Response to Mark O’Connor’s ‘Say It Ain’t So, Shin’ichi Suzuki’

Lois Shepheard said: Apr 18, 2013
 Teacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
13 posts

I am writing in response to a blog written by music entrepreneur, composer and violinist, Mark O’Connor.

He calls it SAY IT AIN’T SO, SHIN’ICHI SUZUKI.

It seems, according to his website, that Mr O’Connor is already an established and successful musician in the US. So, I wonder why he finds it necessary to disparage the teachings of Dr Shinichi Suzuki and to suggest that Suzuki’s method ‘is a lie which was based on a lie…’ If he considers Dr Suzuki a liar, why on earth would Mr O’Connor choose to have his name associated with the Suzuki Method? The O’Connor Violin Method is put forward as ‘an American-themed alternative to the Suzuki approach’.

An announcement he made on the Internet in 2009 said he was producing a ‘Suzuki-inspired series’ of books. I’m sorry that something which inspired him then, fills him with such disillusionment four years later.

Since questions are raised in his blog, I’m happy to comment. I’m probably as qualified as anyone to answer queries about the Suzuki Method. In order to really assess it, I made repeated trips to Japan, studied with Dr Suzuki and got to know him, learned to speak and read Japanese, had discussions with and observed various teachers around the world, read some of Dr Suzuki’s texts in Japanese as well as their English translations—and taught the method.

Admittedly, Mr O’Connor describes his analysis as ‘preliminary’ and his research as ‘initial’. Further analysis and research would have been a good idea before he went public. His blog article includes information provided by Jim Ed Hodges and Katy Alexander.

Mr O’Connor quotes from my recently published book, ‘Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki – Son of His Environment’ (without giving its full title or the name of the author, Lois Shepheard), so I am presuming he has either bought a copy or has access to one. I therefore take the liberty of sometimes addressing his questions/comments by directing him to pages in my book. If anyone doesn’t have ready access to it, there is sure to be an Internet site where a lot of my book can be read on line; then he wouldn’t have to buy it!

My comments are in the order presented in his blog:

  1. At first I, too, made the mistake of thinking Dr Suzuki was all about selling violins. In fact when I first met him in 1967 at a seminar in Manhattan, I told him we couldn’t get very small violins in Melbourne, Australia. He looked at me with no comprehension of the subject. (For Suzuki’s absolute lack of business acumen, see my book p.28, 48-52). Actually, when you think about it, would it have been so very bad if he had been trying to sell violins?

  2. The use of the word ‘guardian’ to describe Einstein’s relationship with Suzuki in Suzuki’s own book Nurtured by Love, and to which Mr O’Connor objects, is one selected by his German wife as she translated from Japanese to English. It could equally have been translated as ‘protector’ which may have had a different implication?

  3. Mr O’Connor objects to Suzuki using the title ‘Doctor’. Suzuki was awarded several honorary doctorates in the US as well as numerous other awards. He therefore used the title ‘Dr’ as would any recipient of an honorary degree. (See p.1 of my book.) All these awards, medals, certificates, plaques etc. are on display at the Suzuki Museum in Matsumoto, Japan.

  4. I’m not quite sure what Mr O’Connor means by Shinichi Suzuki’s ‘supposed relationship with Klingler’. There is no doubt that he studied with Karl Klingler. I met Karl Klingler’s daughter, Marianne, in Germany (in Ingolstadt) in the early 1980’s. She had stories of her father’s association with Suzuki. (She also wanted me to relocate to Germany and teach the Suzuki Method there.) Mr O’Connor doubts that Klingler took a young Suzuki on as a pupil and no others at the time as stated by Suzuki. However, this is quite likely. There is no doubt that Klingler was a reluctant teacher (p, 251 ‘Memoirs’ by Carl Flesch. Also explained in my book, p.10). Klingler was at the time teaching at the Berlin Hochschule and he probably didn’t want to teach at home as well. He would have been interested in a young Japanese man though; Klingler studied with Joachim, as did a Japanese woman, one Ando Ko. Ando Ko had returned to Japan and was Suzuki’s first teacher.

  5. Yes, there is something wrong with the dates of building the S.S.Hakone and the dates Suzuki is said to have sailed on it, if they are as Mark O’Connor says. This merely proves that the dates are muddled, not that Suzuki didn’t go to Germany. Don’t forget that there is sometimes confusion about calculation of Japanese dates. Until very recently, years were numbered in the era of each emperor. As late as the 1980’s in Matsumoto I found documents numbered in the Showa Era – counting from the time of Emperor Hirohito, so starting in 1926 as Year 1. I have a magazine from (Suzuki) Talent Education, marked ’75 on the cover. (I used to subscribe to this magazine.) Though it was printed in 1975, the centre pages with pictures of famous people and events are all captioned with the Showa era dates. Pictures show various musicians with Dr Suzuki and/or Japanese children in Japan, generally in Matsumoto. They include Walter Gieseking, Arthur Grumiaux, Paul Badura-Skoda, Mstislav Rostrapovitch, Pablo Casals, David Oistrakh, Yehudi Menuhin, Marcel Moyse, Leonard Kogan, William Primrose, I Musici. Other pictures are of Suzuki receiving the Ysaye Medal, the honorary qualification at the University of Rochester at Eastman, and from New England Conservatory and holding the medal of the 3rd Order of the Sacred Treasure in Japan.

  6. Mr O’Connor should note that I included the picture of Casals in the above list. It is not the only one in existence. There is another in one of the Talent Education magazines, for a start. I have an audio tape of Casals’ speech in 1961 in Tokyo (see my book p.114). The tape begins with a performance by a group of ‘cellists and one by a group of violin students. Casals sobs and is comforted in Spanish by his wife. He then speaks in English to the audience. The film of this event was shown at the 16th Suzuki Method World Convention in Matsumoto last month (March 2013). Therefore Mr O’Connor’s fears that a meeting between Suzuki and Casals never took place are groundless.

    If pictures, audio clips and films such as these are not uploaded onto the Internet (this causes Mr O’Connor to doubt that such events ever took place), it is merely because Suzuki Talent Education is about education, not publicity or advertising or justifying its existence. Mr O’Connor states that uploading ‘has to be done in the age of the internet to find the truth, where fabrications and assertions, if repeated often enough, become perceived as truth.’

    Not so. The Internet is not the fount of all wisdom. It does not, and will not, replace libraries full of books containing knowledge. In my love of researching history in general, I check many on-line items for validity and often find them to be incorrect when compared with an established book like ‘The Oxford Companion to Irish History’ for instance. Anyone can put anything on the Internet! It’s a great pity that Mr O’Connor uploaded his own assertions before he checked the facts.

  7. The word ‘Suzuki’ in regard to Dr Suzuki’s teaching is not a ‘brand’. It is a philosophy of education.

  8. I am interested to read that Mark O’Connor’s method becomes as he says: ‘more successful, more mainstream, and more clearly FUN.’ That’s great; he is to be congratulated. I’m not decrying the importance of a musician such as Mark O’Connor, but I’m not sure that his successful American-themed method can be compared with that of a world-wide Suzuki Method, over so many decades. (Last month’s convention in Matsumoto had over 5,000 families from 36 countries. The bookings for places at the convention closed after three days, when all classes had already filled.)

  9. The letter from Einstein, written at the end of 1926 and quoted by Mr O’Connor does not, as Mr O’Connor states, prove that Shinichi Suzuki was one of the two Japanese men who gave Einstein a violin and that it was Shinichi’s only contact with Einstein.

    Einstein’s letter to Suzuki’s father says:

    ‘Dear Mr. Masakichi Suzuki,

    Yesterday, your two sons visited my home and showed me four of your wonderful violins. They even invited me to keep one of my choosing as a gift!’

    Shinichi had six brothers, some of them violin makers. In 1926, Shinichi had already been in Germany for some years. We can therefore assume that two of his brothers brought the selection of violins from Japan. I guess we can also presume that if Masakichi Suzuki wanted to give Einstein a violin, it was for a reason. Perhaps to thank him for helping Shinichi? Certainly at the end of 1926, a Japanese violin maker wouldn’t, out of the blue, have sent violins to a scientist in Germany who in 1922 first published ‘The Meaning of Relativity’. If he had heard of him at all, how would Masakichi have even guessed that the scientist dabbled in violin playing?

    Einstein states in his letter that the instruments were superior in tone quality to his own German made instruments which of course would have been hand made. Masakichi was a good violin maker. He is listed in the definitive book on violin makers, Henley’s ‘Universal Dictionary of Violin & Bow Makers’. The instruments shown to Einstein would not have been mere ‘factory’ instruments.

    At any rate, even the Suzuki ‘factory’ instruments were largely hand made. When I visited a Suzuki workshop in Kiso Fukushima as late as 1974, I found that violins were being machine-cut one by one to a pattern and the remainder of the work was done by hand.

  10. I am interested that Mr O’Connor heard about ‘mentorship’ that Suzuki received from Einstein and put forward as ‘dramatically elevating his (Suzuki’s) intellectual credentials’. I would query that too! I have not heard this as a major item toward Suzuki becoming a ‘great man’. Note that in ‘Nurtured by Love’, a book of 121 pages, Einstein is mentioned on only four pages.

  11. ‘Nurtured by Love’ was written only by Shinichi Suzuki, not in collaboration with his wife, Waltraud, as Mr O’Connor states. Waltraud translated it. (See my book p.54)

  12. Mr O’Connor wonders whether Suzuki’s ethics of training a ‘beautiful heart’ and ‘good citizen’ are appropriate to American children, then states quite categorically that such ethics were not needed. He suggests that Dr Suzuki did find these aims necessary in a country ruled by an ‘Emperor as their dictator’. Not so; since about three quarters of the way through the 19th century, Japan has had a Western-style government. The Imperial family is a figurehead, much like the British royal family.

    And actually, I don’t know of any country in the world that doesn’t need good citizens.

Lois Shepheard. Melbourne, Australia.

Paula Bird said: Apr 18, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Dear Lois,

Bless you! That was a wonderfully written article. Thank you for the research and historical information. Thank you too for affirming what we all know at core in our hearts. This article took you much time to write, and we appreciate your work.

Bravo!!

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Danielle said: Apr 18, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Violin
Cheverly, MD
9 posts

Thank you!

Barb said: Apr 18, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

A well-written, well-researched, and kind response! I also thank you!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Jennifer Diedrich said: Apr 19, 2013
Jennifer DiedrichInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Saint Petersburg, FL
3 posts

Thank you, Lois! Your experience and writing is extremely valuable and truly appreciated! It has been difficult to listen to Mr O’Connor’s rants and lack of understanding. It is important that the facts continue to be verbalized and known. What the world definitely needs now is good leadership, good citizens, truth, kindness and compassion. Our Suzuki communities definitely support this!

Sincerely,
Jennifer Diedrich
Suzuki Strings of St Petersburg
Florida Music Institute

Christine said: Apr 19, 2013
Christine Goodner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Viola
Hillsboro, OR
68 posts

Thank you for taking the time to write this response! I would certainly hope that developing a beautiful heart and good citizens continues to be important in America … As a teacher and mother I see many young students doing just that, and they are the ones who make me hopeful for the future.

Christine Goodner

Studio Website: Brookside Suzuki Strings

Blog: The Suzuki Triangle

“When Love is Deep, Much can be Accomplished” ~ Suzuki

Amy Royse Brown said: Apr 19, 2013
Amy Royse Brown
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Lima, Peru
1 posts

This is fantastic and good citizens is not just relegated to national citizens but global citizens as well and that is exactly what we need more of in this world. Thank you for the post.

Amy Royse

Stephanie Flack said: Apr 19, 2013
Stephanie Flack
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Alexandria, VA
1 posts

Beautifully written and eloquently stated!

Rebecca Floyd said: Apr 19, 2013
Rebecca Floyd
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Athens, GA
2 posts

Yes! Thank you.

Charmian Stewart said: Apr 19, 2013
Charmian Stewart
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
4 posts

Thank you!

Ruthann Biel said: Apr 19, 2013
 1 posts

This whole thing is so sad. My son did Suzuki from age 6 though age 19, finished book 10. He also went to Mark O’Connor’s String Camp a few times when it was in San Diego. My son was born to improvise, did it from the beginning. Sharing this with Mark made no difference. I finally “unfriended” him on Facebook, because I just couldn’t take the ranting anymore.

Alice Vierra said: Apr 19, 2013
Alice VierraTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Suzuki in the Schools
Arlington, VA
6 posts

Thank you so much for writing this response. I love all of the details you shared.
As someone said already, thank you for the affirmation of what we know in our hearts about the Suzuki approach.

Julianna Chitwood said: Apr 19, 2013
Julianna Chitwood
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Rockville, MD
2 posts

Dear Lois,

I wish to sincerely thank you for your clear, thoughtful and well-researched response. It is deeply appreciated.

Julianna Chitwood

Keri Tomenko said: Apr 19, 2013
Keri Tomenko
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
6 posts

Lois, Thank you for sharing your experiences, your researching and writing this response. Very much appreciated!
Keri

Ian Salmon said: Apr 19, 2013
Ian Salmon
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Addison, TX
21 posts

Dear Lois,
Thank you so much for this well written piece. For the last year, it has become so apparent that the musician I once loved has succumbed to using dreadful tactics in an attempt to popularize a personal agenda. It’s a shame. I pre-ordered his books 1/2 when they were first announced. I quickly found ways to incorporate parts of them into my own curriculum. To little surprise, I found that they fit in organically with a Suzuki program.

I’ve tried to avoid commenting on his rants. Partially because they simply upset me too much. But also because I feared discouraging other teachers from pursuing their own variations of curriculum and adding to the string education world. As a community, members of the SAA should not discourage anyone from exploring alternative pedagogy or repertoire outside of our “way”. We want to ENCOURAGE it if we are truly following the Suzuki Philosophy. Unfortunately, Mr. O’Connor crossed the line a year ago, right before the conference in Minneapolis. I felt it was the big elephant in the room during the sessions. You could overhear teachers discussing it at all times of the day. We were forced to play defense. Unfortunately, without a proper “offense”, we know that it will take some time before the other team eventually tires out and goes home.

I applaud the SAA Board in their careful treading in regards to Mr. O’Connor. Your research is a wonderful way to increase discussion using plain-sight evidence. Hopefully, we can stand strong as a community and avoid any name-calling. Let’s continue show the world that we can rise above all this hate.

Ian Salmon
Violin and Viola Instructor
Suzuki Music Institute of Dallas
www.SuzukiMusicDallas.org

Herine Coetzee Koschak said: Apr 19, 2013
Herine Coetzee KoschakCello
1 posts

Thank you so much, Ms. Shepheard, for this thoughtful and gracious response. I have really struggled to come to terms with Mr. O’Connor’s recent, below-the-belt rants, having always admired his artistry and considerable contributions to string playing. Your eloquence and thorough research is much appreciated.

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Apr 19, 2013
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

Thank you for taking the time to put together this excellent response. What’s really sad about the whole situation is that it really should not be an either/or scenario. There are many young students out there that enjoy classical music. It’s foolish to think that “fiddling” is a one-size-fits-all solution.

Students should always be encouraged to pursue their passions.

Courtney Morgan said: Apr 19, 2013
 Violin
Smithville, MO
9 posts

I have honestly never heard of Mr. O’Connor prior to this rant of his, but I have known about Suzuki for about as long as I have played the violin. Granted, it sounds like Mr. O’Connor is over 1,000 miles away from me even though we live in the same country, but I would have thought that if he really were that “mainstream” I would have heard about him or at least seen one of his books in a local music store. Apparently, his fame has not quite made its way coast to coast.

I do understand somewhat where O’Connor may be coming from. My teachers did not use the Suzuki method, but they used Suzuki repertoire. Until I began researching Suzuki myself, I assumed as many traditionally-trained violinist have that you must be a toddler to begin Suzuki lessons and that you outgrow them at some point. I have also been in orchestras with musicians who were cheated by the Suzuki method because in their case one side of the triangle was missing or sorely lacking: either the teacher did not apply it correctly and never introduced note-reading or else the parents were not involved. I was slowly able to see the value of Suzuki’s contribution to music as I researched it; I did not come to the same conclusions as O’Connor. As a result, even though I do have some understanding of the environment that may have prompted his initial negativity, I do not understand the hostility. Trying to make Suzuki into a liar does not refute the evidence that the method is successful for those who apply it correctly.

My conclusion is that O’Connor is himself trying to sell something. He has a competing method, and he wants everyone to believe it is comparable to but better than Suzuki and has resorted to tearing Suzuki down rather than building him up.

Teresa said: Apr 19, 2013
Teresa Skinner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

BRAVO, Lois!

…if you listen to the music, it tells you what to do…

Matthew Weiss said: Apr 19, 2013
Matthew WeissLynnwood, WA
7 posts

Hi Everyone,

I have also tangled with Mark and have even created a blog in response to his:

http://matthewcweiss.wordpress.com/

Yes, his method appears to have a lot of good stuff in it, and people generally love his weekend workshops. My biggest complaint is this:

  1. Totally heavy-handed marketing approach and over the top Suzuki-bashing.

  2. Whereas Mark insists his method is “complete” and discourages his converts from using outside materials, it is in fact woefully lacking in any Classical Violin repertoire to speak of.

—Matt

Cynthia Faisst said: Apr 19, 2013
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

Thank you Lois:

I wanted to find these very examples somewhere on line to help me refute what he was saying directly on Mark’s blog where his followers would be exposed to it. I don’t expect to change Mark’s mind about anything but I think it is very important that people who hear his opinions are armed with enough information to recognize his assumptions for what they are. I hope they took the time to look up the link to the Historical Home in Matsumoto. I think that their curator would be considered a trusted source. However, one would need an adequate translator to make use of the information.

It is frustrating that this information is not documented on line in well sourced and annotated form in English. I found it frustrating not being able to easily point to thorough and trustworthy sources when confronted with these arguments. I want to be able to point people to accurate information and allow them to do their own thinking. It is difficult enough staying on top of teaching with out having to justify your existence. I am proud of the years of training I received in Japan, and I feel hand cuffed when I can’t easily verify the legitimacy of Sensei’s history.

Irrefutable information and facts is power, not my exasperation or antidotes.

I am not offended that someone like Mark would ask these questions. It does make me think about what I believe is important. But there should be just as much information online answering those questions. I felt that the Wikipedia entry lacked a great deal of information and needs to be updated with sufficient sources.

Understandably, there is not a great deal of funding to make these sources available. We have had to set our priorities on development of pedagogy. It is only by the selfless effort of people like you who struggle to publish this history.

I have a cassette tape copy of that recording from Casals Speech. The English is cut down so you can hear the Japanese translation on the other channel. It is a beautiful moment in history where their paths cross. I do hope there is a better copy of the original digitalized and archived somewhere. I find myself worrying whether someone in Japan realized the significance of these events and adequately save any record of them. It certainly belongs in a documentary.

In the light of new efforts toward using music as an agent of social change in the lives of children it would be timely for a more detailed documentary from reliable sources. It is important to appreciate the significance of Sensei’s place in the development of the renewed interest in the affect that music can play in the lives of children and the society they create.

For the benefit of my students I want to be able to point to factual and historical evidence that Suzuki Sensei had a pivotal influence on music pedagogy that was integral to the person that I knew personally. I don’t want them to think I was just won over by the charms of his teaching methods, as effective as they are. Our young people start with information on line as a reference point and we need to be sure that information is available to them.

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Lois Shepheard said: Apr 19, 2013
 Teacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
13 posts

Ian Salmon says we should not discourage any teacher from exploring alternative pedagogy or repertoire outside the ‘Suzuki way’.
Quite right.
When teachers returned to Matsumoto after a period away, Dr Suzuki used to ask, ‘What have you researched? What have you discovered?’
We cannot ignore what we learned before our association with the Suzuki Method or what we have assimilated since. The Suzuki Method is not a sealed package.
Our task is to teach each student appropriately to his needs.
As the student of Zen wrote (quoted in ‘Teach Yourself Zen’—Humphreys): ‘A thousand thousand men have climbed to the summit of Mt Fuji in Japan to see the sun rise in the distant sea; none told the same tale of the journey.’

Marco Lucchi said: Apr 19, 2013
Marco Lucchi
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Cherry Hill, NJ
4 posts

Thank you Lois, great work!
Cynthia, I AGREE with you, about having all the historical document/evidence available on the web.

Thanks, everyone!

Lois Shepheard said: Apr 19, 2013
 Teacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
13 posts

Can I just make one more comment?
Mr O’Connor has stated that Dr Suzuki ‘didn’t want anything to do with American music, because there is not a single piece of American music in his method, and at a time when American music was enjoyed throughout most of the world.’
But there is no Australian music either, or Japanese, or Hungarian, or Russian…
The choice of standard classical repertoire in the Suzuki violin books, as we know, was designed for the training of tone quality—the essence of the Suzuki Method.
(From Suzuki’s ‘A Philosophy of Performance—30 Years’ Meditation on Sound’: ‘30 years ago my ears first heard the sound of Kreisler and Casals … since then I have meditated before that magnificent sound, … to follow that sound … has become the reason for my existence.’)
Does Mr O’Connor mean N. American music? Actually, that was not ‘enjoyed throughout most of the world’ when Dr Suzuki put the course together. Well, it wasn’t heard a lot in Australia!

It would help to have official information on the Web, I agree—provided we could all tell what was ‘official’ and correct…

Alicia said: Apr 19, 2013
Alicia Randisi-Hooker
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Knoxville, TN
5 posts

I would like to second Ian Salmon’s thoughtful and articulate post. I have taken Mr. O’Connor’s training and have enjoyed adapting his work for my cello students. At no point in the training did I have an inkling that his views on his method would take this unfortunate trajectory, and I applaud your beautifully written response.

I believe our community can withstand any attack on it’s relevance and place in the world of music and music education, as evidenced by the enormous success Dr. Suzuki’s teaching, philosophy, and repertoire all over the world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Alicia Randisi-Hooker
CelloLeap Studio, Knoxville TN
www.celloleap.com

Laura Nerenberg said: Apr 19, 2013
Laura NerenbergViolin
Ottawa, ON
50 posts

Thank you for your measured response.

Jody Harmon said: Apr 19, 2013
Jody Harmon
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Westford, MA
3 posts

Agreed. Thank you Lois for the measured, respectful, and well written response.

Richard Lohmann said: Apr 19, 2013
Richard Lohmann
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
9 posts

Thank you, Lois.

The essence of Mark O’Connor’s diatribe is clearly coming from a deeply personal place. He feels insulted and offended by something or someone somehow related to the Suzuki philosophy. We may never know what that is. HE may never know what that is.

We will not change his opinion.

Let us go about our business becoming the best teachers we can, and hope that whatever personal and professional slights that haunt Mr. O’Connor dissipate to the point that he can spend his valuable time on the very important work of creating a truly American violin method. His hours slandering the Suzuki philosophy are wasted. He has better things to do.

Julio Cesar Anselmo Possette said: Apr 20, 2013
 Cello, Suzuki in the Schools
10 posts

Thank you Lois for the benevolence to share their opinions. We know the truth of the Suzuki philosophy and his notes and I think maybe Mark O’Connor’s can only understand what you’re doing over time. Time will show the actual effect of his work and who knows, maybe in four years ago he does not come back again.

Regards to all

Sue Hunt said: Apr 20, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Well said Richard. We are spending valuable time becoming upset by Mr O’Connor, which kind of puts us on his level. I’d rather focus on calmly getting on with the very best that I can.

Derek said: Apr 20, 2013
Derek DeakinsViolin
Mount Pleasant, SC
2 posts

It seems that Mark O’Connor’s books are being used in part as supplemental material to the Suzuki repertoire. If you are interested in incorporating more fiddling into your Suzuki studio, you may be interested in a book that was written specifically with the Suzuki student in mind called “Fiddlin’ Favorites.”

My wife has designed this book specifically for the Suzuki student and it correlates directly with the Suzuki repertoire. I have found that it is the perfect accompaniment to the Suzuki pieces! Each piece reinforces specific techniques learned from the Suzuki repertoire and has a guide to suggest when each piece could be taught within the Suzuki progression of pieces.

Check it out at www.lisadeakins.com/fiddlin-favorites.html

Lois Shepheard said: Apr 20, 2013
 Teacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
13 posts

I agree with Richard Lohmann and Sue Hunt.
We’ll all just teach.
Best wishes to all.

Lois Shepheard said: Apr 21, 2013
 Teacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
13 posts

I have to amend a comment I made in my original article. Answering the criticism that Suzuki used the title ‘Dr’, I said he was qualified to do so, having been given honorary doctorates. I’ve been alerted to the fact that in some countries the use of the honorary title ‘Dr’ isn’t usual.
But that advice made me think a little more clearly.
In Japan, Suzuki was called Suzuki Sensei. If I am in Japan I am called Sensei. Sensei = master, teacher, doctor.
It’s we English speakers who called Suzuki ‘Doctor’.

Carole said: Apr 22, 2013
Carole Kane
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Atlanta, GA
6 posts

Lois,
Thanks for your comprehensive response to MOC’s article. I wanted to tell everyone here that I already explained the meaning of “Sensei” to Mark, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He insisted that Suzuki knew full well what “Doctor” meant in the USA and that Suzuki fraudulently encouraged the use of that name in order to promote his method! LOL
Yes, He actually called Suzuki a fraud! LOL, LOL, even my dog is laughing,…BOL!

Hilde Cooper Singer said: Apr 22, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
1 posts

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this!!

Carole said: Apr 22, 2013
Carole Kane
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Atlanta, GA
6 posts
Lois Shepheard said: Apr 22, 2013
 Teacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
13 posts

Yes Carole, I saw the latest O’Connor blogspont. Not to worry…
And by the way, the Suzuki concert Casals attended was in Tokyo not in Matsumoto. I didn’t make that clear in my book, ‘Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki, Son of His Environment’. He is pictured at that Tokyo concert in Evelyn Hermann’s book, ‘Shinichi Suzuki, The Man and His Environment.’
In a row are: 1) Mr. Takahashi ( founder of the Suzuki Flute School). His face is turned from the camera. So I am making an assumption here, but it looks like a young Takahashi; 2) Casals’ own wife; 3)Casals himself, applauding enthusiastically, hands raised; 4) Mr Sato (founder of the Suzuki Cello School); 5) Dr Suzuki’s wife, Waltraud Suzuki.

Marco Lucchi said: Apr 22, 2013
Marco Lucchi
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Cherry Hill, NJ
4 posts

OMG, Carole, I wonder how much time/energy O’Connor is spending over trying to attack Dr. Suzuki’s reputation …does he still find time to teach or even sleep?

MaryLou Roberts said: Apr 23, 2013
MaryLou RobertsTeacher Trainer
Institute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar
Ann Arbor, MI
244 posts

Another marketing tool without claiming it is. Sometimes people see in others what is too difficult to see in themselves.

Cynthia Faisst said: Apr 23, 2013
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

I have been ease dropping on comments by other alternative pedagogues in the Jazz Violin field. Clearly it is a competitive place filled with much young talent. I wonder how that happened? The best of them quite versatile. A few of them also working on their own methods, but few would not be glad to have Suzuki kids under their noses at a workshop.

If I were in the Jazz Fiddle field right now and had all this young talent around for competition wailing away on the YouTube as my career matured into its golden years, I don’t suppose I would be having a bit of a mid career crisis such as Mr. O’Conner seems to be displaying in his rants.

And maybe he is right to see us as a major rival. The Suzuki Method has raised a generation of amateurs, who want to participate as musicians, not just sit on the side lines and consume recordings. Our goal from the beginning was to make playing a musical instrument accessible to every child and democratising the landscape of music in the world.

Perhaps MC’s rants are a sign that we are already a bit more successful than we imagined. Even for those who did not start with the Suzuki Method we have changed the environment. Your efforts are already changing and requiring new roles for those who would pursue music as a career or performer. You can hear its rumblings in the classical music world as well. “Our audiences have changed they keep saying. How do we reach them?”

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Edward Kreitman said: Apr 23, 2013
Edward KreitmanTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
25 posts

Dear Lois,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write your detailed and logical explanation to Mr. O’Connor. Unfortunately, he responded exactly the way he has responded to anyone who has tried to disagree, respond or enlighten him in any way. What he wants most…is for us to engage with him. Did you notice how your response allowed him to “amp up” his message on his blog.

We are not dealing with a rational person, so rational dialogue is useless. I have been watching very carefully since the first attack on Suzuki appeared on his blog in May of 2012. He replies to every comment on the blog…and none of it makes any sense.

What I find so disheartening, is that he is so determined to undermine Dr. Suzuki’s work with the most ridiculous accusations and criticisms. I never gave a hoot whether Dr. Suzuki ever met Albert Einstein. What impressed me were the students! When I first heard the Japanese Tour Group back in the 70’s I had never heard anything like it and I was hooked. I never could have dreamt that becoming a disciple of this man and his philosophy would allow my life to blossom in the way it has. Not only did I find that it was possible to duplicate his standard of excellence….I learned how studying music the Suzuki way could be life changing for children and their families.

Of course, I have no way of really knowing, but my belief is that Dr. Suzuki would have loved the O’Connor method…if it put musical instruments into the hands of children and was taught with love. What a shame that Mr. O’Connor can’t just focus on his own method. In one of his blog posts he has said that he has been working with his method for 20 years. That seems time enough to see some real results. So where are all those artist, composer, arranger, band leader, producer, performers that he has been developing.

I do not think that we need to defend the history or biography of Dr. Suzuki. All of us who knew him, know that he lived for one thing and that was to teach. If, as Mr. O’Connor would have us believe…all of this was a marketing ploy….where is the money? Dr. and Mrs. Suzuki lived their entire lives in their modest home in Matsumoto.

What I would love to see…is a website where all the professional musicians around the world who benefitted from a Suzuki background would post their musical activities today. What an amazing list that would be…and it would be even better…if all the NON professional musicians also posted what they are doing as a result of having learned an instrument the Suzuki way.

I also hope that we can all resist the urge to comment or try to engage in any further discussion with Mr. O’Connor. In cases like this, perhaps it is best to simply ignore him. If we realizes that he is not getting anywhere….perhaps he’ll give it up and move on to something else.

In the meantime, I so agree with some of the earlier posts….that the what we can really do is continue to do our best work and bring a standard of excellence to the lives of as many children as we possibly can. This is what would make Dr. Suzuki happy.

Ian Salmon said: Apr 23, 2013
Ian Salmon
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Addison, TX
21 posts

Bravo Ed.. as always, I enjoyed reading your post very much.

As you suggest, perhaps what we need is a true blackout. We say that we have been “ignoring” him. But, here we are again. Every few months or so I know that I give into the temptation and vent in frustration. It’s so clear that our strength as a community is intimidating, or else I don’t feel he would spend so much time on his lengthy retorts. If everyone (this would require tremendous commitment from our entire organization), would agree to remain completely silent, I think it would show our true resolve. In silence, we could revel in knowing that we are taking the high road.

Ian Salmon
Violin and Viola Instructor
Suzuki Music Institute of Dallas
www.SuzukiMusicDallas.org

Lois Shepheard said: Apr 23, 2013
 Teacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
13 posts

Well said, Ed Kreitman.
I first wrote because someone here in Australia told me there was a person called O’Connor whose blog was quoting from my book, using the passages to suit his own views, not as they were originally intended.
I then set off this stream of comments.
Sorry about that…
Lois

Edward Kreitman said: Apr 23, 2013
Edward KreitmanTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
25 posts

Hi Lois,

No apology necessary…you were right try to set the record straight…but as I’m sure you have realized from his response to your very straightforward presentation of the facts…he’s really not interested in anything that anyone else has to say..unless they are writing to agree with him.

Cheers
Ed

Alicia said: Apr 23, 2013
Alicia Randisi-Hooker
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Knoxville, TN
5 posts

As one who actually took the method training course before any of this emerged, tried to engage Mr. O’Connor to set the record straight, and came up against his resistance to the facts covered by Lois on a friend’s Facebook page, I have to agree with Ed and Ian. Peaceful, silent resistance and focus on our own work is the most powerful tool we have.

I just read an interesting piece by a favorite author of mine, Anne Lamott, in which she describes a Kafka-esque experience with a resistant store clerk while trying to return a hat she had purchased because it was too small. She achieved her aim of a refund by remaining cheerful in the face of a surly and rude employee, and producing the evidence of her purchase; in this case, tags she had ripped off the item. The “proof” in the form of the receipt that she had bought the hat was not enough for the clerk… they wanted to see the tags, claiming that they did not sell that brand in their store. Her persistent unflappability and calm demeanor while she was essentially accused of being a liar produced the desired end. Sometimes all we can do is “keep calm and carry on” and show our “proof” with the complete musicians we help to train.

Hatsuho said: Apr 23, 2013
Hatsuho Kuwayama
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Meguro-Ku Tokyo, Japan
6 posts

I have followed this thread from the beginning, and I did not want to post my comment. But I am now, because I would like to thank Ed Kreitman for suggesting us to discontinue the useless dialogue with an irrational person.

I was not going to respond to Mr. O’Connor, not because he is not well known here in Japan (I have not heard of him until I spotted his name on one of Yo Yo Ma’s CD) and that those who know who he is think that he is a guitarist rather than a violinist, but also I am so used to hearing groundless rumor and criticism about Suzuki Method here in Japan for such a long time.

Within Japan, for more than 50 years, Talent Education has been criticized by renowned musicians and teachers, well-established conservatories university fine arts departments, and famous newspaper and journalists, as well as on many web conversations recently. However, Dr. Suzuki and his successors have always remained calm and silent and have not responded openly to those unfounded accusations, the reason why all us would know very well by now.

Having said that, I would like to share with you an interesting, and perhaps one of the very few not-so-positive phrases from Dr. Suzuki. I have a few Japanese friends who studied with Dr. Suzuki for many years. According to them, Dr. Suzuki , although everybody knew how sincere he was as to teaching, was often heard to say, not directly to the student he was referring to but to others whom he could trust, “Kan-jin mon wa dahme-dah (Those who cannot feel from his heart are helpless).”

Although we may have spent so much time on a “helpless” situation, but as someone has pointed out earlier, it has certainly given me a good opportunity to reflect on what I do and believe as a Suzuki teacher/parent, so thanks to all of you, too.

Angelique said: Apr 24, 2013
 2 posts

Hello, I am a Suzuki parent of 11 years. I have not really heard of Mr. O’ Conner until now. I just wanted to say that the Suzuki program at our local university is why my four children are involved in music. The social atmosphere of getting together with other families and enjoying music and having fun centered around playing an instrument is irreplaceable. I don’t think Mr. O’ Connor can emulate that aspect of Suzuki training.
And even though my children may never be improvising, professional, or teaching musicians, it has opened up a place in their heart for music that will be with them all of their lives. My 15 year old sons did not stay with Suzuki violin after 10 years, but they moved on to viola, piano, guitar, and bass and still play today. They know how valuable a musical education is to being virtuous human beings.
My 6 year old daughters are now in violin and cello and I have learned that playing an instrument takes dedication, which means regular practice incorporated into our daily life: success breeds success. We have thoroughly enjoyed learning via the Suzuki method and I myself have joined in and am in Violin School Book 3. The Suzuki method gives us security because we have defined goals and beautiful repertoire within a structure that we can understand and relate to.
Mr. O’Conner, I have learned is a remarkable, gifted musician. It’s perplexing why his heart is still so hard.

Angie V

MaryLou Roberts said: Apr 24, 2013
MaryLou RobertsTeacher Trainer
Institute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar
Ann Arbor, MI
244 posts

I have some colleagues who know Mr. O’Connor, and perhaps a fairly recent breakup could be contributing to this—-his former wife and mother-in law were Suzuki teachers.

Part of the struggle we are facing is that we are music teachers busy giving our best to families and children. We read and work on our teaching, it is an Art, and if we argue and fight with Mr. O’Connor, it ends up affecting our thoughts and lessons and lives. An expressive musician having a revenge frenzy is pretty powerful and emotional, and it makes things difficult.

If anything, this difficulty has made us all the more aware of how special the Suzuki approach is, to really appreciate how great it is to teach music from all over the world, from many times and generations. Where love of music and people is deep, parents, teachers and children thrive. Suzuki teaching has become well established and liked for a good reason; it just works. We can even improve! So let’s use our energy toward the future, we need lots of teachers doing what they can to contribute to this success.

The negative is easy, and mixed up. The positive is more powerful and clear. I learned that from a Suzuki teacher.

Cynthia Faisst said: Apr 25, 2013
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

My suspicions confirmed. All the more reason not to confront Mr. O’Connor. I was not expecting to have any influence on him.

But I think that it commends us to have as accurate and complete information on our own pages for anyone who is sitting on the fence and wondering who to believe. I think we should make this kind of fact finding as easy to verify as humanly possible.

Makes me want to read Lois Shepheard’s book.

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

MaryLou Roberts said: Apr 26, 2013
MaryLou RobertsTeacher Trainer
Institute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar
Ann Arbor, MI
244 posts

The basic question is the difference between times in history. Is a person allowed to judge history from a contemporary perspective? This seems to be the reason all these fact based points, sound misplaced. One example is putting our computer age accuracy onto a time when this was not the case. Another is standing in rows to play, or using the word “creativity”. If we treated US history this way, then we would have to say that Abraham Lincoln was prejudiced at the least, and we would learn nothing of the importance from the time that he lived. Judging the work of another with values that didn’t exist is wrong. It’s just as ridiculous as saying that Bach should have used birth control. :) Mr. O’Connor’s comments are for the most part totally out of context. We can add more facts and clarity along the way, as historians produce their important work.

Thanks to everyone, for fleshing this out. It is very helpful to many busy teachers!

Lois Shepheard said: Apr 27, 2013
 Teacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
13 posts

Well said, MaryLou.

In the same vein—we often attribute something of our own personal makeup/thoughts to other people. It happens in all spheres of human activity; the departmental manager might imagine that a particular person is vying for his managerial job, simply because that is what he himself would do if their positions were reversed. My particular fault in this area is that I am still naïve after all these years of teaching/dealing with people. I’m still surprised when a student says he’ll practise something and doesn’t do so.
According to the Web (see bluegrassintelligencer.com) Mr O’Connor’s students/followers recite his pledge every morning before fiddle practice. The pledge promotes discipline, loyalty, pride and devotion to the national musical heritage of America. The site shows a picture of a lad, red sash around his neck, reciting the pledge at a recent concert. That’s OK. But to imagine that, similarly, Dr Suzuki wanted to communicate some sort of Japanese ideology (as Mark fears) doesn’t follow.

I have an objection: In a recent attack on me, Mark says I stated that I am ‘one of Suzuki’s top biographers’.
He is not correct. I have never stated this; never written it; never thought it. In fact my book ‘Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki – Son of His Environment’ is not a biography (a written account of the life-course of another person) at all. In it I have explained something of Suzuki’s background, and some events which affected this son of his environment. Other than that the book is a series of memories – as per its title.
This is all explained on the book’s p. 1:
‘With the passing of time … as modern children and teachers who never met the master create their own picture of Shinichi Suzuki, he is becoming just a name, just the word ‘Suzuki’, or a characterless cardboard cut-out, or a God-like figure.
He would have laughed at this last image.’
‘… I’d like to try to sketch his likeness for you. What I recall most is his single-minded determination to impart his knowledge of the sound of the violin, his constant statement that every child can be educated, his honesty, his unfailing sense of humour and always his complete and utter humility.’
‘… I have added for your interest some additional recollections of my visits to Japan, maybe a glimpse into Dr Suzuki’s environment.’

Quite simply, Mark O’Connor is one of those ‘who never met the master’’, not in the flesh or in any sort of understanding.

Signing off…
Lois

Richard Lohmann said: Apr 28, 2013
Richard Lohmann
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
9 posts

Lois, bluegrassintelligencer is a parody site. Look carefully.

Paula Bird said: May 16, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

I wrote a comment in response to Miss Pam Wiley’s blog post on violinist.com. Her blog article intrigued me, so I purchased book one of the O’Connor method . My comment explains my reaction to the CD:

http://www.violinist.com/blog/pamelawiley/20135/14643/

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Paula Bird said: May 16, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Oh boy, I opened up a can of worms! I just learned that Mark O’Connor has made a big deal out of my comments, without even knowing anything about me or understanding the context of my remarks. The funny thing is though, and Mark does not know this, I have always been a fan of Mark. I own much of his advanced music and have taught his études to one of my college students.

I can probably delete my comments to Ms. Wiley’s article, but the damage has already been done. Any advice or ideas?

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Edward Kreitman said: May 17, 2013
Edward KreitmanTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
25 posts

Hi Paula,

This is exactly the reason that I have been recommending ignoring Mark O’Connor
and Pamela Wiley’s attack on the Suzuki Method. They are simply not interested in engaging in intelligent, logical discussion. What they most want, is for someone to engage with them, which gives the opportunity for more diatribe…as you experienced. I continue to suggest…let them talk to the air.

I am actually very sad about the choices that Mark O’Connor has made, because I also had so much respect for him as a performer, and was happy to see that he had created his own method. (which I still believe Dr. Suzuki would have loved)

I really wish that he would put all of his energy into creating and promoting his own method, instead of spending so much time trying to destroy Suzuki.

Carrie said: May 17, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

Paula,
When my husband asked that question of some farmers, they told him, “If you wrestle with the pigs, you’re going to get dirty.” In other words, let it go. What’s done is done. An old friend of mine used to say, “The less said, the sooner healed.” I’m with Edward. Continue to live your life to the best of your ability and don’t give any energy to Mark and his followers. You are appreciated here.

carebear1158

MaryLou Roberts said: May 17, 2013
MaryLou RobertsTeacher Trainer
Institute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar
Ann Arbor, MI
244 posts

On the other hand, there are a lot of teachers who can appreciate your comments, Paula. Maybe there is a difference between wrestling with the pigs, and idly watching as one pig tries to stomp on all the others.

Laurie Niles said: May 17, 2013
Laurie Niles
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
3 posts

I welcome people’s positive comments about the Suzuki Method on Violinist.com, including lists of excellent players who started in Suzuki. I tried to do this in an article I wrote for the Strad magazine last September as well. Blogs that also explain why Suzuki works so well, etc. are also welcome. There are plenty of ways to spread lots of positive messages about Suzuki, and it’s not in the least bit necessary to mention you-know-who.

For anyone who’s getting really upset because of Mark, just unsubscribe, block, don’t open e-mails. There’s really no reason to pay attention to someone who just clearly is not on the same page at all. Also, it’s not too hard to find good fiddle books and I’ve never met a Suzuki kid who has trouble improvising or trying a new style!

Johanna Rachel Brunjes said: May 20, 2013
Johanna Rachel BrunjesViolin
Walnut Cove, NC
4 posts

I was ready to post some questions on violinist.com in response to Pamela Wiley’s “Confessions” article, and the “debate” in general. The 48 hour waiting period to post a comment as a new member saved me. I’m assuming that this forum is a safe place to bring up my questions about Mark O’Connor and Pamela Wiley’s rants without subjecting myself to bullying.

  1. Is Mark angry at all the former Suzuki students playing behind him in the orchestras when he is performing his fiddle concertos? Just the teachers? Just the method books? Just the founder of the method? All of it?
  2. Are Pamela and Mark displeased with these former Suzuki students/orchestral players collective tone, articulation, and bowing technique in general? How about the intonation, is that acceptable?
  3. Should these orchestral musicians follow their section leaders and play their parts in unison to accompany Mark while he is performing one of his concertos, or should their be a 50 part fiddle frenzy, of free improvising? Improvisation is superior to playing what is printed on the page, right?
  4. How many string players would be left on the orchestral stage if everyone who grew up as a Suzuki student, taught using the method, or just taught using the books magically disappeared?
  5. Who hasn’t played Boil ‘em Cabbage Down since they were six, after hearing another kid play it once, without ever purchasing a fiddle method book?

These are just rhetorical questions, of course, because their is no discussion going on, just attacks, and it is not worth getting sucked in to this insanity. Fiddling is cool, but I am getting his cooty covered method books out of my house. I just wish I could get my money back.

Rachel

Marissa Murphy said: May 20, 2013
Marissa Murphy
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Chevy Chase, MD
3 posts

Greetings to everyone on this forum! Thank you all for your positive energies and generous examples of how to behave!

I am writing in response to Paula, who seemed to be a bit concerned about Mark attacking her. I say this from personal experience- he DOES NOT matter.

Paula- you probably don’t know, but I was the teacher that first posted in response to Mark’s blog last Memorial Day weekend. My post to him was thoughtful and generous in thanking him for his contributions to the musical world, and I explained to him that Dr. Suzuki was someone who lived a life of inclusion and respect for others. I told him that tearing other people down is not the way to get people to come together, and that I wished that he had been able to experience my life as a Suzuki child and now teacher, because he would be a different person now. I offered a respectful critique of his article and explained how I had taken his “training” and that I was disappointed with his materials and especially upset that he did not do the training himself- it was his mother in law who did the training. I asked him to consider being more scholarly in his approach, and interestingly their personal relationship still has not been disclosed to any participants.

To be very blunt- Mark tore me a new one! I was horrified by the personal message I received from him, and then also the public posts he made about me in which he flat out lied and denigrated me. After a few tense days of many e-mails, texts, and upset calls from teachers and friends who were attending the SAA conference, I realized that Mark is a person of extreme mental and emotional problems. I did not respond to his message or his posts about me because I felt that he exhibited signs of great instability and I did not want to endanger my students and family. Although he was guilty of lying about me in a public forum, I decided not to waste my time and money on pursuing him.

My message to you is this- he has so many problems that you and I and the rest of the world cannot fix. He is a man to be pitied and he deserves no more time and energy from anyone in our community. I have finally wised up and decided to follow the example of my Suzuki heroes (like Ed!) who have adopted the Gandhi approach to Mark. They have known all along that we needed to let Mark self-destruct on his own, which is what is starting to happen. Paula- your studio will not lose good students over this; and although I have never met you, I know that you must be a person of strong and generous character to be a Suzuki teacher in the first place! Stay strong and know that it does get better. People like Mark only make you feel badly and insecure if you let them. Good luck and I wish you and your students all the best in the future!

Sincerely,
Marissa Murphy

Cynthia Faisst said: May 21, 2013
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

Well Ed:

Didn’t you feel like you were reading a laundry list of things that could under-mine any studio or program regardless of the method, even the MOC Method. Pam meanders a bit in her rant, but I couldn’t help but take a few notes. The minute we see our teaching limited to what is published on paper it becomes a trap. These are only the skeletons or starting places for something that still needs to be fleshed out to breath and take on a life of its own.

I came to the conclusion that this is the nature of the beast. In teaching, like parenting, we are all in recovery all the time. The need for reflection is constant. What I learned from watching Sensei is that we are stuck the moment we stop wanting to find a better teaching idea or method. My best teaching experiences have been in environments where the collaborators have been curious and always searching. The only way out is inquiry.

What better kind of walking, talking environment we could expose our children to? After listening to parents recently in my urban Suzuki Program for under served children tell me what benefits they aspired for their children to receive from their musical studies, I was impressed and challenged by their understanding, observations and expectations. They wanted it all. Leave no stone unturned. Give our children every thing it takes to overcome their challenges both emotionally and intellectually. Where else but with music can we marry a child’s Emotional IQ with their Technical Ability?

I know that sometimes, I will fall short. Sometimes a student needs more resources than we currently have at the center. But over time these families are creating a community that is learning to get the most out of the Suzuki Method and shape it to meet the developmental needs of their children. I hope we will always keep re-evaluating its influence on our students so we can adapt it to meet the potential of these children.

What I don’t find with MOC’s educational method is that he does not see value in the power of music to transform human communities. What inspired me about Sensei is that he saw the potential of music to transform the next generation. The process of music is medicine for our recovery and healing.

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Cynthia Faisst said: May 21, 2013
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

There are a number of young people working on Jazz Violin and Fiddle Methods some of which are pretty good since the early days of David Baker. They also tend to be aimed at somewhat older students. Now I would really like to hear what they think of the MOC Method.

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Julio Cesar Anselmo Possette said: May 21, 2013
 Cello, Suzuki in the Schools
10 posts

Good morning everyone,

Briefly followed discussions that involved Mark—he is a great violinist—but it did not directly influence anything in my life. Know the work with the Suzuki Method of Dr Ed and yes it is making a difference in my day to day and therefore, argue with Mark the benefits and grandeur of the Suzuki method will not make him change his opinion, would only spend time, time which is more useful I spend playing, studying, researching the forums here on the learning of my students and so on …
I take this as another learning!

Regards to all!!

Pamela said: May 22, 2013
Pamela HughesViolin
Viroqua, WI
1 posts

I would love to hear more about the ways Suzuki teachers are nurturing creativity in their students (as opposed to teaching technique creatively).

Laura Nerenberg said: May 22, 2013
Laura NerenbergViolin
Ottawa, ON
50 posts

Pamela—Alice Kanack has developed a great method for teaching improvisation (Creative Ability Development) to young string players. She is herself a Suzuki teacher, and her methodology stems from the Suzuki philosophy. According to Ms. Kanack, “Every child can be creative.” There are currently 3 levels of books/CDs to her method: one for very young children, using the piano, not necessarily the child’s instrument, one for bk1-3/4 students and one for more advanced students, co-written by Suzuki cello teacher, Dr. Sera Smolen. Though I was not at the last SAA conference in 2012, I believe Ms. Kanack and Dr. Smolen presented this third book, called “Improvising String Quartets” at one of the sessions. Dr. Smolen offers teacher training and student workshops to those interested in teaching creativity to their students.

I encourage you to read the introduction to her book “Fun Improvisation for Violin” (or cello or piano). It explains, in great detail, what the roots of creativity are. Such food for thought and action.

Some links that may interest you:
http://www.serasmolen.com/
http://www.amazon.ca/s?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Alice%20Kanack&search-alias=books-ca
http://www.kanackschoolofmusic.com/alice_kanack.html

All the best,
Laura

Cynthia Faisst said: May 22, 2013
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

Many of the current methods are aimed at students who already have some mastery of their instruments. Perhaps what is missing most is how to enable Pre-Creativity in our PreTwinklers.

Since they are struggling to control the physical movements for bowing and the intonation in the left hand perhaps we should be looking for games and activities that would explore their creative capacity away from the instrument when ever possible. I am always looking for better music manipulatives for young children which do not require them to hold a pencil. Many of them have access to technology that might help parents at home to expedite this way of thinking, by removing the need for fine motor control.

I have also been thinking about ways in which I can use technology to flip my studio. Providing playful, exploratory activities which students can enjoy doing, which gives them insight in to what we will be studying in their lesson in the studio can be very motivating for students.

I am always surprised that there are not more PC games which children can play which solicit their ability to be creative in the medium of music. i.e. How many 4 note patterns can you find in this scale? How many different rhythms can you create with 3 beats?

The other issue about creativity is developmental. Once they realize that the world is made up of rules children between the ages of 5-7 love being in control of rules. They are into what is the right answer vs what is the most creative answer. By their nature they are trying to get control of their world. I know this mentality baffles some of our very creative adult musicians because our kids are so attracted to the standards, rather than more avantgarde musical forms, from the get go. But if we don’t give these kids a chance to go through this phase they will hold on to these habits of control through out their lives and not take the risks that creativity requires.

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Laura Nerenberg said: May 22, 2013
Laura NerenbergViolin
Ottawa, ON
50 posts

Cynthia—In my post, I mentioned Alice Kanack’s first book/CD in her series of improvisation (Creative Ability Development) for children. It is called “Musical Improvisation for Children.”

I use it with my 3-year old Pre-Twinkler daughter. The tracks on the CD are very evocative, and some come with a story. Ms. Kanack gives instructions (to the adult) on how to use the CD together with a piano or keyboard—or even just to listen to, initially. Children need not play any instrument to reap benefits from this book/CD—only have access to a piano and CD player.

Here is a link to the amazon listing. There are some great reviews as well—and I recognize one as being by a Suzuki violin teacher whom I know.

http://www.amazon.ca/Musical-Improvisation-Children-Book-CD/dp/0874877725/ref=pd_sim_b_1

Cheers,
Laura

Paula Bird said: May 27, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Thank you to everyone for your supportive and encouraging comments about the MOC situation. I responded as nicely as I could but generously using the “like” button on the comments I read. Not only did I “like” anything that I could agree with, but I also liked anything that someone posted that opted to treat me as a joke. I joined in with the joking, yes? Who can’t laugh at oneself? I also reposted many of his videos.

I appreciate your kind words, Ed and Marissa. As for the pig references, I am very aware of how dirty one can get. I want to assure everyone that I had no idea I was somehow wrestling with a pig. I addressed my initial comment to someone who I thought was a fellow teacher on a journey of discovery. If I had realized that this person was an MOC acolyte, I wouldn’t have bothered. I also would have read the article with a more jaundiced eye.

I’m all for many of the ideas that have been expressed. I’m also all for kindness, graciousness, and openness. Sheesh, I don’t think I experienced any of that. And now, Laurie Niles is getting it. Disgusting behavior, whether an acceptable social media behavior or not. We shouldn’t allow it. Ever.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

David Fowler said: Jun 13, 2013
David Fowler1 posts

After reading several discussion board commentaries, as well as recent articles on or by Mark O’Connor on his Violin Method, my general impression is that violin instruction in the US is in good hands with trained Suzuki instructors. Their responses to a bizarre series of assertions by O’Connor exemplify nuanced judgement and professional composure. I have only two suggestions to make:

  1. Don’t accept assertions that violin performance in the US is declining, in either classical or alternative music In fact, an impressive number of new players are emerging. I’m basing my views on recent articles in THE STRAD, STRINGS, FIDDLER MAGAZINE, and the NEW YORK TIMES, as well as personal attendance at recent concerts including Anton Miller’s performance of the Beethoven violin concert with the Lincoln (Nebraska) Symphony, The Homestead Monumental Fiddle Contest in Beatrice, Nebraska, the Salome Orchestra concert featuring the Carpenters, Philippe Quint and Chee-Yun at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Detroit Symphony with Storm Large at Carnegie Hall, the Ebony Hillbillies at the Times Square subway station, and Evan Price with the Hot Club of San Francisco in Omaha.

Fascinating new music is being written; for example, the premier of Henry Brant’s “Climates” was recently performed by the Hutchins Consort in Lincoln. So that’s some of my recent experience for subjective opinion #1.

  1. Suzuki instructors should not be intimidated by critics who claim Suzuki methods inhibit improvisation, and their students should not be led to think that playing music as it’s written or learned from a recording, is not “creative.” Every time a musician plays a piece, they can create emotions in members of an audience. As Kato Havas puts it so well “It is important to realize that our responsibility as musicians lies just in this—in the lifting up emotionally and aesthetically of all our listeners, regardless of whether they are examiners, auditioners, or members of an audience.”

Many of the cultural varieties of music found in the US: Irish, Cajun, Missouri old-time, and, yes, Bluegrass, are played by musicians who essentially play a previously memorized pattern of notes, but each time they play, they recreate the song with new energy and bring joy to the people who know and love those tunes, whether by Bill Monroe or Vivaldi.

I love an accurate and energetic quotation of a Paul Warren fiddle break. And when Rachel Barton Pine brought Baroque bows for our Lincoln violin section and had the fiddlers stand during their performance of “Quattro Stagioni,” that was a creative moment for all concerned.

For more on an expanded concept of “improvisation,” I recommend Improvisation: Its Nature And Practice In Music, by Derek Bailey.

Julianna Chitwood said: Jun 20, 2013
Julianna Chitwood
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Rockville, MD
2 posts

Hello all,

While our conversation here has died down, M O’C has been ranting again—this time against John Kendall. I would like to offer to all the following resource, which I found terribly interesting and illuminating, as a counter to M O’C:
http://www.classicalmusiccity.com/search/video.php?vars=1654/John-Kendall-Interview.html

Here are some interviews with Mr. Kendall, from 2006. Thank you to Phyllis Freeman for doing the interviews and posting them on Classical Music City.

Do we have some more information like this that any of you can offer and share? Of course there are some great videos posted on the web page by the SAA regarding a variety of subjects.

Kind regards,
Julianna

Lois Shepheard said: Jun 20, 2013
 Teacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
13 posts

Thanks Julianna,
I asked TERI Matsumoto to consider putting some material—film, audio clips—on the web. They have replied that they are currently researching the best way to grant permission to have such material released.
Lois

Paula Bird said: Jun 20, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Julianna: After suffering first hand with attacks by MOC, I have just one response to the latest that he has written. Gag!

Being the nice person that I am at heart, I tried to look beyond the surface impression for the motivation, the reason, the basis of his vitriolic behavior. When someone is that personally nasty, unpleasant, and vitriolic toward another person who is basically innocent in my opinion, I can only come to these possible conclusions:

The person is mean-spirited.

The person has a personality disorder.

The person has some other kind of mental disorder.

The person is incredibly insecure.

Having watched MOC attempt to destroy the reputation of good, well-meaning teachers, I can only conclude that he is not a nice person. Reading his interview, where he claims that no one in the building of Juilliard could attempt to play his new improvised fiddle concerto, just appalls me. He does not appear to have any finger on the pulse of reality. I didn’t mind it so much when M OC attacked me, because I can handle myself and be secure in my reputation. Where I have lost it, is when MOC has attacked people that I know and respect, such as Laurie Niles and John Kendall. John Kendall worked with many of my students years ago when he visited Austin, Texas. My students adored him. We all walked away from that workshop with renewed enthusiasm and motivation for musicmaking.

I vote that we turn off the MOC pipeline. Don’t read his stuff anymore. He isn’t making arguments,. He is trying to stay in the limelight. Let’s not give him one.

I am tired of people who get away with bad behavior. We shouldn’t let that happen anymore. I can’t stop MOC from airing his opinions, but I can choose to ignore him, and that is what I am doing now. Everyone, please join me.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Nadia said: Jun 20, 2013
 Violin
16 posts

I couldn’t agree with Paula more! We should all focus on our mission as we always have, and not give any ounce of our energy to someone who sets his mind to bully us. Also, the more successful someone/method becomes, the bigger the attack will be.

Let’s focus on the result of the Suzuki Method and its legacy not only in the lives of individual students but also in the communities and countries around the world. There is no denying that his idea of “Every Child Can” had a strong impact! My son and I visited Japan this Spring, and got a number off a directory for a local Suzuki studio for lessons. The instructor was gracious to let my son join their spring concert. I cannot tell you how astonished I was! I couldn’t believe that I was not attending a recital at a conservatory! These were ordinary kids, from age 5 to 18, with such mastery and fluency of pieces I’ve never seen in any recitals around here. And such passion for music! In Japan, classical music is deeply embraced and enjoyed among the general public. Whoever has attended public school has been given courses in music history, music theory, choir, instruments, music appreciation for K—9. Every year local communities gather together to form a choir to sing Beethoven’s 9th and give public performance. These are the direct and indirect results of the idea Shin’ichi Suzuki had, who wanted to make a better society, bettter world.

Anthony Salvo said: Jun 23, 2013
Anthony Salvo
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Nederland, CO
5 posts

Such a shame. MOC is a great musician and it’s quite sad to see him losing it in this way. One of his posts compared a visiting group of young Suzuki violinists demonstrating agility to himself playing violin and riding a skateboard as an adult.

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.—Buddha…

Laurie Niles said: Jun 26, 2013
Laurie Niles
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
3 posts

Here’s my opinion piece on teacher cooperation, from The Strad magazine’s June issue: http://www.thestrad.com/latest/debate/let-s-not-cross-swords

Feel free to share.

Cynthia Faisst said: Jun 27, 2013
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

I know it is painful to hear anyone speak of about John Kendall this way. He did so much work even behind the scenes which has had an influence on many of our lives.

When I first met him as a college student, I had no idea that he was raised in a rural community across the river from me in Nebraska. Who would have imagined that someone who grew up in a cornfield in America’s rural heartland, have so much vision for the rest of us and the determination to see it through. He celebrated the accomplishments of the next generation of teachers.

I could see this thing coming from MOC the week that Tf3 came to your conference last Spring. You gave a party, and he didn’t get an invitation. Instead, we invited attractive young rivals half his age. We celebrated their creative efforts, aspirations and influence on the next generation.
There is very little we can do about MOC that would make any difference.
But I think it would be more appropriate to send Nick our support and reassurances. After all that we have received from his grandfather, its the least we can do to say thank you.

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Barb said: Jun 27, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Love your article,Laurie!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Community Youth Orchestra said: Jun 27, 2013
Community Youth OrchestraViolin, Viola
70 posts

Laurie’s article reminds me of something my boss (who leads a large visual and performing arts department with many experts in their fields) reminds his teaching artists all the time:

“The success of others does not diminish us.”

Emily Morgan said: Jun 29, 2013
Emily Morgan
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Wilmington, NC
14 posts

Thank you, Laurie!

Friederike said: Mar 15, 2014
Friederike Lehrbass
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Plano, TX
71 posts

Lois Shephard, I'm very glad you responded. i just read ( parts of )the interview between him and Tomomi Kimura and it was confusing what he said. So I was glad you addressed that. Also anything Kimura said was not informative at all. She kept repeating the same things and there were no practical explanations at all of why Japan does not use the Suzuki method anymore(Is that even true?) One she mentioned ( about reading) was not true. It is sure not true that Suzuki students don't become great musicians. In my own teaching whenever I get transfer students I always have to correct their technique. And some families choose( sadly) not to do the hard work to change those bad habits.

Praise the Lord with the stringed instrument

Malgosia Lis said: Oct 26, 2014
Malgosia LisInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
West Hartford, CT
15 posts

Hello all, after all this time there is more on the subject. It makes me so angry… Is it time for an official response, preferably published?
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/11188226/Violin-teacher-Suzuki-is-the-biggest-fraud-in-music-history-says-expert.html

J Dixon said: Oct 27, 2014
 1 posts

Three important points:

  1. Yes, Suzuki was a great teacher.  However, that he lacked a conservatory degree is news to me, and that he failed even to be admitted is a bit disturbing.  He would not be qualified to teach even Twinkle A in a quality Suzuki program today since it’s expected that all music teachers have at least an undergraduate degree, 

That Suzuki wanted to be called “Dr. Suzuki” is a bit embarrassing and arrogant, if not openly deceptive. People today demand experts to be qualified, and qualifications not to be exaggerated, even by implication. That he even failed to be admitted to a conservatory is news to me, and disappointing, even though I do respect self-made men and autodidacts.

Let’s be honest. Steven Colbert received an honorary doctorate from Knox College, but he doesn’t ask to be called “Dr. Colbert” unless, that is, he expects to be laughed at.

  1. I don’t deny that his method has successfully taught thousands, and that setting the highest standards for children is a wonderful thing. 

Is the Suzuki Method the best?  Maybe for some, but clearly not for everyone.  For many parents, like my husband and I, who have had several kids study Suzuki violin and piano, maybe not.  We moved on from Suzuki schools because the burden, or I should say, the onus, of being the ‘bad cop’ and practice enforcer to the Suzuki teacher’s ‘good cop’, has caused a tremendous amount of pain in our family and families of several of our friends.  As a result, here in Iowa, enrollment in at least one nationally-known Suzuki school of music has dropped, and the quality of their students has decreased dramatically, as the very best string and piano students have been increasingly studying with better qualified teachers who use a wider range of methodologies.  

Most of the great Russian musicians of the 20th century and today, for example, never studied with the Suzuki method.  And the Suzuki method isn’t very popular in China either, for many complicated cultural and historical reasons, but that hasn’t stopped China from producing more great musicians than any other country in the last twenty years.

Suzuki teachers too often praise the kids but put the burden on, and even blame, the parents. A number of former Suzuki parents in our community have turned away from Suzuki schools exactly for this reason.

Parents shouldn’t always have to be the ‘bad cop’ practice enforcer every day for years.  Nor should they feel belittled by their Suzuki teacher, or the sometimes ridiculous burdens Suzuki himself seems to put on parents.  I remember the black-and-white photo from one of Suzuki’s books of a Japanese mother harvesting rice in a rice paddy while her tot plays violin next to her. Is that really a model we should follow? 

I recommend that no one adhere to a single teaching methodology.   That’s too rigid.  One size never fits all.

Teachers should be flexible and adjust their approach to each student and every family.

  1. Regarding the last point about Suzuki developing his system during a dictatorship, I strongly suggest that Ms. Shepherd spend a minute to check the facts.

She wrote:  ”He suggests that Dr Suzuki did find these aims necessary in a country ruled by an ‘Emperor as their dictator’. Not so; since about three quarters of the way through the 19th century, Japan has had a Western-style government. The Imperial family is a figurehead, much like the British royal family.”

If she means a Western style government like Nazi Germany, maybe.

The facts: Emperor Hirohito was hardly a figurehead emperor.  He was worshipped as a god. He promised that every soldier who died—such as the Kamikaze pilots who dove their planes into US warships—would immediately go to heaven, but any who surrendered would not.  Of course this promoted not just suicides, but tens of thousands of their soldiers to fight to the death, causing tremendous numbers of casualties to the allies. Exactly because of this fanatical belief in the emperor as God, and Japanese soldiers’ maniacal refusal to surrender, did the US military decide that an invasion of Japan would be much more costly to both sides than, tragically, dropping atomic bombs.

Elysia Fisher said: Oct 27, 2014
 1 posts

A beautifully written response Lois. As a Suzuki student myself, I remain of the firm belief that what Suzuki aimed to do with his methodology was to prove wholeheartedly that any child at any age had the ability to learn the violin.

In my experience, Suzuki never professed to be the master of violin but simply a wonderful passionate teacher who took something he saw in everyday life and moulded it into what we see now. That music is a universal language we can all use to communicate. It has no barriers.

I might not have become a professional musician or music teacher, but even at 31 I still play both my violin and viola for all forms of occasions using those basic principles and skills that I learnt all those years ago from my teacher Peter King (a man I’m sure even you remember).
I never heard Suzuki profess to create great musicians but I know that this man gave us a gift.

I still remember Suzuki Summer & Winter schools where hundreds of students gathered to share in their great love of making music. I have so many memories of learning from Dr Suzuki, Professor Nakamura and even yourself Lois.
There is no one size fits all methodology for teaching music. Belittling or attacking another method to promote another doesn’t instill positivity in anyone. By all means promote what you think works but don’t attack someone else just to make what you think works sound more successful.

Marilyn O'Boyle said: Oct 27, 2014
Marilyn O’BoyleTeacher Trainer
Institute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
132 posts

Wow! What a long discussion! But very much appreciated! I agree completely that we need to ignore and not respond to MOC. “The less you stir a stink, the less it smells”
Marilyn

Ariane Alexander said: Oct 28, 2014
Ariane Alexander
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
London SE14 5PP, United Kingdom
4 posts

It’s unfortunate that someone as established as Mr O’Connor has fixated on the Suzuki pedagogy in such a negative and unproductive way. Thanks for posting this lovely response.

Tim Janof said: Oct 28, 2014
 2 posts

I don’t really understand MOC’s fetish for Suzuki history. His assertion that the Suzuki system collapses like a house of cards once the man is put in historical context strikes me as delusional. There are tons of videos on YouTube of Suzuki kids playing like demons that make some of MOC’s assertions, in my opinion, seem silly and irrelevant, and his research at best a sideshow curiosity (though admittedly interesting in a prurient sort of way. I will read more of his blog after I’ve finished reading this week’s National Enquirer). Every time he lobs a bomb at the Suzuki Method, go watch a YouTube video of a Suzuki kid killing it. This is the best antidote of all: the truth that the Suzuki Method works, maybe not for all kids or families, but for many. Note that his response to these videos is that these kids only play well because they were given tips not sanctioned by “the deity” himself, which of course is silly, unverified, and I assume gives the appearance to many as being at best a self-serving assertion.

Dr. Suzuki was but one man in an organization of thousands and he certainly couldn’t control them all, and I doubt very much he even wanted to (because that would be a delusional expectation, right?). The fine musicians in the Suzuki Associations, who are not a bunch of mindless automatons, do their best to pass on good playing habits in a non-dogmatic way, period, which I like to believe is the ultimate goal, no matter whose method is being used.

If I had a nickel for every time marketing materials exaggerated the truth, I could afford a Strad. Perhaps the good Dr. did this too (and perhaps he owned a Strad?). I’m over it.

Yes, I’m over it. He died 16 years ago, and he’s not around to defend himself, and see my first paragraph above. From what I can tell, all he might have done, perhaps, is pad his resume, just like many musicians do, as do many in any profession who are trying to sell something. We seem to have battling historical narratives and sorting out the truth is not easy, but ultimately it’s just navel gazing (I have an innie). The way MOC incessantly beats the drum on this issue, you’d think somebody was murdered. Professional courtesy seems to be the only casualty so far.

Should we call Dr. Suzuki, “Dr. Suzuki.” Oh heck, why not? Is this really worth screaming about until one is hoarse? (Correct answer: no, or should I say “neigh”?).

The only ones who seem to be asserting that somebody believes that the Suzuki Method is the ONLY good method out there are people who don’t like the Suzuki Method. I’ve never heard or read any comment where a Suzuki teacher said that one would be a fool to try other methods. If somebody wants to try the MOC method, I think it’s great! Go for it! The world is a big place and there’s room for many points of view. “Cabbage” awaits you. Don’t forget the horseradish.

Heather Figi said: Oct 28, 2014
Heather FigiViolin
Eugene, OR
97 posts

Thank you everyone for your thoughts. I really appreciate hearing from everyone. Many excellent points and lots of passion.

Nothing and certainly no one is perfect—that is the nature of everything in this world so why would this be any different.

Openly negative comments bashing another person or system usually speak louder about the person making them than the subject at hand.

As a Suzuki teacher myself I am the first one to say this is not for everyone and not the only way to learn—It just happens to be what I focused on and specialize in.

In the same way if you went to an acupuncturist you would not expect them to prescribe antibiotics—everyone has their own specialty.

I especially appreciated hearing from you Lois from your candid experience as a parent. I think we teachers need to hear more things like this from parents. Your situation sounded hurtful and I think I speak for many teachers that it would break our hearts if we felt we were creating this negative experience for the families we serve.

Alexandra said: Oct 28, 2014
Alexandra Jacques
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Mesa, AZ
35 posts

“I will read more of his blog after I’ve finished reading this week’s National Enquirer.”

Well done, Sir. :)

Richard Lohmann said: Oct 28, 2014
Richard Lohmann
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
9 posts

My response to the few of my friends who have heard of this tempest in a teapot, and actually write me or talk to me about it:

“The O’ Connor method is a valuable addition to the pedagogical literature. I wish him success. Anyone who wants to know more about the way the Suzuki philosophy is applied can come watch me teach, or listen to my students in concert”

That’s it. I leave it at that.

I ran across this not long ago. I do not know who wrote it:

“As you defend against something in your life, you are bringing the very thing you don’t want to you. Defending is focusing on the problem, and defending attracts more defending. Instead, be creative and focus all your energy on the outcome you want. Creating is focusing on the solutions. Be creative, not defensive. Focus on the solutions, not on the problems. “

Kristanne Harden said: Oct 29, 2014
 1 posts

I agree with Richard—a gracious response.

Rodney Farrar said: Oct 29, 2014
Rodney Farrar
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Bass
1 posts

Does MOC upload himself to the internet to prove to the rest of us that he actually exists? How sad. RKF

Cynthia Faisst said: Oct 29, 2014
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

Go to :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_O’Connor

and I think you will get the picture. Its all about Market share folks. And some people will say and publish anything to get that. This entry doesn’t even cut the expectations for reliability for Wikipedia. I suspect it was created by his publicist.

For those of you who are confused about who MOC Method publisher or distributor is: http://www.oconnormethod.com/Store.html
M & M Distributing is basically Shar music’s whole sale division

What I discover from Lauri Niles article is that MOC chose to self publish. Quite a business gamble for his Personal Enterprise Business as a performer/composer. He is a talented showman and pulling out all the stops of modern music industry to promote something on his own nickel, perhaps at great risk in this economy.

This ambitious goal was one reason for the delay in publishing the O’Connor method; it was originally to have been published by Alfred, and in fact I reviewed a rough draft of that edition, which was more along the lines of a traditional method book, with diagrams, in black and white. Mark’s vision was for a more immersive experience, and so he wound up self-publishing, the result being full-color books with photographs, written histories of each piece, personal notes about the pieces he composed, and even a little Mark avatar (”Fiddle Boy”) who makes little comments throughout.

Sensei did not pursue publishers. They pursued him. He did not invest his families wealth? or good fortune to take on the risk of establishing a publishing business. He was not plagued with worries about market share.

Mark showed up recently at Wall street. That move speak louder than words. Its all about funding and marketing, Not about an educational movement at the grass roots.

Academics doing research on music and neuroscience do not mention MOC’s method in their studies. It doesn’t have the growing track record in our educational communities that the Suzuki Method has been able to participate in.
MOC would love to think that we are his rival. But he is not even interested in a method that embraces children development from age 0. And thank goodness he is more interested in and putting most of his time and energy into performance and improving as a musician.

His market share competition as a publisher of Method books are the many publishers of Alternative Music for amateurs which we frequently use to supplement student repertory with. Can I say it again. The field is crowded. He is an old timer up against and avalanche of dedicated, talented young violinist who took up fiddling and went to illustrious music schools to do it. My bookshelf is a testament to this. My YouTube playlist overflows with thier videos. And where did all of these folks come from at a time when our nations orchestras are floundering financially?

The one lesson we should be drawing from this is that we do need to look at what other methods and publishers are doing to be current with the mindset and technology available to today’s families and judiciously choose what will allow for more effective pedagogy and what will give the Suzuki Method long standing cultural and educational influence.

Lets look at what the future offers our students.

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Lora said: Oct 30, 2014
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
2 posts

WONDERFUL response, Lois.
I always thought the O’Connor method imitated the Suzuki method very heavily, as if O’Connor used Suzuki as a “template” of sorts.

Tim Janof said: Oct 30, 2014
 2 posts

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”—Upton Sinclair

Ray Landers said: Oct 30, 2014
Ray LandersTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
2 posts

I just wrote a long comment re this situation but it appears it didn’t go through. So here it goes again.

First of all I want to mention that I yesterday wrote a long post on Facebook re the O’Conner comments. I hope you all have a chance to read it.

To reiterate some of its points: Suzuki never stated, as far as I know in my reading his books, articles, and hearing him speak many times. that he attended the Berlin Conservatory. He did say he studied with Klinger and played quartets with Einstein. I take him at his word…anyone who has ever met him knows he is not capable of “Lies and Fraud” O’Conner accuses him of.
Besides, Suzuki, Klinger, and Einstein are no longer with us to confirm this. And Lois in her statement has shown proof that it was true.

I went to Japan in 1972 to observe Suzuki and other teachers at the Matsumoto Summer School. I also observed Suzuki and numerous Stevens Point American Suzuki Institute events, at two national Suzuki Conferences, and at the 1982 Chicagoland Suzuki Music Festival that I an my school founded, and which was cosponsored also by the Music Center of the North Shore and Wheaton College Suzuki Program. Dr. and Mrs. Suzuki were there, and 5,000 attended from 16 states. The events were held at the Auditorium Theatre, DePaul University and Roosevelt University. The Governor name that day “Chicago Suzuki Day”, and the critic for the Chicago Sun Times called Dr. Suzuki the “most influential music teacher in the world.” Also, Music Educator Journal listed the “five most influential music educators of the 20th Century—Dalcroze, Gordon, Kodaly, Orff and SUZUKI.”

Having directed two Suzuki Institutes (the first four Chicago Suzuki Institutes, and 25 International Music Festivals in various Midwestern college and conference center locations (and moving to central Florida Disney World soon), and having taught at Suzuki institutes and workshops in 25 US states and 10 countries, I have had the great experience to witness the incredible results of the Suzuki approach…and the carry through of the great insights, kindness, humanitarianism, organizational skills, and genius of the methods founder, Dr. Suzuki. Having observed him times I can only attest to his great power and influence. Hundreds of thousands have studied all over the world his approach, and, yes, as he often stated, the results have been people who didn’t become professional musicians, but people made kinder, happier, and smarter. But, as we all know many Suzuki students did become professionals….Educators such as Dorothy Delay, Janos Starker, Joseph Gingold, and many others supported the Suzuki approach….and of course if one were to investigate numbers of Suzuki trained students in college and professional orchestras the number would be high.

And what about the many great music stars who started with the Suzuki Method….Rachel Barton Pine, Jennifer Koh, Wendy Warner, Anthony Molinaro..just to mention a few.

I often heard Dr. Suzuki say, “We must always seek new ideas” and I totally agree. My only criticism of the method is the few people who refuse to expand when needed
re its principles…and I commend those who maintain the high quality of Talent Education but also sometimes look “outside the box” to make it work in Western countries.

I cannot understand why Mark O’Conner is so nasty. Calling someone a “liar and a fraud” is pretty heavy stuff. One person responded to my Facebook post saying she didn’t understand the big deal, why so many of us are upset and angry this. She stated she didn’t feel O’Conners remarks would harm the the future success of the method. I don’t agree with her. I believe it could possibly harm in the way that some anti-Suzuki educators are given more “fuel” to encourage families to not consider the Suzuki approach. O’Conners words are scandalous and meant to defame one of the greatest educators of all time; they are slanderous and should be addressed. Dr. Ray Landers, [javascript protected email address]

Kay Ballen said: Oct 30, 2014
 1 posts

Go to: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Klingler
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Klingler (English)

It said :Klingler taught private lessons for a young Japanese named Shinich Suzuki 8 years.

Also if you go : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Joachim
It said: Josepj Joachim taught Klingler, the teacher of Shinich Suzuki

And if you think Wiki makes mistake then: Klingler lived till 1971. He had a long time to counter to Dr. Suzuki.

DR. Suzuki never said he had registered as a student at the Berlin Conservatory. So O’Conner lied.

O’Conner also has alleged association with  physicist Albert Einstein as Suzuki. This is easy to proof that is a Lie.

Because Dr. Suzuki’s memorial museum  has a letter from Einstein to Suzuki with his signature and date, another letter for Suzuki’s father.(friendly)

Einstein played violin and loved music. He also Just visited in Japan. At that time, there were no passenger airplane was made, so a round trip to Japan took 4-5 month. (Stayed there 48 days) It was a big commitment than we think now. It shows Einstein was interested in Japan.

With those reasons, it was understandable that he became Suzuki’s protector .

Cynthia Faisst said: Oct 31, 2014
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

Thank you for your experience and expertise Dr. Ray. We appreciate your insight.

I think what frustrates all of us as music educators is that thanks to an economy that is decisively anti family we are in danger of raising another generation of children without an educational foundation in music.

What is really making life difficult for all of us are the structural changes in the economy which are affecting the way families raise their children. i.e. many of us and I for one have few students arriving for lessons until 5 or 6pm in the evening. ( even the youngest).

While it is painful to listen to MOC ranting about things irrationally, one should remember that what is really causing him grief about the financial risk he took to publish an extensive series of books during a recession, is the same thing we are all up against. However, we haven’t chosen to blame MOC for our own struggles. Sadly, his grumpiness has probably driven away potential advocates. He wants financial backing without anyone looking over his shoulder. Fat chance you’re going to get that from anyone in this economy.

As Suzuki teachers we are so fortunate that the Music Publishing industry has made most of the expensive materials we need for teaching widely available throughout the world. Reworking all the volumes of the revised violin method took a long time. The publishers were happy to see teachers taking a great deal of time to create something that would stand the test of time. None of us have to take the risk of publishing it ourselves and worry about losing money over the investment in resources it requires. We are busy enough worrying about teaching.

When there is a possible innovation that we desire it doesn’t take that much nudging of the industry to bring it about, especially if it makes sense for market share. The publishers know we music teachers have our ears to the ground in regard to how families consume music products.

The challenge facing us in the future is figuring out how to meet the musical needs of this next generation. What is our new role as educators in a music classroom that is flipped by technology. In what aspects of the music education are skilled Suzuki teachers irreplaceable by technology?

Are we preparing music teachers for the future?
Are we adjusting our pedagogy based on the research as Sensei would be doing if he were here today?

Things are happening around the world that are going to change the way we teach. Are we getting ready for that?

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Heather Figi said: Nov 1, 2014
Heather FigiViolin
Eugene, OR
97 posts

Cynthia,

I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your thoughts on this. I think you hit the nail on the head with so many subjects. I believe you are correct that the financial vulnerability Mark put himself in with his work could have been fuel for his fire with the assertions he made.

I also believe we need to have honest and neutral conversations about money as music educators.

I had an extraordinary caliber of teacher training that I am eternally grateful for, but basically no information on how to run a business (which is what we do as studio directors.) Honestly, with such drastic changes in the economy and technology as you also brought up, an education 15 years ago on running a small business would not be so relevant now. We are in uncharted water but I can truly say that the fortitude and value of character development that I developed thru this education is what has given me success.

I hope my response was not too vague or a misuse of this forum topic- I acknowledge that I am deviating slightly from the origins of this topic. Mostly I just wanted to thank you Cynthia for bringing up the financial component and how this probably played out for Mark. Money is one of, if not the most charged topics in this world and for most of us plays a huge unconscious role in our moral and the way we vision our lives.

Perhaps this evolves into a new discussion in itself since the economy and technology advancements:

1- Are a reality of how we exist in this world
2- Impact how we can change the world
3- Affect how we present ourselves as a profession and impact moral
4- Change how we create and vision our teaching programs

Thank you and sincerely.

Connie Sunday said: Nov 2, 2014
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

Reflexions Article: My take on the Suzuki controversy
http://beststudentviolins.com/ReflexionStrings.html#11022014

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Cleo Ann Brimhall said: Nov 3, 2014
Cleo Ann BrimhallTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
West Jordan, UT
39 posts

What a loving dedicated community we are fortunate to have in the Suzuki world. There have been so many heart felt comments. I can only think “what would Suzuki Sensei do”? After all is said and done, I can hear him just laugh and get on with the important work of teaching the children ( and all of us. )

Cleo

Farobag Homi Cooper said: Nov 3, 2014
Farobag Homi Cooper
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Voice, Viola, Violin
4 posts

MOC is either indulging in self-righteous behavior and/or determined to denigrate Suzuki in order to further promote his persona and methodology. Neither is ethically valid and doomed to failure. He is simply adding yet another tale to the history of human frailty and sorrow.

Man said: Nov 4, 2014
 Violin, Voice, Viola
NY
13 posts

Hi, all.

I’m a pretty involved, Suzuki parent (of 3 kids) since circa 2006, and have been following this MOC situation ever since Laurie Niles related it on her Violinist.com blog… though I only just recently registered for an account here (so never posted before).

Very glad to finally see MOC’s rants being refuted more definitively (than early on) and still very graciously so (as befits Suzuki’s “nobel heart”), especially since his most recent round of attacks even led to that brief Telegraph article that’s apparently making its rounds on Facebook.

Just wanted to thank y’all for all your hard work in general even while dealing w/ undeserved negativity like MOC’s attacks in the last couple years. My own kids (and their little cousins and probably future generations in the extended family, et al) have (and I’m sure will continue to be) benefited greatly from the Suzuki approach and its community as a whole.

Also wanted to give an additional thumbs-up to Cynthia Faisst’s points and concerns re: the effects of the current economy and of the continual need (even as inspired by Suzuki himself) to be flexible and adapt (in sound ways) as our global culture/society evolves, especially in this fast pace, high tech age w/ so many distractions that overwhelm our young (and even ourselves as adults). As deeply involved parents, we are constantly seeking to strike a good balance for our own kids, which is definitely not easy, but I am (again) very thankful for this Suzuki thing we got involved in and hope to see it (and our children, et al) continue to grow and prosper for many generations to come…

Bless y’all! And may His great shalom be w/ y’all… :-)

_Man_

PS: Anyone here planning to attend the 1st(?) Suzuki Voice Workshop in the Northeast (USA)? IF so, maybe we’ll bump into each other in Poughkeepsie next week… :-)

Ashwin Philip Kashap said: Jan 22, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
2 posts

Very interesting posts, Mr. O’Connor’s point seems to be that he sees the facts as hazy and having been spun for branding and marketing purposes. It could well be that they were, it is hard to tell any more, as the documentation is not complete, and eyewitnesses are long gone. But does the Bible lack for impact on people’s lives because the Gospels were written long after Jesus died?

Likewise, if Mr. O’Connor’s method works and creates love of music and love of playing together for students, and makes the audience want to hear more, it should be celebrated. I, probably like a lot of who have written here, have found Mr. Suzuki’s method has helped me do that over the years. (And no, I don’t often use “Dr.” for those with honorary degrees and PhD’s; sometimes I don’t use it on purpose to see who is divisive by nature and who isn’t.) I don’t think it is probably the only method that one can use to do that, or that an intuitive person working without a “method” couldn’t manage to do this. I have heard of many teachers finding their way and doing great things in the world without using a known method.

Having said that, I find great value in Mr. Suzuki’s method, I have used it for over 30 years with good success, and can pardon him if he dropped names to get his method out there. How many musicians do you know who don’t do that on their way up? What does it matter? If the thing works, nobody cares. Mark O’Connor has used the whole thing for marketing purposes too, knowing that any publicity is good publicity. How many people who had never heard of him know about his method now after the NY Times article?

By the way, I cannot pardon the fact that some of the pieces in Suzuki Violin Book 2 have been taken from C. Paul Herfurth’s collection of 43 Pieces published in 1938 or 1939, without acknowledgement. That is is not embellishment of facts, that is copyright infringement. Look at the arrangements created by the band teacher of The Two Grenadiers, the oboe Bourree, PART of his arrangement of Le Streghe (the only part that is not by Paganini incidentally), Boccherini’s Minuet, etc.,and you can see the facts. That has to be made right with that excellent arranger’s estate, as he is long gone.

Alan Duncan said: Feb 6, 2015
Alan Duncan
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
59 posts

Above all, I think the whole debate needs to involve a clear separation between the individual behind the method, and the method itself.

Both methods are capable of producing good players (and not-so-good players). There are too many variables to do a sound comparison of methodologies.

I find myself biased toward more sympathy with Suzuki because I have more familiarity with the philosophy and method. I look at Mr. O’Connor’s website and as a diagnostician my first impression is the disease of Narcissus. I don’t think Shinichi Suzuki’s character is unassailable. But then again, whose is? If Suzuki were the more self-serving, he did a remarkable job of hiding it.

Many great persons have had quirks, deficiencies, or lapses that need to separated from the actual outcomes. Mr. O’Connor would do better to focus on those outcomes. He is clearly a man of some resources; perhaps he could fund and organize a randomized trial of Suzuki vs. O’Connor methods in the training of violin players ab initio.

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