Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Joseph N. Straus

Subject Categories



String pedagogy; Suzuki method; Violin etudes; Violin pedagogy; Violin performance


This dissertation speaks to an audience of string pedagogues inside and outside the Suzuki community to offer a richer understanding of how the Suzuki Method fits into American educational and string-pedagogical practice.

The first chapter presents a history of the Suzuki Method and the current global state of Suzuki theory and practice. This introductory chapter frames the two chapters that follow; it provides the background information necessary to understand them. The second and third chapters each address an aspect of the Suzuki Method that is widely misunderstood by the string-pedagogy community, including the Suzuki community itself. While chapters 2 and 3 of this dissertation can be understood as free-standing essays, their topics have been carefully chosen to complement and intersect with each other.

Chapter 2 examines the Suzuki Method's cultural relationship to Japanese and Western educational traditions. Taking a historical look at Suzuki's philosophy and pedagogy, this chapter aims to correct an unbalanced view that circulates in the American music-education and Suzuki communities about the appropriate social and cultural contexts for Suzuki's pedagogy, namely the view that the Suzuki Method's Japanese origins preclude an affinity with American educational norms. This chapter examines previously undiscussed elements in Suzuki's intellectual and cultural biography, and it illuminates the fact that Suzuki had extensive exposure to American and European Progressive educational traditions, which were prevalent in Japan during Suzuki's formative years. With new evidence about Suzuki's intellectual biography in hand, it becomes possible to re-examine elements of Suzuki's educational philosophy to show that the Suzuki Method has organic affinities with Western educational theories and methods. Unlike previous research which has attributed Suzuki's philosophy and certain of Suzuki's pedagogical devices to an exclusively Japanese mindset, this chapter suggests that Suzuki's pedagogy has an important relationship with Western Progressivism. This chapter is intended to encourage readers to re-consider their perceptions about the appropriate social and cultural contexts for the Suzuki Method.

Chapter 3 addresses how the Suzuki Method's technique-instructional methods relate to traditional European-based string pedagogy. This chapter illustrates the philosophical and practical contrasts between the two educational approaches, and it argues that a causal link exists between each school's philosophy and methods. The chapter begins with a discussion, then it demonstrates through three sample paths to technical competencies how each school might carry out their technique-instructional methods. While it is commonly understood that the Suzuki Method teaches technique through music, and traditional European-based methods teach technique through exercises and etudes, this chapter fills gaps in understanding about what it means to teach technique through music or etudes, why traditional teaching uses etudes and Suzuki does not, and how using one approach or another reflects certain philosophical stances about the nature of talent and the inherent difficulty of music performance.

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