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Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki by Lois Shepheard

Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki:
Son of his environment

Suzuki may be a name renowned for automobiles, but this book introduces us to a very different Suzuki - the Suzuki who was a world leader in the teaching of music.

Dr Shinichi Suzuki, creator of “The Suzuki Method”, is well remembered for his extraordinary warmth, care, and sense of humour.

Part biography, part memoir, this important book recalls scenes from Suzuki's life, and many of the author's own experiences as his student in Japan. Both humorous and culturally informative, this book illustrates how Suzuki was influenced by Japanese history and his Zen beliefs, making him "the son of his environment".

Above all, this book reminds us that Suzuki gave far more to the world than just a method of teaching. In the book Suzuki Violin School, Volume 1, Dr Suzuki gives an impassioned plea to parents:

Please raise your child to be a fine human being.

Students, teachers, and lovers of music and history alike will enjoy this stroll through the life and teachings of the quick-witted Dr Suzuki, who turned the music education world upside down.

Lois Shepheard
Lois Shepheard

Australian violin and viola teacher and Suzuki teacher-trainer, Lois Shepheard, introduced the Suzuki Method to Victoria and established the Suzuki association, now called Suzuki Music (Victoria).

She is a graduate of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music and what is now known as the Talent Education Research Institute (TERI) in Matsumoto, Japan. There she studied with Dr Suzuki himself.

Lois was a member of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and taught in several New South Wales and Victorian schools. For many years, she was an examiner for the Australian Music Examinations Board. She has been a lecturer at the State College of Victoria Institute of Early Childhood Development and taught violin and viola at the Conservatorium of Music in the University of Melbourne. For a time, she was Professor of Viola and Director of the Suzuki Program at Western Illinois University in the United States.

She has taught and researched the Suzuki Method since the early 1960s.

Despite the fact that she didn’t set out to produce professional musicians, a very great percentage of Lois’s students have become professional symphony or chamber music players or Suzuki violin teachers.

Lois continues to give instruction to both children and teachers in Melbourne.

Her musical career ran parallel to her family life. Her son is now the IT Service Delivery Manager for Australia at a leading international engineering and construction company. Her daughter also undertook the training course with Dr Suzuki and teaches the violin and violin pedagogy in Germany. Lois has two grandsons, both students, in Australia.

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ISBN 9781922120137 (PB, 120pp)
152mm x 229mm

AUD $30 USD $24 NZD $33 GBP £16 EUR €19

ISBN 9781922120144 (eBook)

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Reviews

It is now 15 years since Dr Suzuki passed away in January 1998. All over the world are many thousands of teachers, parents and children involved in the Suzuki approach to learning music who have never seen Dr Suzuki, never heard his voice, and may not even have seen a photo of him. Yet he was a notable pioneer in a remarkable system of education that has spread all over the world.

Lois Shepheard’s highly readable and enjoyable book about Dr Suzuki is a must for all Suzuki Music members as well as anyone interested in music education. It provides valuable background to Shinichi Suzuki’s development of a child-centred and natural approach to learning music, and brings this wonderful man to life through her personal experiences of working with him in Japan, and through numerous amusing anecdotes.

All Suzuki members should read this book to find out about Dr Suzuki’s immense generosity, in both the material and spiritual senses, about his deep thinking on the nature of music and education, about his selfless concern for others in any situation, and about his total devotion to his cause of bringing happiness to the world’s children through a method of teaching that aims to develop the character and sensitivity of the child.
Julia Breen, Director of Professional Development for Suzuki Music Victoria and Teacher Trainer for Flute and Piano

Got your wonderful book the other day and read it that night and the next day. It was very helpful to get a sense of what Suzuki was like, what motivated him, where he came from. For me, the book was almost like looking through a photo album—or better, a video album—since the impressions that your memories left were dynamic. So thank you.
– Michael Campbell, (USA), professional pianist; formerly Professor of Piano, Western Illinois University

 

This book is enhanced by quotations from Dr Suzuki on almost every page. You can feel that the author was actually there when he spoke. Dr Suzuki always was an amazing source of energy. Lois Shepheard was in Japan for a considerable time, long enough to witness the outcome of this unusual life force.

The book serves as a charming reminder to all those who have worked with Dr Suzuki in the past. This man gave careers to tens of thousands of players and teachers in the world, and joy to millions of children and their parents. But perhaps more importantly, for those who never knew him, these simple reminiscences of Dr Suzuki help bring to life again this amazing violin teacher.
– Helen Brunner, London. Leading British Suzuki Method teacher

The book introduces the reader, through a series of recollections, to an unassuming Japanese man who challenged long held beliefs in the Western World – that only those with inherited talent could be successfully taught to play a musical instrument. It provides a fascinating insight into the character of an ordinary person who, in his lifetime, achieved something miraculous. I do not know of any other book about Dr Suzuki, which explicitly recalls scenes from his life, explains the influence on him of Japanese history and goes deeply into his Zen environment.

This important work needed to be written right now, while it is still possible to remember the man, Shinichi Suzuki. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have met him are reminded of his extraordinary warmth and care, and his sense of humour. It is essential that Dr Suzuki, the man, does not gradually disappear from our consciousness. We must not let the word “Suzuki” slip into the realm of mythology..
– Vilma Dyball (Melbourne) Teacher of French. Former Suzuki parent - now the mother of three professional musicians

Your book is wonderful Lois. I laughed and cried, so thank you so much for recommending it.

As I read the book I was struck by how often Dr Suzuki's wisdom and observations related not only to the violin but to my own experience playing the double bass. In particular it struck a chord when he said that you don't just play the violin with your fingers. You play with your whole body. That was what I used to tell my students. For a bass player your whole body vibrates with the instrument, even your toes. It is the same with all instruments.

I felt that Dr Suzuki was a deeply spiritual man who lived on a higher level of consciousness than most of us and reading your book gave me many insights into Zen practice and Dr Suzuki’s environment.
– Jan Gracie Mulcahy (Lismore, NSW), is a writer and former double bass player with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Now a teacher of Creative Writing and Music Appreciation

This is a deeply respectful, warm and beautifully written portrait of Dr. Suzuki, broad enough in its outlook to be of universal interest to teachers, Suzuki parents, and all those who have been intrigued, touched or changed forever by contact with the extraordinary and timeless philosophy which bears his name. In this book, Lois Shepheard offers a personal view of Dr. Suzuki's teaching and philosophy and provides an often humorous look at what it was like to live and study in Matsumoto with Dr. Suzuki over the years.

Highly recommended, particularly for Suzuki parents and the "new generation" of Suzuki trainees.
– Ruth Miura (Spain), is a Graduate of the Talent Education Institute, Matsumoto, Japan

 

Links

Information on the Suzuki Method of music training

Lois Shepheard listed as an accredited Suzuki teacher in Victoria

Read the full review from the American Suzuki Journal

 

Sample

Excerpt from Chapter 8: Life in Matsumoto

Japanese rooms are measured by how many rice straw tatami mats fit, each one being a little less than one by two metres. My room in the apartment house up on the Susuki River was a six mat size.

Winters are cold in Matsumoto. You have to leave the tap over the sink running at night or the pipes freeze. Sometimes they do anyway and then one has a column of ice coming down from the tap as well.

If my tap froze, it was a real performance to put it right. Put the kitchen slippers on and get the kettle from the stove; walk to the kitchen door, take off the slippers, cross the tatami in the living room; put the corridor slippers on, go along the corridor and down the stairs to the front door (dodging the sheet of ice in the hallway in front of the toilets); take the slippers off and put on the outside shoes; go into the snowy garden and fill the kettle with water from the only tap that didn’t freeze. (I’m not sure why it didn’t; I guess there was a hot spring there somewhere.) Then proceed, reversing the slipper changes, back to the kitchen to boil the kettle and pour the water on the tap. Repeat the whole procedure till the pipes have thawed.

Some of the kenkyūsei made an enormous snowman in the park just opposite the Kaikan. It was a great snowman and I could see he just needed a violin to be complete. In the room up on the very top floor of the Kaikan there was a cheap violin lying on the floor, caseless, in the dust. I went upstairs and got it. A proper snowman now!

The next morning as I approached the snowman, I saw Dr Suzuki. He was standing, bemused, as he looked at the fragments of violin at the snowman’s feet. Of course the glue had disintegrated overnight and the instrument lay in the snow in its 70 pieces.

‘Who would put a violin up there?’ Suzuki asked me. He was clearly shaken.

‘I did,’ I replied. I explained it was a cheap, Chinese thing from upstairs.

‘Ah, so!’ he replied, unconvinced. I knew he was thinking that any violin is a violin and doesn’t deserve to lie in bits in the snow…

...

Marjorie was sitting in the kenkyūsei orchestra when Dr Suzuki was trying to rehearse the necessary “Viennese lilt”. The piano player wasn’t managing it at all. Marjorie, also studying piano at the Kaikan, put her violin down and demonstrated for the girl. Dr Suzuki was very excited, relieved the poor Japanese girl of her post and made Marjorie her replacement. Marjorie was terribly embarrassed. Suzuki noticed her discomfiture and at the end of the session, went to his room, to return with a gift. It was a little alarm clock which played the Japanese national anthem as its alarm.

 

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