John Kendall

John D. Kendall

August 30, 1917 – January 6, 2011

John Kendall, 93, a violin pedagogue widely known for his role in introducing the Suzuki method of music education in the United States, died at Arbor Hospice in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 6. Mr. Kendall’s health had been in decline after he suffered a mild stroke in November 2010.

In 1958, Mr. Kendall and several other American violin teachers saw a film of 750 small Japanese children, students of Shinichi Suzuki, playing the Bach Concerto for two violins. Impressed and curious, Mr. Kendall applied for and received a grant to spend three months in Japan observing Mr. Suzuki and his young violin students. Following Mr. Kendall’s return from his path-breaking visit to Japan in 1959, he laid the groundwork for implementation of the Suzuki method in the United States, publishing the first English-language edition of the method books and helping to organize a 1964 concert tour by Japanese Suzuki students that captured the attention of audiences across the United States.

In his more than fifty years of teaching at the university level, Mr. Kendall became a notable influence in violin pedagogy, training violin teachers who came from all over the world to study with him, and offering workshops and master classes in almost every state and in countries throughout the world. He continued to give lessons and master classes until shortly before his death.

Mr. Kendall received his undergraduate degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1939 and earned a master’s degree from Columbia Teachers College.

After graduating from Oberlin, Mr. Kendall worked as a violin instructor at Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, until the United States entered World War II. During the war, Mr. Kendall was a conscientious objector and performed various assignments in Civilian Public Service.

Following his wartime service, Mr. Kendall joined the faculty at Muskingum College, in New Concord, Ohio. He served as violin teacher, orchestra conductor, teacher of humanities curriculum, and finally head of the music department at Muskingum until 1963, when he accepted an invitation to direct the string development program at the newly-founded Edwardsville, Illinois, campus of Southern Illinois University (SIU). He taught at SIU-Edwardsville until his retirement in 1994.

Growing up on a farm outside Kearney, Nebraska, during the Dust Bowl days, Mr. Kendall helped in the family chicken hatchery business and worked to irrigate the farm crops. In his memoir Recollections of a Peripatetic Pedagogue, published a few months before his death, Mr. Kendall attributes to this experience his deep commitment to caring for the land and its resources.

This commitment found expression in 1990 when he and his wife, Catherine, initiated and contributed seed money for the establishment of a nature preserve on the site of an abandoned sewage lagoon in Edwardsville, Illinois. With a grant from the Illinois Department of Conservation, plus donations from the community and the City of Edwardsville, the Watershed Nature Preserve was created. The nature preserve, which includes a Welcome Center and over forty acres of wetlands, prairies, and upland and lowland forests, has become an active resource for environmental education.

Following retirement from SIU-E, Mr. Kendall and his wife moved to Takoma Park, Maryland, to be near family. Catherine Kendall died in 1998, and in 2005 Mr. Kendall relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan, with the family of his son Christopher.

In addition to his son Christopher and wife Susan Schilperoort, Mr. Kendall is survived by a daughter, Nancy Foster and husband William Foster, of Washington, D.C.; a son, Stephen Kendall and wife Yoshiko Kendall, of Muncie, Indiana; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. A memorial service for John Kendall will be held on Saturday, April 23, 2011, at 2:00 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 4001 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48103. Those planning to attend, please email [javascript protected email address] .

View flyer memorial observance

Donations in Mr. Kendall’s memory may be made to:

Nature Preserve Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 843
Edwardsville, Illinois 62025

Or to:

John and Catherine Kendall Memorial Teacher Development Fund
Suzuki Association of the Americas
PO Box 17310
Boulder, CO 80308

Mr. Kendall’s memoir, Recollections of a Peripatetic Pedagogue, is available from the SAA.

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