Wolfgang Kuhn was born in 1914 in Leipzig, Germany. At a young age he showed a prowess for music and began training on the violin. In 1927 his family emigrated to the United States, and in 1936 he earned his bachelor's degree in music from the University of Illinois. By 1953 he had earned his doctorate in music education and received a professorship at the school. In 1956, he took over the School of Music at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and in 1958 made his way to the music department at prestigious Stanford University.
At about the same time, the Suzuki method of piano instruction was becoming very popular. Rather than learn theory and study sightreading, Suzuki places more emphasis on imitation and "playing by ear." Kuhn saw much promise in this method, and began conducting Suzuki workshops at Stanford for budding violinists.
In 1973, Kuhn began getting information about a relatively novel invention moving throughout the Stanford faculty - the personal computer. With the help of Paul Lorton Jr., he used a PDP-10, an organ, and a teletype machine to create ear training software. It was moved into the basement of Stanford's main auditorium, and soon became a regular part of the teaching process at the school. It was perhaps the first of its kind, and Kuhn saw its success early on.
In 1982, he and Lorton again collaborated to create the MusicMaster software. Based on the popular new Apple-II computer, it was the most sophisticated music education software on the market. It would drill the user on scales, intervals, ear training, and theory. It could play back the user's input, pointing out errors on the screen. It could even record longer segments to the computer in a digitized format and play them back while the user also played - one of the first such programs to ever exist. That same year, Kuhn officially retired from Stanford, though he would return as dean emeritus to teach courses now and then.
Wolfgang Kuhn, a major pioneer in computerized music instruction, passed away at his home March 10, 2003. He was 88.