John Kendall, R.I.P.

A man named John Kendall died earlier this week. I’ve never met him. However, like hundreds of thousands of other families, I owe this man a debt of gratitude that I hardly have words to describe, let alone repay.

Mr. Kendall was single-handedly responsible for bringing the Suzuki philosophy of music education to the United States. If you learned to play the violin or cello or piano or guitar or viola or recorder or flute at a young age, if your mom or dad took you to private lessons and group lessons and summer institutes, and practiced with you and encouraged you and applauded even when you sounded horrible, you probably owe that to Mr. Kendall. If you do that with your own children, ditto.

I didn’t grow up with Suzuki lessons, but I’ve been a “Suzuki mom” for the last five years and it has totally rocked my world. It’s given my family focus and structure. It’s taught my children self-discipline, patience and respect. It’s made me a better mom.

And I thought they were just going to learn to play the violin.

Thank you Mr. Kendall, and God bless.

John D. Kendall (1918–2011)

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  1. Hey Mo, my son takes suzuki-type violin lessons, too. He is normally a goof-ball, but playing requires attention to multiple diverse details: fingering, posture, reading music, rhythm. I love seeing that effort from him, even though the result can seldom be described as “music”. One day…..
    Nice post, Kim

  2. I know what you mean. My son is a goof-ball too. But little by little he is making progress, and I have no doubt that one day it will sound like real music. It’s already happening with my daughter…

  3. I grew up with Suzuki lessons and even met Suzuki when I was eleven years old on a trip to a conference in Bellingham – I have nothing but good things to say about the method. Besides the fact I still can and do play the fiddle, I really do believe that the music lessons and practice I grew up with have a lot to do with my disciplined approach to life in general. The point of music lessons (or team sports or whatever) is not really the thing itself for most people – but the life lessons that get drilled into us as we engage in acquiring a skill. A good process (like Suzuki) makes for positive lifelong habits. The converse is also true (think of the coach who calls the kids on the team names and what that instills). Thanks for this little reminder of the importance of a single person inspired by an idea, a process, a method – and their dedication to seeing it through.

  4. Hey Megan, thanks for stopping by. I agree completely that the point is the life lessons. Being able to play an instrument is just a nice bonus. That’s great that you’re still playing, and that you can see positive effects from it in your adult life.

    And how cool that you got to meet Suzuki! Did you play for him?


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