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  • Selections from Nurtured by Love
  • Suzuki Shin’ichi
    Translated by Kyoko Selden with Lili Selden and introduced by Lili Selden

For more than three decades, Kyoko Selden was deeply involved in the Talent Education (Sainō kyōiku) movement, as a parent of three string-playing children and the translator of major books and articles on the Suzuki Method. Developed in the thirties and forties by the violinist Suzuki Shin’ichi (1898-1998), the Suzuki Method teaches children classical music as a means to enrich their lives while also enhancing their motor skills, concentration, memory, and self-discipline. Suzuki, who had studied the violin in Germany in the twenties, was one day struck by the capacity of children to master their native languages. Against the conventional wisdom that only certain people were graced with the talent to master musical instruments, Suzuki declared that anyone who could speak a language with facility had the potential to become a refined performer—whether amateur or professional—of music.

The Suzuki Method, having attracted hundreds of instructors and tens of thousands of students throughout Japan in the postwar years, arrived on the North American music education scene to great acclaim in the early sixties. Shortly thereafter, Waltraud Suzuki’s translation into English of Suzuki’s autobiography, Nurtured by Love (Ai ni ikiru), appeared, providing a clear statement of its philosophy and its leader’s persona. Other books and articles about the Method’s tenets and their application followed.

In 1976, a Suzuki violin program, directed by Rose Martin, was inaugurated at the St. Louis Conservatory and School for the Arts (CASA). Kyoko, as a high school and university student, had loved music enough to defy her parents by secretly taking piano lessons. She enrolled her children in the violin program, excited about the resonance between the method and her own educational philosophy, honed as a teacher of Japanese language and literature at Washington University and later Cornell. These commonalities included a commitment: (1) to use authentic materials (rather than artificial exercises) to challenge and inspire students, (2) to set high standards but encourage and motivate [End Page 210] students through positive reinforcement, and (3) to refrain from making judgments about a student’s capacity to excel—someday in some particular field—based on the student’s initial attempts to master specific material or skills.

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Kyoko Selden, original paper cuts. Created between 1980 and 1990 and published in The Talent Education Journal.

Kyoko soon met Eiko and Masayoshi Kataoka, members of the St. Louis Symphony, who taught Suzuki violin and cello at their home. In 1980, the Kataokas launched Talent Education Journal, a quarterly providing English-language translations of the work of Suzuki and other instructors, not to mention their students and students’ parents. Kyoko translated nearly every article published in the journal for over a decade, in addition to creating paper cuts and sketches to illustrate it. [End Page 211]

She also translated other books and instructional materials by Suzuki and his inner circle. Eventually, at the request of the International Suzuki Association, an umbrella organization with representatives from many of the regional Suzuki programs worldwide, she undertook a complete translation of Nurtured by Love for the new millennium. This new translation, published in spring 2013, has since become the basis for forthcoming translations into other languages.

Below are excerpts from that translation, chosen by her co-translator, Lili Selden.

Foreword: A Day of Marveling

Children Throughout Japan Speak Japanese!

“Ohh! Children everywhere in Japan are speaking Japanese!”

I leaped up in astonishment. Each and every child speaks Japanese freely, and they do so without any difficulty whatsoever. Isn’t this a marvelous ability? Why is this? How has this come to pass? I could barely suppress my impulse to run into the streets, shouting.

For about a week following this revelation, I spoke to everyone I met.

“All children throughout Japan speak Japanese magnificently. Children from Osaka speak that difficult Osaka dialect, and children from the Northeast speak that Northeastern dialect we could never even hope to reproduce. Isn’t this impressive?”

But nobody was impressed. It’s a matter of course, everyone said. Instead...