“The American Suzuki Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point: The Suzuki Method in Action”

The American Suzuki Institute, the International Suzuki Association and the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Committee is proud to announce that 24 hours of video of Dr. Suzuki teaching at the 1976 American Suzuki Institute is now online for anyone to see. Now teachers, students, parents and researchers all over the globe will be able to view the collection under the above title and see Dr. Suzuki teaching children, demonstrating his ideas to teachers and speaking about his philosophy, just as many of us, who were old enough to attend the Institute that year, saw first hand.

To access the videos you can utilize a search engine using word combinations such as “Suzuki”, ”videos” or “American Suzuki Institute” or go directly to the site at University of Wisconsin Digital Collections by typing: http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/Arts/subcollections/SuzukiAbout.shtml

This is the home page for the collection with information about how the videos came to be. From there, a click on the video icon will take you to the video records. One can choose to view the data about the videos by gallery view, a brief synopsis of the record or the full view which has a more detailed summary. Searches of the records can be done by the topics below or by the titles of violin repertoire.

In addition to the original footage, the first eleven of the 35 records are edited versions of the lectures and demonstrations Dr. Suzuki gave to teachers (thanks to the work of Margery Aber and UWSP graduate students of that era). These are organized by topic so that anytime Dr. Suzuki spoke or demonstrated a technique for changing strings that clip is on the tape of that title. For example, when he spoke about posture and left hand technique that clip is on the tape of that title. The topics represented in these edited videos are:

  • Tonalization
  • Finger Flexibility and Thumb Power
  • Posture and Left Hand Techniques
  • Bowing
  • Vertical Power
  • Changing Strings
  • Tone
  • Musical Tempo

These edited videos always begin with Twinkle Variation A playing in the background and the words, “The American Suzuki Talent Education Center of Stevens Point in cooperation with the UW-Stevens Point presents…” superimposed over a picture of Dr. Suzuki. The unedited videos of lessons and classes just begin as they did on the day they were filmed.

The remaining videos are master classes and group classes given by Dr. Suzuki and can be distinguished by date of the class. In addition, there are two lectures by other guests. One lecture is on basic skills and concepts by Eleanor Allen and Louise Wear. The second is a lecture on the education of children given by Glenn Doman of the Institute for Human Potential. (Doman was interviewed in Dr. Suzuki’s book, Where Love is Deep.)

As you will observe in these videos, Dr. Suzuki was still a very active man in 1976. He seems to have unlimited energy for teaching and was at the height of traveling internationally to promote his philosophy and his particular approach to teaching the complexities of string playing to children as young as three or four years. His playing skills were still at a high level (he was 77 yrs. old), and his English language skills were at their peak. One needs to adjust one’s ears a little to his Japanese accent, but in characteristic humor he apologizes for it by saying, “My English was made in Japan.” In later years Dr. Suzuki’s teaching focused exclusively on teaching tone and its implications for the bow arm in violin playing almost to the exclusion of the left hand. These videos show him at a stage in his career when his teaching was more in balance.

Dr. Suzuki died in 1998 and many of the “founding generation” of Suzuki teachers also are deceased or are no longer teaching. What a tremendous benefit it is for teachers around the globe to be able to see the master himself via the internet and to study and discuss his ideas just as the teachers, parents and students did 30 years ago.

These 1976 sessions were videotaped by the UW-SP Telecommunications Department on ¾ inch video cassettes when video technology was in its infancy. Though the tapes were 30 years old at the time that they were digitized, most were in excellent condition. The tapes may be viewed but not copied. They are used with the permission of the International Suzuki Association which owns the rights to Dr. Suzuki’s musical works, name and image, and the trademarks “Suzuki” and “Suzuki Method.”

The American Suzuki Institute is held on the UWSP campus each August. It is the oldest and largest of its kind outside of Japan and it became a gathering place for many of the best nationally and internationally known teachers in the field. When these innovative minds gathered at the Institute with enthusiastic students and dedicated parents, the resulting environment was rich with excellence, collaboration, inspiration, and confidence in the belief that every child can learn. It is only fitting then that this collection of videotape continues to contribute to the Suzuki legacy.