Live from the 16th Suzuki Method World Convention, guest blogger Ed Kreitman reports on the experience so far.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms in Tokyo’s Hama Rikyu Gardens.

Image by Edward Kreitman

March 25 – Monday

My journey to the 16th Suzuki World Conference began with my flight from Chicago to Tokyo. I was fortunate that there were no delays, immigration was easy and the amazing Japanese airport bus system was right on time. I arrived at the Sheraton Miyako hotel in Tokyo to spend a day with Helen Brunner, Grant Mead and Tim Murray, Suzuki teacher friends from London.

March 26 – Tuesday

Breakfast with the gang, then off to sightsee in Tokyo. We visited Hama Rikyu Gardens and were so fortunate that the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. We also shopped at the Yamaha store in downtown Tokyo—one of the largest music stores in the world.

Sightseeing in Tokyo

Sightseeing in Tokyo

Image by Edward Kreitman

Children from the British Suzuki Institute who were also on their way to the conference played a warm up concert at the home of one of Japan’s most famous musicians, Taro Hakase. Taro was performing a concert in London, so were were hosted by his wife, Mayoko. She is a television producer in Japan.

March 27 – Wednesday

Mountain View

On the road to Matsumoto.

Image by Edward Kreitman

This morning our group had an early 7 a.m. departure from Tokyo to Matsumoto. It was about a three hours journey by bus. Most of the trip was passed looking at the beautiful mountainous scenery, reminiscing with the other members of the group about our previous times in Matsumoto, and looking forward to the conference and meeting up with many friends from around the world. The afternoon began with a meeting for all teachers at the conference, followed by a course for all teachers who were attending the conference.

The welcome ceremony began with a moment of silence to remember the recent and sudden passing of Mr. Mineo Nakajima who was the past President of the Suzuki Talent Education in Japan. It was Mr. Nakajima’s vision for the conference, and we all wish that his vision will be all that he imagined and hoped for: the international Suzuki communities coming together, making music and friends.

Next, we had a lovely address from Koji Toyoda. Mr. Toyoda’s message was to remind us all the words of Pablo Casals “Perhaps it is music that will save the world.” He reminded us of how important it is, in our world that is so filled with conflict, to remember to teach the children and to give them the gift of music so that they can create harmony throughout the world.

We also had a welcome from Etsuko Suehiro, the executive Committee chairperson for the conference. We were informed that more than 5000 participants from 35 countries would be coming to Matsumoto for the conference.

Taiko Drummer

Taiko drummer entertaining convention-goers.

Image by Edward Kreitman

Following the opening addresses, we were treated to a concert by the kenkyuusei and faculty of the International Academy of the Suzuki Method. The string orchestra played a beautiful rendition of the Mozart Divertimento in D major. K 136 demonstrating wonderful tone, intonation and ensemble. The work was conducted by maestro Toyoda.

Next on the program was Toshiro Mayuzumi’s modern work for cello, Bunraku, performed by Mineo Hayashi, who was dressed in traditional Japanese outfit. The concert concluded with violin professor Yukari Tate and piano professor Seizo Azuma performing the Prokofiev Violin Sonato No 2 in D Major. It was a fantastic way to begin the conference, and all of the performances were so musically satisfying and technically proficient.

After a short break, the teachers had sessions in their various instrument areas and we had our first Professional Development session. The violin session was presented in two parts. The first, by professor Yuri Tate which focused on sound. Her topic: A Sound, What it Implies. The second part was presented by William Star and several student participants as demonstration performers in an overview of his 77 Variations on Suzuki Melodies.

The evening program was a banquet for all teachers where we had the opportunity to come together to share a meal, renew friendships, and meet new Suzuki colleagues. For me, it was especially thrilling to be together again in Matsumoto with Johannes Lievart from Holland, who was also studying at the kaikan in the summer of 1986 when I first came to Matsumoto to observe Dr. Suzuki’s teaching.

Many thanks to Ed for this update. Stay tuned for more guest blogs over the weekend.