The local name for the tune is "Mississippi Hot Dog," echoing its rhythm of four short notes followed by two long ones. Melodically, it is a variation of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" or "The Alphabet Song." (Mozart called it "Ah, Vous Dirai-je, Maman," but it's all the same tune.) By any name, it rang out sweetly from 25 violins as American Airlines flight 408 pulled up to the ramp Saturday afternoon and Dr. Shinichi Suzuki came off the plane with 100 Japanese children.
Suzuki, whose theories have revolutionized music-teaching for 100,000 students in Japan and about the same number in the United States, was being welcomed by a select group of local students (ranging in age from 3 to 14) who have studied by the Suzuki method, and he was clearly delighted by the Washington reception.
Grinning broadly and with a vitality surprising in an octogenarian, Suzuki strode across the American Airlines waiting room, began beating time with the young musicians, borrowed a violin to join in, and began leading the young plapers in one selection after another.
Finally, he turned to his traveling companions, who had formed into an audience for the airport serenade, and called across the room: "We play the A-minor." A quick relaying of instructions in Japanese from the bilingual traveling chaperones, and 100 violin cases were being opened, instruments tuned up, and the young travelers, fresh off the plane, joined their American colleagues in a rousing 125-piece rendition of a Bach Concerto. Travelers passing through the airport glance quizzically at the impromptu concert, and some who were not rushing to a plane drifted to the fringes of the crowd of parents and teachers who were standing and listening.
One of the 25 yound Americans who began the concert with "Mississippi Hot Dog" was Amy Carter, who has been studying the Suzuki method since last September, and who is "a very good student," according to her teacher, Ronda Cole.
The Suzuki method requires the mother, if possible, to learn at least the first book and to play along with the child on the violin, and Cole said that Rosalynn Carter has been doing that faithfully: "She's a good student, too."
One of the mothers in the crowd, who went to the Christmas concert given at the White House last year by local Suzuki students, recalled telling Mrs. Carter that she played a piano accompaniment rather than a second fiddle "because some of the finger movements are impossible for an untrained adult."
"Rosalynn didn't say anything," the parent recalled, "but she gave me a look that made me feel guilty."
The airport reception was the beginning of a busy schedule for Suzuki, who conducted several rehearsals for local students yesterday.