Perhaps some of you have experienced the following situation: when a three- or four-year-old student comes to our studio, she and her mother frequently believe we are Heifetz or Perlman, Dorothy DeLay or Josef Gingold, or one of them . . . anyway, they do not know them yet.

Some time goes by and the early teenage years arrive. You know, those years when teenagers “love” smiling, they have a “beautiful” attitude towards life, they “like” communicating with adults and, moreover, they listen with rapt “attention” to anything we say.

These are wonderful years. We love them, right? Clearly, they no longer believe that we are Perlman or Dorothy Delay; on the contrary, some believe we have too many limitations, and we do not belong to their team.

Some more years go by and they are about to graduate from high school, and they reach a halfway point: they know we are not the best in the world, but we are not bad either. In fact, they have realized we are good teachers, good musicians, and they also play very well, and best of all, we have become friends.

We have gotten along with them for twelve, fourteen, or more years. They have indeed shared with us some big personal disappointments or family sorrow, such as the loss of a loved one, but we have also shared big joys, maybe the arrival of a younger sibling or personal and school achievements.

Most likely we have had the chance to sit beside them to listen and advise them on important life decisions, perhaps the first-love disappointment. And it is very likely that we’ve been asked for advice on deciding the courses they may enroll in at university.

It does not matter whether they will study music, medicine, law, architecture, engineering—we have known them for long time and we have definitively influenced them; we are part of their lives and they take a part of us with them.

Let’s think a little about the following: a classroom teacher works with his students for one year only; it’s common for Suzuki teachers to work with the same student for ten, twelve, or more years. We have a huge responsibility.

They will leave our studios. Now they are independent and will become a part of new communities: the university, the profession they choose, the work environment, the family they will raise, and many other communities. A part of what they contribute to the respective communities will be influenced by the learning experiences they received from us: musical instrument lessons and how to make very high-quality music. That is fine, but is that enough?

Do you remember the story of a boy who played the violin very well, but when Dr. Suzuki listened to him, he knew there was something important this boy was missing? In response, Dr. Suzuki gave the boy the following homework: “Do not play the violin for a week. This week you must practice doing things for other people. You have to learn this besides playing violin. . . If your heart is ready to work for others, then your mind must be able to work on other fields with high sensitivity.”[i]

It seems we need something more than making our students play with good intonation, rhythm, and tone. This presentation will offer a methodological approach and attitude towards life through the Suzuki method that will allow us and our students to configure communities that are sensitive to the common welfare. Consequently, the question is: Is studying music a real way to raise better people?

It is frequently said that studying music is beneficial for children since it helps develop their cognition skills: they improve in mathematics, in their motor coordination, their concentration, their memory, etc. Yes, that is all true, but that is not the main reason for teaching music and it is not the reason for which a child wants to learn how to play an instrument.

If a mother wants her daughter to improve in mathematics, she should take her to extra mathematics lessons; if she wants her to improve her coordination, she should take her to practice some sport; if she wants her daughter to improve her concentration or memory, there are dynamics and specialists for such issues.

Studying music may help in all those matters, but we go beyond that: music and its creation is a universal value. Human beings, throughout history and anywhere worldwide, have deeply valued music. Music is a beautiful human creation with endless value in itself: we make and teach music for music itself. Making music is wonderful and children notice it.

As to social, cultural, family, work values, is studying or making music enough to raise people capable of shaping better and more sensitive communities? For the study of music to contribute to shaping people who are more aware of their surroundings, are generous, and, in short, better human beings, we need to consider a perspective that directs us towards this purpose.

Studying music in itself does not cause the students to be especially sensitive towards the needs of their surroundings; we must choose a specific path, through music education, to develop such sensitivity. This time I propose a path that is described by the Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner.

This is only one option among many. Each must shape his or her own, but it is important to consider the path we want to choose throughout the years we spend with our students so that when they leave our studio, they take with them the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to positively transform their communities.

Five Minds for the Future

According to Howard Gardner, the five minds for the future we must consider in teaching our students, and all of society, are: the disciplined mind, the synthesizing mind, the creating mind, the respectful mind, and the ethical mind.

The Disciplined Mind

Disciplined mind means the need to master a specific discipline in any field of knowledge that may allow us to have a systematic and structured education. That is, learning a profession, having the required skills to be a musician, architect, engineer, or physician, we must study in depth in order to have a disciplined mind.

As to the development of disciplined minds, we, teachers in all Latin America, cannot repay the many Suzuki teachers—from North America and Latin America itself—who have traveled thousands of miles throughout the Americas to teach and train us in the Suzuki method.

Please, all teachers here—North Americans or from the rest of the continent—who have taught in different Latin American countries, stand up to receive a big hand: thanks a lot for working in the development of disciplined minds!

The Synthesizing Mind

Synthesizing mind means having the capacity to summarize a massive amount of data and experiences around us, and identify what may be used to obtain the results we wish in a specific academic, work, or personal sphere.

Today, from a small device in our hands, we can access an enormous amount of data, such as we could never have imagined before. We must learn to distinguish and synthesize what is useful for us and for the benefit of our community.

The Creating Mind

After mastering a discipline and having the capacity to synthesize the available and useful knowledge, there is the need to create and provide new answers to existing problems. That is, we need to develop a creating mind.

In this sense, it is worth saying that a creating mind, as well as talent, is something that may be developed and may be acquired, and it is not an accident from birth. People are not born creative: they become creative, and they do it to the extent they master a specific discipline.

The most creative men in history have been those whose main characteristic is their mastery of their discipline. And mastery implies necessarily to rely on the knowledge provided by creative persons who preceded them in the same discipline.

Beethoven’s creative genius relied on the knowledge and achievements of Mozart, who in turn relied on the contributions of Johann Christian Bach who evidently was influenced by the knowledge of the great Johann Sebastian Bach, and so on. The chain goes back to the earliest human civilizations.

If a student is provided with the means to improve his or her musical skills and he or she is pointed toward what is considered original and meaningful in a specific area, he or she is being offered the tools to be creative.

If we train disciplined performers by using the Suzuki method, then we are offering the basis for creative musical interpretation and creation.

The Respectful Mind

In 1994, Rwanda, located in central Africa, went through a cruel and merciless genocide between two ethnic groups: Tutsis and Hutus. In one year, due to racial differences, a million people were killed, that is more than twice the population of Minneapolis. This war, like many others, occurred because both sides in conflict belonged to groups with different histories, traditions and cultures.

In the picture [video material accompanying the presentation] you may see Erine, from the Tutsi ethnic group, sitting next to Ildephonse, a former member of the Hutu army who led a group of people that burnt Erine’s house with his son inside in 1994. Ildephonse was fourteen years old then and says that, “It was very painful to kill the boy. It was like a stone in my heart.” Both were reunited by an organization named “As We Forgive” for reconciliation. Erine, the mother of the boy who was killed commented, “When I forgave Ildephonse, I felt as if I were a whole person again; it made me want to forgive more people.”

I ask myself, what force or attitude is required to forgive the person who killed your son? I do not know. I simply cannot imagine it. Most likely, no one in this room will have to overcome such a challenge. This forgiveness is definitively a heroic act of acceptance and respect.

Learning a discipline, synthesizing knowledge and being creative are not enough. If we want this world to advance in the direction of unconditional peace within a context of economic and social stability, it is essential to consider the respectful mind as an irreplaceable framework for building social harmony and universal freedom scenarios, respecting the multiple thoughts, traditions and cultures making up our planet.

In this sense, music education is an irreplaceable tool for accepting and respecting cultural diversity in all people worldwide, since music is inherently multicultural. The nature of music is multicultural because it is the product of human creation, and thus it is made up of a big variety of musical practices resulting from the endless cultural variations which make up our world. Music is not one in the world: there are “many musics.”

Recognizing that cultures different from ours may create and perform other types of good quality music, very different from our own, allows students to accept and know others better, since music expresses what people are, think and feel. Therefore, music education must rely on the inclusion of different music practices allowing our students to be part of other musical worlds.

The Ethical Mind

Mastering a discipline, synthesizing, being creative and respecting others seem to be enough goals for the education of people that will shape the human community as we want it. We still need to go up one last step, however: the ethical mind, which refers to the need not only of working to respect others, but also working well for the common welfare—that is, working well for others.

Now will I share some exemplary stories of Suzuki teachers who have worked ethically—with excellence, honesty and taking care of details—for the welfare of their communities.

El Salvador

There is a big gang problem in El Salvador. In public school at La Campanera, one of the most dangerous communities in the city of San Salvador, teacher Ludwing Melgar founded a Suzuki program some years ago.

Thanks to this initiative, there is now a small orchestra where children and youngsters are busy making music all afternoon instead of being on the streets where they are regularly recruited for gangs. As a result of this orchestra, Luis Meléndez—one of the students—left his school this year in order to study abroad. His siblings were already in gangs, which they quit and are now members of the orchestra.


Huancavelica is one of Peru’s poorest regions located high in the Andes mountains. The bitter cold causes many children to die.

Now we will watch a video summarizing the story and scope of this project.

[Editor’s Note: The video may be found at the URL]


In the city of Cusco, Peru, a group of teachers directed by Flor Canelo created a Suzuki school eighteen years ago where the teaching of traditional Andean music is also included with the Suzuki repertoire.

At the beginning of this project there were very few violinists and no cellists in Cusco. They began with twenty students and now they have reached two hundred students. Currently, the parents understand the importance of music for the comprehensive education of their children. The commitment of the parents is exemplary.

They have notably increased the number of violinists in Cusco, which has allowed for the creation of a symphonic orchestra and cello lessons have been introduced in Cusco, where it was previously an unknown instrument.

Families linked to this school in Cusco have embraced classical music as well as traditional Andean music with comparable values; there are different musical languages that children learn which allow them to value the inheritance of great masters and the creations of their ancestors, thus encouraging intercultural dialogue.


Violin teacher Rubidia Boror directs a Suzuki program in San Juan Sacatepéquez, a Mayan community located in the outskirts of Guatemala City. According to Human Rights Watch, at least half of the Guatemalan population is Mayan; seventy-four percent live in poverty, while thirty-nine percent live in extreme poverty. Under extremely challenging circumstances and with utmost dedication, youngsters have learned to play their instruments.

Now we will watch a video showing some of the results of this Suzuki project.

[Editor’s Note: The video may be found at the URL]

Fundación Clara Moreno

The Clara Moreno foundation is a boarding school in Mexico City serving poor girls who have been physically or sexually abused in their communities. Sadly, this often happens in their homes, and frequently by their own parents.

Ximena implemented a Suzuki project in this place a little more than a year ago. In this boarding school, the girls have tutors that act as mothers, are present at their violin lessons, and are with them in their daily practice.

I had the opportunity to attend their first concert. They were about fifteen girls and the audience was made up of the directors of the school, persons from the board supporting this school, and moms and dads of the girls.

You can probably imagine this touching situation. The audience was made up of many of the parents, who often were the reason the girls were living at the school. All the attendants were crying.

We could keep on sharing many, many similar projects throughout Latin America and North America.

Summary of the Ethical Mind

It seems that these stories we have shown you, which have deeply changed the respective communities, refer to the importance of leaving our comfort zone to do social work in at-risk communities, but it is not so. Obviously, it is essential to consider the possibility of doing this kind of work whenever there is a chance, but that is not the point today.

The background is different: the stories that were shared show the work, school and social realities of excellent Suzuki teachers within their own communities. These are stories of people in their daily places, showing us how people live, develop and work in their communities.

Probably, our community is very different; perhaps the human development there exists within more fortunate conditions, but notwithstanding, your participation is required by mastering a discipline, synthesizing information, using your creativity, respecting and working ethically to the benefit of children, the disabled, the under privileged, and all the community.

It would be wonderful to cooperate in the resolution of conflicts in Rwanda, El Salvador or Huancavelica. Some are doing it. However, due to endless reasons, each one of us is part of a specific community that he or she may not and must not ignore.

A building is made up of insignificant small bricks. Nonetheless, we may not indiscriminately remove any brick we want because the building may eventually collapse. In the same way, if we do not take responsibility in our own community, it would be nonsense to dream of helping a distant community.

It is our responsibility to contribute in shaping the sound of our community, which will eventually echo in the ears of many distant communities by means of our ethical work.


The community will empower us to the extent that we contribute to the improvement of our surroundings.

We are many teachers together in this place, representing a huge community of countries within the Americas. The possibility of transforming our community by means of our professional, well-informed, creative, respectful work, in solidarity with our people, becomes a historical opportunity which we should not let escape.

We must act within our communities, from the corner of our classroom, in order to achieve the transformations that are required and must not be postponed. It depends on our work and nobody can do it for us. What we do as music educators should be a testimony to the faith we have in humankind.

[i] Shinichi Suzuki, Desarrollo de las habilidades desde la edad cero. Ciudad de México: EMDEMUS, 2007, p. 66.