William Starr, internationally recognized Suzuki pedagogue, passed away on December 26, 2020 at the age of 97 leaving a legacy of love for the Suzuki method with thousands of students, families, teachers and colleagues whose lives he touched, including those of us at Boulder Suzuki Strings.
Bill made his debut as violin soloist with the Kansas City Philharmonic at the age of seventeen. He acquired two degrees and a Performer’s Certificate at the Eastman School of Music and played first violin in the Rochester Philharmonic. During his career, he served on the faculty and subsequently became the department chair of the Music Department at the University of Tennessee. During that time, he was also the concertmaster of the Knoxville Symphony.
He was internationally recognized as a leading authority on Suzuki violin study and began teaching with the Suzuki approach in 1964 after hearing Dr. Suzuki and the first tour group of Japanese children at the Music Educators National Conference in Philadelphia.
After visiting Japan in the summer of 1967, Bill returned to Japan for fourteen months in 1968-1969 with this wife Constance and their eight children. In Matsumoto, he observed Dr. Suzuki and his teachers in weekly instruction. Five of the Starr children studied in the Talent Education program in Japan, two with Suzuki. Bill conducted Suzuki’s string orchestra in Matsumoto, and taught Suzuki’s teacher-trainee classes in basic theory, sight-reading and chamber music. In the summer of 1969, he taught Suzuki’s students for six weeks, and also appeared as guest instructor in Tokyo, Nagoya and Nagano.
Upon his return home, he was pivotal in the development of the Suzuki method within the United States and across the globe. He served as the first president of the Suzuki Association of the Americas and the first chairman of the International Suzuki Association. He wrote dozens of books for strings and Suzuki pedagogy including The Suzuki Violinist which remains the gold standard among Suzuki violin teachers around the world, as well as To Learn with Love, a companion for Suzuki parents co-authored with his wife Constance Starr which has enriched the lives of thousands of Suzuki families. He also authored numerous college texts including Scored for Listening, Music Score Omnibus and Perceiving Music in Sight and Sound.
Bill worked with Boulder Suzuki Strings from its inception. Amy Gesmer-Packman founded Boulder Suzuki Strings as a university program in 1982, when she began graduate studies with Mr. Starr at the University of Colorado Boulder. Through the years, he remained an important part of Boulder Suzuki Strings. BSS was always the first to “try out” his new books before they were published. He also conducted the BSS faculty orchestra and taught the most advanced student groups up until the fall of 2019.
As a Suzuki ambassador, teacher, conductor, arranger, soloist, author and lecturer, Bill made amazing contributions to the Suzuki movement and to the many lives he has touched through his lifetime. Boulder Suzuki Strings is honored to have had the privilege of working with him for so many years. He will truly be missed.
A scholarship fund has been set up in William Starr’s name to benefit the Boulder Suzuki Strings program. Donations can be mailed to:
Boulder Suzuki Strings
2705 Stanford Ave.
Boulder, CO 80305-5336