Shinichi Suzuki was born in Nagoya, Japan where his father owned a violin factory. Though he played near the factory as a child, Shinichi never realized what beautiful sounds could come from the instrument. At the age of 17 he heard a recording of the famous violinist Mischa Elman playing Ave Maria and was so moved by what he heard that he took an instrument home from his father's factory and taught himself how to play the violin by imitating the sounds he heard on the record. At the age of 22 he had an opportunity to travel to Germany and study with renowned violinist Karl Klinger. It was also in Germany that he met his wife Waltraud and befriended Albert Einstein.
When Suzuki returned to Japan, he formed a string quartet with his brothers and began to teach the violin. A man came to Suzuki and asked him to teach his 4 year old son and Suzuki pondered over how he would convey the complexities of playing the violin to this young child. The answer came to him by this simple observation - all children learn to speak their native tongue. In Suzuki's words from his autobiography Nurtured by Love:
...all Japanese children speak Japanese! Since they all speak Japanese so easily and fluently, there must be a secret: and this must be training. Indeed all children everywhere in the world are brought up by a perfect educational method: their mother tongue. Why not apply this method to other faculties?
Suzuki took the elements that go into learning a language and applied them to learning to play the violin. These elements include:
Step by step mastery
Learning in a community
Positive encouragement and active involvement from the parent
Reading after establishing basic control of the instrument
In recognition of his work, Suzuki was named a Living National Treasure by the Emperor of Japan and nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Currently there are over 8,000 Suzuki music teachers world wide.