The Suzuki Industrial Complex: Race, Class, and Talent in American Classical Music


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project offers the first book-length critical examination of the Suzuki Method, an approach to teaching music that has shaped millions of musicians around the world. Japanese pedagogue Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) contended that musical talent is “no accident of birth,” developing an immersive approach to musical learning that has been embraced by an increasingly diverse range of American communities. Expanding upon efforts to elucidate classical music’s complicity in systems of white supremacy, this project theorizes the Suzuki Method’s system as an “Industrial Complex,” arguing that it has perpetuated the very racial and socioeconomic inequalities it professes to redress, catering to fantasies of meritocracy while striving to dismantle the concept of innate talent at its core. The investigation draws upon historical and ethnographic methods to consider the possibilities and limitations of “method” itself, examining why Suzuki’s immersive design has facilitated both frustration and flourishing in students.