ISA bans publication of Step by Step books


Coutier said: Jul 6, 2009
Coutier Rademaker58 posts

The ESA has written a letter to all Suzuki teachers in Germany, stating (amongst a lot of other disturbing things that I don’t want to go into right now) that the ISA has forbidden further publication of the Step by Step violin books.

Signed Haukur Hannesson, who currently is chairman of both (!) ESA and ISA. Co-signed Koen Rens, deputy chairman.

I’ve worked with the Step by Step books (and cd’s) for a number of years now and I love them and so do my students. They are a great support for the Suzuki Violin School books. In fact some of my students came to me from a collegue Suzuki teacher because they specifically wanted to work with the Step by Steps.

How many tens of thousands of students have learned to play their violin through the Step by Steps? How many are currently learning from them? Should we now tell them that we will not use the books any more? And for what reason, apart from the possibility that the ISA might have a legal right to do whatever they please with any material connected to the Suzuki method? There is no way I can explain or defend this!

Is there any way in which the Step by Step books harm Suzuki’s vision or misrepresent it? I can’t find any. Are they lacking in quality? No! So why are they suppressed?

Is it because, as some people stubbornly say, Kerstin Wartberg supposedly “gives away the secret of the Suzuki method”? It can’t be. How can she summarize in two thin books what we work at very hard for a full year in our teacher training program?

Is it a power issue? Must mrs Wartberg be forced into submission because she is too good at her job and produces outstanding products (in a minimum of time too) with no spelling mistakes and correct pictures in her first editions rather than the fourth?

Is it the money? Are the sales of Violin School down because of the Step by Steps? I would imagine the Step by Steps attracting relatively more students to the Suzuki Method, so more members to the ESA. Why not negociate a cut of the profits, rather than “burning” the books? Work together!

I try to stop asking questions now, but one thing I am certain of: this measure is of no benefit to our students. And of no benefit to us, the Suzuki community.


Jennifer Visick said: Jul 7, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

I’m not quite sure how the ISA can “ban” publication, unless it has a legal copyright to the material in the books in the country where the books are published.

Coutier said: Jul 7, 2009
Coutier Rademaker58 posts

Here is the quote from the letter.

“The ISA has forbidden further publication of the exercise books for violin named Step-by-Step
and has not given permission for the publication of the Step-by-Step material for viola. This
publication is therefore illegal and the ESA has been informed that the ISA and the publisher
Alfred Publications Inc. intend to take appropriate action regarding this.”

I would actually like to put the entire letter into an attachment to this message, but I am not certain if that would be allowed.


Jennifer Visick said: Jul 7, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

How strange. Makes it sound like they once did give permission (for violin) but are now revoking it. And it does indeed sound like a threat of legal action of some sort.

Pia said: Jul 9, 2009
34 posts

Shame on ISA! The Step by Step books are so nicely made and have been such a great help! Consider how many parents nowadays really try hard to fit work- and family obligations together AND enroll in a suzukiprogramm, anything that can make things easier is great!! and definetly to be welcomed! If one doesn’t like the books, so just do not USE them- you don’t have to…! Isn’t it just medieval and backward when … Haukur Hannesson starts to ban some books because he fears they are “revealing to many secrets” of the Suzuki-method or just plain not orthodox enough in his eyes?! :shock:

Coutier said: Jul 9, 2009
Coutier Rademaker58 posts

Flageoletty, just to be clear: I haven’t stated that it is actually mr Hannesson’s opinion that mrs Wartberg is revealing too many Suzuki secrets and that therefore he kills the books.
As the letter to the German teachers is not stating any reasons for the ban I have mentioned this as a possibilty – with a big questionmark behind it.

Also, mr Hannesson is “merely” chairman of ESA and ISA and I do suppose that his letter is backed by the boards of those organisations, as it should be. It would be interesting to know what prompted the ISA board to take such a drastic and destructive action. As a matter of fact I have sent an email message to mr Hannesson day before yesterday asking him to clarify what is so bad about the Step by Steps that it justifies a publication ban.


Jennifer Gray said: Jul 11, 2009
Jennifer Gray
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
28 posts

I was trying to post a reply the other day, and I kept getting told that I had specified either an invalid user name or an invalid password. When I asked to have my user name sent, the original one I had entered was listed, but I am unable to use this……………i just get another “invalid user name” message and have to switch to my original user name from years ago. I am very confused! I immediately started to worry that there was some bizarre sort of censorship happening, but perhaps I am getting caught up in the current tempest
I first came across Kerstin Wartburg’s work as a manuscript (in German) a number of years ago. Her efforts were astonishingly thorough, and her ideas and games were similar to many that I had picked up from other teachers and trainers over the years, or that I had come up with on my own over years of teaching. The Step by Step books that have emerged are extremely thorough and imaginative interpretations of how to teach and learn using the Suzuki materials as espoused by Kerstin Wartberg, informed by her years of training and experience.
However, I have not found a way to incorporate the books into my own teaching, as I would not like to have my teaching so minutely structured, and I feel I need the freedom to adapt or to change some things to suit the individual abilities of my students. There are ideas that I wish to communicate, which i am free to do within the outlines of the Suzuki materials, that would be harder to do within the Step by Step progressions. I remember being told by Ronda Cole that what she was training us in was “the Suzuki Method as Ronda Cole uses it” and I know that her ideas have developed over the years just as Suzuki himself reformed and restructured his ideas on a regular basis throughout his life.I will gladly use some of Kerstin Wartberg’s concepts, but I will continue to teach in my own particular way.
I have followed the controversy over the new editions with some interest, and have found that many of the criticisms put forward by teachers from around the world have been entirely well founded. I was surprised by what I perceived as a somewhat hysterical tone in some of the posts, perhaps compounded by the extensive use of capitalization and bold fonts that is on many forums considered a justification for censure. These criticisms seemed often to be followed by strong pronouncements about the value of the Step by Step books, almost as if there was a concerted effort to promote them “instead” of the Suzuki editions. There are some very passionate proponents of the Step by Step series, which I can certainly understand, but I am uncomfortable with the tone which denigrates the work of the international committee and seems almost to want to declare the new editions bankrupt and institute the use of the Kerstin Wartberg/ Step by Step/Suzuki method instead. Perhaps this explains the overreaction by the ISA.
All of this is only my impressions on reading the various posts, and I don’t wish to offend anyone. The most important thing is to realise that nothing can grow by staying the same! We have a lively forum for discussion here and god help us if we ever curtail that freedom. Let’s continue to strive for excellence in our endeavours, and be open to new ideas and concepts.

Jennifer Visick said: Jul 14, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

Jen, I agree with the point of your post.

This thread mentions that K.W. was having trouble getting book 4 published “normally”; in hindsight perhaps that was an early warning of what was to come.

Laura said: Jul 16, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I also support your point, Jen! As a violin parent, I have seen and also recommended these books. They are wonderful. As a piano teacher, I wish that something like this existed for piano—particularly the CDs—wow!

However, we have never had to use the Step by Step series ourselves because our violin teachers (private and group) have been so wonderful, and our daughter learned just fine by following them. I believe that it should be used, where required and/or appreciated, as it was intended: as a companion and supplement, not as a replacement to a Suzuki teacher’s [hopefully] good judgement using the regular Suzuki editions. And if the teacher lacks such good judgement, it should be a wake-up call to start developing it! If the message starts getting across that “Suzuki method is great—but everyone MUST get such-and-such a book to go through it’—that is starting to tread on some dangerous waters.

As Jen pointed out, teaching and learning is such a individual and dynamic process. It is dangerous to expect one resource, no matter how helpful and detailed, to be so universally applicable. I would expect that a good teacher ought to have her own “step by step” approach that is tailor-made for each student/parent combination she teaches.

It is similar to books on cooking or raising babies. There are many amazingly helpful books out there. But ultimately, beyond the few basics that everyone needs to know, there are so many different approaches that depend entirely on invididuals and their situations.This is why new cookbooks and baby books keep coming out all of the time: there is always some “fresh” way to approach an age-old situation.

There is also the slight danger of overreliance on such supportive materials. I don’t mean anything about “giving away the secrets of the Suzuki method”. I only mean that over time, a parent should naturally learn about what to listen for, how to break things down for practice, etc. And most of all, learn to appreciate how the teacher is teaching and eventually learn to apply that way during home practice. This process helps the parent grow and develop, too. I believe that Step by Step is invaluable at the Book 1-2 level, particularly for parents with little or no music backgroud. But perhaps it should not be entirely necessary by the Book 3-4 level.

Like Jen, this is just my opinion and is not meant to take away support for an otherwise excellent teaching resource.

Laura said: Jul 16, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I should add:

I am definitely not in support of banning any type of teaching resource that is ultimately helpful and beneficial. (As long as there is no copyright infringement, of course)

On the other hand, we should guard against giving out the message—intentional or not—that any one specific teaching resource—no matter how comprehensive— should be a “must” for going through the Suzuki Method. After all, even Dr. Suzuki said that there is really no “Suzuki Method”—only general philosophy (mother tongue approach, etc.) That is why I believe that the regular Suzuki editions, flaws and all, have their place. They present the repertoire, and then largely leave the rest to the discretion of the teacher. A teacher worth his salt will simply point out any corrections he feels are necessary and carry on. Our teacher does that, and I’ve never considered any of the publication “mistakes” to be a big deal within that context.

The piano editions aren’t without their controversial points, either. I’m regularly suggesting alternate fingerings, articulations, and even dynamics and phrasing, where appropriate. Students need to be flexible and learn to appreciate that music is not a rigid discipline. And just as there is no one way to play a piece, there is no one way to teach it, either.

Of course, it is important to try to correct said mistakes in subsequent editions, but that topic has been covered quite throughly already…!

Coutier said: Jul 17, 2009
Coutier Rademaker58 posts

RaineJen, when reading the “Step by Step book 4” thread you refer to, I couldn’t help noticing the one-two between the mysterious “mm9999” (why do people use secret names?) and Antonella. It is not very subtle. By the same token I agree with Jen that extensive use of loud capitalisation is not inspiring to read and in fact turns people away. Personally, I don’t believe for one minute that Step by Step proponents want to replace the Suzuki Violin School books by the Step by Steps or would benefit from that, but I understand the uneasiness Jen expresses.

However, this is not the fault of the Step by Step books. Don’t you agree that ISA should have an objective view?

By the way, I haven’t received any answer from mr Hannesson. So I still can’t say why the ISA wants to ban the books.

May I suggest, for the sake of clarity, that we open a new thread where we can discuss the pro’s and cons of the Step by Step books? In small print…….


Coutier said: Jul 17, 2009
Coutier Rademaker58 posts

Just to let you know, Mr Hannesson has sent me a reply today, just after I sent in my last post. He tells me that there is no danger for Step by Step 1—3. That is a relief indeed! So the ban goes for Step by Step 4 and up. And for the Step by Step for viola. In an attachment mr Hannesson sent me a copy of a letter written by mr. Paul Landefeld, CEO of the ISA, to mrs Wartberg in november 2008 with a listing of six, in my opinion rather flimsy—reasons for the prohibition of this publication. Mr Landefeld speaks about “concern for the harm your publication may bring to the larger issue of Suzuki Method training systems.” Wow!

As yet I don’t know if I am allowed to quote from that letter. I would really love to and I am certain we would have an interesting discussion if I could list the six points.


said: Jul 18, 2009
 12 posts

I got the letter addressed to all German Suzuki teachers, too from the ESA and ISA chairperson Haukur Hannesson and the Co-chairperson of the ESA Koen Rens. It is a document full of negative insinuations, obvious untruth and aggressions against our German Suzuki Association. One quote of this letter you heard already from Coutier.
Haukur Hannesson and Koen Rens wrote on 26 June 2009:
“The ISA has forbidden further publication of the exercise books for violin named Step-by-Step and has not given permission for the publication of the Step-by-Step material for viola. This publication is therefore illegal and the ESA has been informed that the ISA and the publisher Alfred Publications Inc. intend to take appropriate action regarding this.”

Let me write this passage a little differently:
“The ISA (Haukur Hannesson, chair) has forbidden further publication of the exercise books for violin named Step-by-Step and has not given permission for the publication of the Step-by-Step material for viola. This publication is therefore illegal and the ESA (Haukur Hannesson, chair) has been informed that the ISA (Haukur Hannesson, chair) and the publisher Alfred Publications Inc. intend to take appropriate action regarding this.”

Isn’t this strange that the same person, Haukur Hannesson, chair of ESA and ISA writes to Coutier only a few days later on 17/07/2009 that there is no danger for Step by Step 1 – 3?
So the ban would be only for Step by Step, vol. 4 and up (not yet existing).
And for the Step by Step for viola.

In other words:
ISA allows generously to put Dr. Suzuki’s expressed wish into practice for volumes 1-3 but ISA bans Dr. Suzuki’s expressed wish for the rest of the volumes. This means as a result:
ISA places itself above Dr. Suzuki!

It seems that ISA with its chair Haukur Hannesson is becoming more and more confused and contradictory. How can ISA (= International SUZUKI Association) deny what Dr. Suzuki himself wanted?

Everyone can read in the foreword of Step by Step what Dr. Suzuki asked for:
“Kerstin Wartberg was the first German to study at and graduate from the Talent Education
Institute in Matsumoto, Japan. In the many years since then, my wife and I have been in close contact with her. I am pleased that she wants to share my teaching method and philosophy with the interested reader. I wish her publication a large circulation and hope that it falls on fertile ground.”

I can arrive only at one conclusion: Haukur Hannesson is mentally disordered.
He forgot what Dr. Suzuki wished and this is quite serious as a Chairperson of ISA and ESA and he is not aware that he himself made two contradictory written statements within a few days.


Jennifer Visick said: Jul 20, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

From what has been quoted in this thread so far, it is not clear that any contradictory statements have been made. The phrase “further publication” might mean “further” in the sense of time (and would then include every book printed after the letter was sent), or it might mean “further” in the sense of the sequence of materials (and would then mean any new volume or instrument that might be printed after the letter was sent, but would not refer to multiple reprints of the volumes already published).

Although the endorsement of Suzuki explicitly printed in the Step by Step foreword does make one wonder what the people on the ISA Board are thinking, I must admit that if it is a reaction to the type of “one-two” marketing coutier mentions, I can sympathize with the gut reaction, even if I don’t agree with the idea of banning. But this is all speculation and it is hard to discern anything without hearing directly from those who made the decision.

Whatever the logic or reasoning behind the letter was, I (still) do not see how the ISA can actually carry out a (legal) ban. For example, the Vivaldi, Bach, and Seitz concertos found in Suzuki violin book 4 were used to teach violin long before Suzuki showed up, they continue to be used outside of the Suzuki approach, and will doubtless not fade from the classical violin repertoire if the Suzuki approach should fall out of style. All K.W. needs to do is to make an edition of these works from a source in the public domain—The ISA can no more ban her from using this repertoire in her publications than one car company could ban another from using the wheel.

Coutier said: Jul 20, 2009
Coutier Rademaker58 posts

I quote from a letter Mr Landefeld, CEO of ISA has sent to Mrs Wartberg on November 10, 2008. CC’s were sent to many leading figures in the Suzuki world. Mr Hannesson has sent me a copy too. Since it describes official ISA policy I feel free to quote from it.

“Regarding the “Step by Step” series: Both the development of additional volumes for the violin or the publication of this material transcribed for viola constitute publication of a new work. Therefore, the ISA Violin Committee or ISA Viola Committee as well as the ISA Board would need to vote approval for this publication. However, both the ISA Board and the ISA Violin Committee object to the “Step by Step” publication in principle because of the ISA policy of not wanting “How To” publications marketed. The rationale for this policy is:

  1. Potential for teachers to buy “How To” books instead of participating in regionally
    approved teacher training programs.
  2. Potential that endorsing a specific “How To” publication could be interpreted as being “the singular” prescribed pedagogical approach applied to the Suzuki Method repertoire.
  3. Potential that a teacher trainer would require their publication or a specific publication to be used in a training course to the exclusion of other pedagogical ideas or options.
  4. Potential that one teacher, author or pedagogical interpretation is perceived to be favored over others.
  5. Potential that a publication containing the same or almost the same repertoire as the Suzuki Method repertoire either in print or electronic audio format will detract from the purchase and use of the ISA’s approved international editions.
  6. Potential that the general public and particularly inexperienced teachers or uninformed parents will be confused by the presence of seemingly competing editions on the market.

Although you have expressed the intent of the “Step by Step” publications to be primarily a practice aid for students and to some extent parents, the reality is that it is also quite considerably a “How To” publication. This is why the ISA Board perceives your “Step by Step” publication to have some or all of the six potential conditions I have outlined above.
Therefore, any request to continue this publication in any format through any media and for any specific musical instrument is denied. This denial is not intended to pass judgement on the quality of your work or the materials you have produced. Nor does it pass judgement on the quality or content of your teacher training courses or your mode of teaching children. It does, however, testify to the ISA Board’s concern for the harm your publication may bring to the larger issue of Suzuki Method training systems.”


Laura said: Jul 20, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I’m not even sure I know how to respond to that, other than with mixed feelings! I understand and generally agree with the points that are being made in the letter. But I don’t appreciate those points being made to the detriment of an excellent teaching and learning resource.

What to do???

Jennifer Visick said: Jul 21, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

ditto, purple_tulips.

For my own studio, I have my own teaching path and I tend to use the Step by Step recordings side by side with the faster “official” recordings, but not so much the Step by Step books. I would be happy to just have the recordings available (and indeed when I see that a student would benefit from them I ask them to buy the “cd” version, not the complete book along with the cd).

Kathrin said: Jul 22, 2009
 4 posts

Kerstin Wartberg has informed the German teacher trainers about the situation with Alfred. We have had the opportunity to read several emails. So we could make ourselves an exact picture of the actual situation.

Legally ISA can‘t prevent at all the publication of the Step-by-Step books. But the ISA has used other methods and put Alfred under pressure in order to stop the publication of the next books.

I quote from an email sent by Alfred to the German Suzuki Institute on 01 July 2009:

*“… but I needed to get in touch with the ISA before responding. While they feel that Dr. Suzuki approved (at least in principal) materials up to book 3, they think that anything beyond book 3 is over stepping this approval. Therefore in light of our relationship with the ISA, we are unable to publish or distribute your materials beyond book 3.

We hope you will understand our position…”*

On the basis of this information each reader can get an idea which unfair methods the ISA uses for preventing these publications which Dr. Suzuki himself monitored and approved.

Kathrin Averdung
Teacher Trainer of the German Suzuki Institute

Kathrin Averdung

Coutier said: Aug 2, 2009
Coutier Rademaker58 posts

Well, it was to be expected, wasn’t it? We are teaching on the basis of a philosophy, a vision and the visionary is dead. So, a group of trusted people take over and try to preserve and keep the family intact.

After my mother died at the blessed age of 92, my eldest sister felt the urge to take her place in the family. That didn’t work at all. None of us (I am the youngest of a family of nine and at that time 52 years old) wanted or needed a mum and certainly not a mum who wasn’t like our mother (who was very special indeed) so we politely declined. I am quite certain my sister doesn’t visit this website so I can freely say that she is rather a control freakette.
Since our mother died the connections between the brothers and sisters have become slightly “thinner”, but when we do get together on our yearly family meeting the atmosphere is lighter then ever before. We seem to have grown up. Also the family meetings are now organized by my mothers’ grandchildren and since they are making a lot of babies they in turn are very much in the center. It is a natural process and because we are growing older for us oldies it is easy to see and enjoy all that unfolding.

Jesus is dead, Buddha is dead, Mohammed is dead, Suzuki is dead. As dead as my dear mum! You know what happened with the churches after their founders died. In the name of “the only truth and supreme understanding” they’d bash eachothers’ brains in, burned witches on stakes and nowadays happily blow themselves and others to smithereens in busy marketplaces.
Of course we Suzuki’s will never go that far; no way mr Hannesson will board his Viking ship and attack the infidel Krauts across the waters, no way mrs Wartberg would cross the Alps in heavy armour and beat the crap out of Martin Rüttimann (I couldn’t let that one pass!). But what I see happening the past two years points to similar mechanisms. Fodder for sociologists indeed. It happens at all times and all over the world.

Haukur Hannesson and mr Landefeld are, under the flag of ISA, fighting a fierce battle for control over Suzuki’s heritage and in my opinion as a true Dutchman they are fighting windmills. I have a strong feeling it is a private battle, a grudge that is being fought out. From what I understand they stand no chance of legally winning, so they “work” the publisher as Kathrin shows us in her last message. That’s tricky indeed, not beneath the traditions of the church of Rome in fact.
I have learned the past few years that both ESA and ISA become very closed when faced with criticism. Situations that in the normal world would be solved by openness or swift professional action are left to fester. Instead they firstly pretend nothing is wrong and secondly complain that people are rude and need to be given a code of conduct, as if that would restore anything.
“My” Dutch representative in the ESA was very angry with me because ESA colleagues of her have told her that I have written impolite things concerning the drama with the revised editions. When I asked whether she had read my posts or if she would be willing to, she flatly refused: THAT was absolutely unnecessary! she replied. I call that the arrogance of power.

Is there any hope? I couldn’t say really. It never stops to baffle me that people who work with this wonderful method which only really blossoms when flexibility and openness are there can be so, almost autistically, closed and defensive. Not much progress has been made, so costly legal battles will be lost, and face will be lost, and people will leave or not arrive. And that is exactly what none of us want.
The Step by Step books and cd’s are here to stay, I am certain of that. And hopefully others will follow Kerstin Wartbergs example and lovingly create their own beautiful books. Compare the Suzuki Violin School books to the bible , compare the Step by Steps and other future publications with books written about the bible. Thousands of books like that have been written over the centuries. The bible still exists!

The ISA needs to understand and accept that these books are here to support and NOT to replace. They need to learn to be more modest and grateful and to loose their fear of being less in control. To be serving rather than lording, so to speak.
What they should do is publish an excellent edition of Suzuki Violin School and in THAT book change next to nothing. The fact that it took eight years to get agreement about the first three volumes of the revised editions is a perfect example of communication that doesn’t work. I feel that most of the changes done to the first three volumes are unnecessary and mainly a nuisance. Let the Violin School books be the beautiful house and the Step by Steps and their likes the gardens.
Would the Suzuki vision die? I don’t think so. Others are taking many of the ideas into their methods, and thus the musical world becomes a better place. Let’s enjoy that rather than squeeze it to death, let’s share rather than hoard. If that must be without ISA and ESA, so be it.


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