William J. Starr, violinist, author, and educator, died peacefully at his home in Boulder, Colorado, on December 26. He was 97.
Bill was a violinist and music professor when he took a sabbatical to live in Japan in 1968. He was the first American musician to spend a year observing Shinichi Suzuki, the celebrated creator of the Suzuki Method, which encourages the teaching of musical instruments beginning at a young age. He began teaching the method upon his return to the US, and went on to educate, develop, and perform at Suzuki Institutes throughout the US, as well as at workshops in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, England, Canada, Ireland, Venezuela, Germany, and Switzerland. Based on his time with Suzuki, he authored The Suzuki Violinist, and co-authored To Learn with Love with his wife, Connie.
Born in Concordia, Kansas, on May 23, 1923, to Dr. Ellis and Kathryn Kelly Starr, Bill’s talent for the violin took him to the prestigious Eastman School of Music, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Music with a Performer’s Certificate in Violin.
His career was paused when he joined the US Naval Reserve in 1943. He served as a Lt. (j.g.) on active duty in the Pacific as Deck Officer and later Captain of LCS36, a landing-craft support ship. He participated in the battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, where his ship was struck by a kamikaze.
In 1947, he married Constance Koebelin, a pianist and fellow student at Eastman. Together they raised eight children while playing hundreds of concerts all over the world during 72 years of marriage.
Bill and Connie moved to Knoxville in 1949, where he joined the faculty of the Music Department at the University of Tennessee, becoming department chair in 1977. During those years, he also served as concertmaster of the Knoxville Symphony. He took a sabbatical to Japan in 1968 with his whole family, after which he became a leading proponent of the unique Suzuki educational approach. He was a founder and the first president of the Suzuki Association of the Americas and the first chairman of the board of the International Suzuki Association.
Bill was the author of a number of college texts, including Scored for Listening, Music Scores Omnibus, and Perceiving Music in Sight and Sound, and over a dozen violin texts.
In 1982, Bill moved the family to Boulder, Colorado, where he was an adjunct professor of music at the University of Colorado until his retirement in 2002. He continued to teach and travel until recently, primarily with the Boulder Suzuki Strings program.
He is predeceased by his wife Connie, his parents Ellis and Kathryn, his brothers, Graham, Arthur and Tom, his sisters Virginia and Rose and one child, Suzanne. He is survived by his children Kathleen, Teresa, Gregory, Timothy, Judith, William Jr., Michael, and David, as well as nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Donations in Bill’s memory can be made to the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Boulder Suzuki Strings, or your charity of choice.