Each year, the Lithuanian Suzuki Association celebrates Dr. Suzuki’s birthday with a special national concert with Suzuki violin, cello, piano and guitar students. The concert this year was very special for several reasons, as it was actually held on Dr. Suzuki’s birthday on October 17th, and was part of the special events which were held during the Sugihara Week in Kaunas, Lithuania. There is a small museum in the former Consulate building in Kaunas commemorating Chiune Sugihara, who issued transit visas to save over 6000 Jewish refugees during World War II, and the Suzuki concert was one of the key events during the week.
This year, the concert organizers were especially excited and honored to receive a last-minute request from Mr. Shiro Yamasaki, the Japanese ambassador to Lithuania, offering to give a speech at the concert. The President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda, was also in Kaunas for the opening ceremony of another event during Sugihara Week. Dėja Aukštkalnytė, the principal of the Kaunas Suzuki Primary School, was invited by Kaunas mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis to participate in the luncheon for President Nausėda, where she talked about the Suzuki Method with the other invited guests, including the Ambassador of Poland. This was at the same time as the dress rehearsal for the concert, so Deja stayed for a short time before returning to the Great Hall in Vytautas University to rehearse with the pianists. This was indeed a special event in the history of Suzuki Method in Lithuania!
The concert program consisted of violin, cello, piano and guitar groups performing pieces from the Suzuki repertoire. The pianists played on multiple keyboards with one teacher leading from the grand piano. This time, one piece (the Vivace from the Kuhlau Sonatina) was accompanied by the violin group.
From listening to video excerpts of the concert, one can feel how the children played together with one heart. I feel that the Lithuanian Suzuki families have truly taken Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy into their own hearts, and together with their teachers, are creating a new and happier generation of young people who will be able to face the challenges of the next century.
During the concert, videos with congratulatory messages from the mayors of four Japanese cities - Yaotsu, Tsuruga, Hiratsuka and Hachioji- were played to the audience. Mantas Jurgutis, the deputy Mayor from the municipality of Kaunas, also attended the concert and gave a speech.
Due to the Covid-19 health measures, only one member from each child’s family was allowed to attend the concert, but it was a joyful and exciting event for all participants, and the audience broke into applause when Ambassador Yamasaki mentioned that his own child had also been a Suzuki student! The current president of the Lithuanian Suzuki Association, cellist Valdas Povilaitis, spoke at the end of the concert before the final ensemble performance of Dr. Suzuki’s Twinkle Variations.
These events would have been impossible to imagine when I went to Lithuania for the first time in 2001 to talk to the Kaunas Conservatory piano teachers about the Suzuki Method and Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy. It is very moving for me to see the great faith which Lithuanian families have placed in their Suzuki teachers and in the Suzuki way of education. In addition to Kaunas and Vilnius, there are Suzuki teachers working in many different regions now. The first generation of Suzuki children has now grown up, and from its humble beginnings, Suzuki Method has become very well-known throughout Lithuania.
Currently, the Kaunas Suzuki Primary School is government-approved and is now recognized as one of the leading schools in Lithuania for primary school education where all teachers are trained in Dr. Suzuki’s method of education- to teach until every child has mastered the material, so that there are no failures. Dr. Suzuki would be happy to hear the sounds of music coming from each classroom, as the teachers play the Suzuki repertoire CDs and other classical music for all instruments during the school lessons.
Suzuki Method has followed a long and often difficult path in Lithuania, but thanks to the huge efforts of the first teachers who believed in Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy so strongly, they were able to plant the first seeds of what is now a thriving Suzuki community.
The first ten years held many challenges, but Suzuki method has now been in Lithuania for over twenty years. The small seeds which were planted in people’s hearts and minds have now blossomed, thanks to the dedicated efforts of “pioneer” teachers like Terese Varnauskiene, first president of the LSA, and Deja Aukštkalnytė, and the financial support received from the ESA for several years, which made it possible to begin official teacher training for other instruments as well. (I shared many happy moments together with wonderful Suzuki colleagues like Koen Rens when we happened to be in Kaunas on the same weekend for teacher training!)
I would like to express my heartfelt thanks and congratulations to all the Suzuki parents, children and teachers who have walked together on this long road, along with my deepest thanks for the continued support and inspiration I have received over many years from TERI, Professor Toyoda, and its current president Dr. Hayano. Dr. Suzuki’s teaching of “Where Love is deep, much can be accomplished. ” has truly become part of Lithuania.