxville program, where she and I taught, became a hot spot for many teachers hoping to learn more about the Suzuki Method. While Mr. Starr’s Suzuki Method missionary work continued, Susan moved on and kept searching for her place.

Susan taught in Los Angeles in the early 1980s and studied with legendary violinist Camilla Wicks. Then she moved to the Chicago area to study with Roland and Almita Vamos.

Susan became very involved in dancing—first Ballroom, then Line Dancing. She focused on good teaching in Line Dancing, just like she did with the Suzuki method. Susan observed many teachers and took many notes. She went on to teach Line Dancing in many places, including senior centers. Last summer, I visited Susan in Downers Grove, Illinois, where she resided for 40 years and where she introduced me to Claire, her Line Dancing disciple.

Shortly after Covid-19 closed everything, Susan took a train ride to have lunch in an Italian restaurant where Claire, an opera singer student, worked. With no other customers in the restaurant, Susan and Claire started talking about Line Dancing. Claire became so interested in learning Line Dancing that Susan agreed to teach her weekly. Due to Covid-19, they decided to meet every week at the Hinsdale train station. Susan brought a boom box, country music CDs, and her numerous notes. After many meetings, Claire learned 30-plus Line Dances, and the dance teacher and the disciple became close, lifelong friends.

Claire was the last person with Susan in the hospital. She now has a portrait of Susan in her room. This past May 14 , which would have been Susan’s 78th birthday, friends of Susan’s got together at Claire’s house to share our memories. We plan to meet on the same date in 2023 at one of the many parks around Chicago that Susan liked. Let me know if you are interested in joining us!

Susan had many Suzuki friends over the years, and I’m sure many of you have stories about her. Please send condolences and stories about Susan to her sister, Liz, and me (Hiroko). Liz: [javascript protected email address] | Hiroko: [javascript protected email address]. And enjoy this video of Susan teaching line dancing: