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Author Topic: Mark O'Connor on the founder of the Suzuki Method  (Read 10829 times)

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October 31, 2014, 02:42:47 PM
Reply #15

Offline Peter

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Re: Mark O'Connor on the founder of the Suzuki Method
« Reply #15 on: October 31, 2014, 02:42:47 PM »
And Suzuki in his youth trained in some mountains to be a healer and could withstand hot and cold so well he could hold white hot metal. White hot metal is around 1,200 degree Celsius. I don't know what that is in Fahrenheit, but I'm sure it's a lot ;)
 


November 03, 2014, 10:16:16 AM
Reply #17

Offline Peter

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Re: Mark O'Connor on the founder of the Suzuki Method
« Reply #17 on: November 03, 2014, 10:16:16 AM »
Violinist Fiona Bryan offers her thoughts on the "Suzuki" scandal. She is more concerned with the future of violin teaching (which is admirable and I agree completely), but as someone interested primarily in the cultish aspects of all things Suzuki, I will quote the paragraphs that speak to that and invite you to explore her full posts via the links provided:

Oct 31, 2014: Suzuki was a fraud & Mark O’Connor wants you to buy his method.
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...The crisis is not whether Mr/Dr Suzuki falsified his resume, whether the method is “cult-like” (it sorta is… I was chastised at the Beaver Creek Suzuki Institute during a parent meeting for letting one of my boys take a year off when he was 9 and hated the violin and everything about it and barfed on the teacher’s front lawn before every lesson for three weeks straight), or whether you should make sure your teacher is Suzuki certified ...
November 1, 2014: Focusing on Suzuki O’Connor Misses the Point
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For those who grew up learning Suzuki method in the “olden days”, as my daughter likes to say, Dr/Mr Suzuki was a more tangible person. Our teachers were going to Japan to “study” with Suzuki and the ones who went made sure we knew all about it and if they brought a student with them you never heard the end of it. If I compare this to some of the method books my boys use for trumpet (brass) and clarinet I can’t say that there is as much of a connection or preoccupation with the life of the person who wrote their method books. Perhaps it is because those folks never jumped on a marketing train to wallpaper the world with their book
That's another example of a cultic mindset. The authors of other methods didn't try to establish a cult of personality around themselves complete with false histories because that isn't what mentally healthy ethical people do, whether they want to sell a product or not.

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I admit that in some ways what I’m suggesting is a comparison of apples to oranges because Suzuki’s method is more life encompassing than a simple method book but I think it is important to recognize that many of the parents of Suzuki students don’t really have the time to care about who Suzuki was.
I think the "life encompassing" aspect of Suzuki's "Method' is indicative of the cultic mindset. He wanted to cast his net wider and talking up his method as a way to become a better person fits in with how most cults appeal to recruits.
Fiona then quotes Mary Beth Woodruff, artistic director and conductor of the Santa Barbara Strings:
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Mr. O’Connor should note the focus when it comes to the issue of Suzuki’s credibilities. To focus on him is to miss the point. Shinichi Suzuki is referred to as ‘Dr. Suzuki’ yet only honorary doctorates seem to have been issued. This is a bit questionable and feeds into the cult-mentality of which many take issue when it comes to Suzuki. If he was largely self-taught, great, but what right does the Suzuki association have to question the rest of us who are self-taught in its closed system of teacher directories and highly expensive teacher certification training programs?

What should be gleaned and learned from this is that no one system of pedagogy should dominate music education. Many of us that have chosen to be ‘non Suzuki certified’ but possess graduate degrees in music education and/or performance consider it an affront that the first page of every Suzuki book delivers an admonition to parents about checking their teacher’s Suzuki credibility. This is as transparent as it comes and shows that this system is guilty, as is the case with so many ‘systems’ of being tainted by monetary gain.

It needs to be clear that the ‘Suzuki Industry’ is a multi-million dollar one. O’Connor’s system is probably just as guilty if not more. There are fantastic pedagogues who are both Suzuki and non-Suzuki certified/accredited and if the Suzuki association is going to ask parents to question their teacher’s ‘pay in’ to the Suzuki system, it shouldn’t be out of bounds to actually investigate Mr. Suzuki’s credentials themselves. It is only fair play if they are asking parents to do this on the first page of all Suzuki repertoire books. Yet, it doesn’t need to be done with malice. It should be done with pure, gentle logic.

I admire so many things about the Suzuki method, yet a monopoly of pedagogy is not a good thing any more than Walmart’s taking over all small local businesses is a good thing. I only wish for more respect given from the Suzuki Association to those of us outside of their system who may possess graduate degrees, positions in symphony orchestras or who have trained under some of the best pedagogues in the world. Mine include Julia Bushkova, Andres Cardenes, James Buswell, and Ronald Copes – none of whom are Suzuki trained or certified.”

And in this Twitter discussion (as much as it's possible to have a discussion when limited to 140 characters) between Fiona and Michael, Michael offers this tantalizing hint at things to come:
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Speaking of those "sins" by Suzuki, I am sorry to say that it gets much worse than what we've disclosed. His personal assistant has been in touch with us. Let's just say, it would be better to tell your folks to cut & run now.

November 03, 2014, 10:47:18 PM
Reply #18

Offline Peter

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Re: Mark O'Connor on the founder of the Suzuki Method
« Reply #18 on: November 03, 2014, 10:47:18 PM »
More interesting material, this time of the kind I disagree with ;). I don't think Mark's allegations can be characterised as an attempt to assassinate Suzuki's character. And I think the writer, who works at a Suzuki school, is falling into the common trap of attacking the messenger. Something we see in cults all the time^. I personally view the discussions about Mark's own method as an irrelevant side-show. Certainly many will disagree, but I think such discussions do nothing but change the topic from Suzuki's lies in an attempt, conscious or otherwise, to sidetrack the issue.
 
From wiki's Character Assassination page:
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Character assassination is a deliberate and sustained process that aims to destroy the credibility and reputation of a person, institution, social group, or nation.[1] Agents of character assassinations employ a mix of open and covert methods to achieve their goals, such as raising false accusations, planting and fostering rumours, and manipulating information.
If Mark's allegations are true - and I certainly believe they are - then the above does not in any way shape or form in this universe or any other apply ;).  Read the whole entry, I'll just copy a few quotes and send any readers here to the source via the following link:

October 29, 2014: CHARACTER ASSASSINATION DOES NOTHING TO BENEFIT MUSIC: WHY THE SUZUKI METHOD IS WRONGFULLY UNDER FIRE
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A buzz has started its way through the community of music education. Allegations that Shinichi Suzuki, creator of the Suzuki Method, lied about his musical training with Karl Klinger and friendship with Albert Einstein. ...

Let’s get two things straight and move on: The worth of someone’s creative output is not dependent on the people they know, and ad hominem attacks are the cheapest form of argument.
Again I would disagree that the attacks are ad hominem attacks. We are talking about an alleged (and I think very very probable) falsified reputation which launched a multi-million dollar industry.
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Does no one perform the Beethoven 9th because its composer had gone deaf?
:o
That may be the stupidest comment I've ever read.
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Lois Shepheard is an expert on Suzuki and his method, and responded here two years ago to O’Connor’s first blog in which she addresses each allegation. In her book, Memories of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki: Son of His Environment (Glass House Books, 2012), she writes:

“I was aghast when he [Suzuki] said suddenly, ‘You don’t teach Suzuki Method…You teach Suzuki-Shepheard…No one teaches Suzuki Method but Suzuki.’…It could be a trap for a teacher, anxious to do the right thing by the Suzuki Method if he or she disregards what was studied and known previously or assimilated since. Suzuki never said: ‘You must do exactly as I say. I’m right and you’re wrong.’ Instead his often repeated phrase was: This is what I have learned.” (pgs 63-64)
Yes, Lois Shepheard is considered an expert on Suzuki - and I'll grant she knew the man and knows the method well, but is she also an indoctrinated member of his personality cult? I believe the following quotes from her book not only show that she is, but also that Suzuki was a complete and utter fraud, a bad teacher (or not a teacher at all) and a musical illiterate. Rather, he was simply another deluded mentally ill leader of a cult living out a fantasy surrounded by indoctrinated followers. Regarding his musical literacy, sure, he liked to talk about music, but in reading Lois's books and other materials, I've yet to come across any teaching advice or any comment that shows even a rudimentary grasp of basic music theory, let alone evidence he took private violin lessons from a master for 8 years. The advice that I've seen so far documented all relates to the right bowing hand. Now, I don't play violin, but I do play guitar. Certainly in guitar playing, a teacher that only focused on the right hand (or strumming/picking) hand would be considered a pretty weird teacher. Sure the right hand is important and there are various skills it has to master, but those pale in comparison to the role of the left hand. And I imagine the right hand of a guitar player has more to do than the right hand of a violinist? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I have plenty of more quotes to share from Lois's book, which reads like a random sampling of crazy Monty Python sketches, when I have time, but I think these will suffice for now:
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He told us how, as a young man, he’d gone up into the mountains and learned how to be a healer. I watched him heal people on several occasions. It appeared to sap a lot of his energy. I’ve seen children who’d fallen and hurt an arm go happily back into a class after a few minutes of his ministrations. ‘Now you go play,’ he’d say. I saw an American boy with a fairly severe leg injury of several months’ duration, limp toward Dr Suzuki and 30 minutes later, walk away easily. Some Zen training is described as channelling the healing vibrations available in nature.

A nun rose and proceeded to explain her difficulties with teaching. ‘Professor Suzuki, I have a number of students,’ she said. ‘They don’t have good posture and I just can’t get them to hold the bow correctly. They never seem to be able to play a piece from memory; they just don’t have the confidence. They don’t play well in tune either. What should I do?’ Suzuki’s answer was immediate. ‘Pray to God,’ he said (as Alfred Garson reported).

Suzuki told us he’d learned to withstand cold and heat and that, as part of his training, he’d grasped white hot metal. He never wore a coat, even in the depths of Matsumoto winter. ... Certainly, those who study Zen can develop, among other attributes, indifference to the discomforts of heat and cold.

As he listened to Monday concert items (or indeed to some performances in his teaching studio), Suzuki often appeared to fall asleep but was immediately alert when the kenkyūsei stopped playing. I asked him once how he kept going through his long hours of teaching. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘When a student plays, I decide in the first two minutes what I’m going to teach and then I sleep till he finishes.

In Matsumoto, in the middle of his teaching, our master would leave his studio and we’d all wait till he returned from watching a sumo contest on TV. He loved watching those huge men wrestling. I was amused at that. They were such a contrast to his small frame.

It was an expensive lesson; one paid for a month’s tuition whether there for a month or just a day.

Dr and Mrs Suzuki visited my students at the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind (RVIB) School. Dr Suzuki happily posed with a nearly blind, partially deaf child with severe learning difficulties but he complained about her bow-hold after she played.
Is it really so hard to believe that a man who claimed to be a healer AND to have held white hot metal lied about his past? Is it really hard to believe that a teacher who sleeps during lessons and while awake goes off mid-lesson to watch TV was not really a teacher at all, or at best a very bad one? And then there's the smoking which killed his wife:
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Waltraud lived all her married life in a cigarette smoke filled home (the 50-60 Camel cigarettes per day). ‘Ach, that man,’ she said. ‘He kills me with his cigarettes.’ Mrs Suzuki eventually died of emphysema in 2000. Dr Suzuki told us that when he was young he saw a picture of the world’s oldest man. It was a Russian with a cigarette in his hand, so Suzuki determined that to attain a long life he too must smoke. It must have worked; he passed away in his 100th year.
Granted, most of his generation smoked. Still, you've got to admire the justification he gave. I hope he said that before his wife died and not after.

November 04, 2014, 11:33:06 PM
Reply #19

Offline Peter

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Re: Mark O'Connor on the founder of the Suzuki Method
« Reply #19 on: November 04, 2014, 11:33:06 PM »
Plenty of interesting, insightful, and ignorant comments under this piece:
http://www.theviolinchannel.com/suzuki-association-statement-mark-oconnor-fraud-claims/

This one caught my eye:
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Well I will say one thing to disparage Suzuki: they seem to have a stranglehold on the education of the young violinist market. Their brand is extremely dominant to the point that if you want a decent teaching job out of music school you'd better be Suzuki certified. That is a bit monopolistic.

November 05, 2014, 12:33:42 PM
Reply #20

Offline Peter

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Re: Mark O'Connor on the founder of the Suzuki Method
« Reply #20 on: November 05, 2014, 12:33:42 PM »
November 4, 2014: The Real Truth About the Suzuki Method
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I once attended a short seminar with Suzuki guru Helen Brunner where she made this statement without a hint of irony, "Imagine how wonderful it would be if all the children in the world were playing the same pieces". It sent chills down my spine.

Helen Brunner is the Suzuki teacher who thinks performing surgery on a patient is less important than attending a child's violin lesson, presumably to practice variations on Twinkle Twinkle.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalmusic/8146379/How-I-became-a-Suzuki-disciple.html

November 06, 2014, 03:14:04 PM
Reply #21

Offline Peter

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Re: Mark O'Connor on the founder of the Suzuki Method
« Reply #21 on: November 06, 2014, 03:14:04 PM »
Mark just posted this on Facebook.. I think it's worth sharing:

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The President of Shar Music has something to say about the issues I have with the Suzuki Method. He wants a truce from me, and I would like to offer that now.

I feel like my effort into researching the existing pedagogy in order to improve upon my own has concluded. I don't need to espouse my opinions on it anymore. I have done a lot to that end, far too much in fact. Although there isn't anything I want to retract from my Parting Shots blog articles at this time due to no new information substantiating other facts or findings than we have presented, I do apologize for how I have caused such an impassioned response and over-heated debate.

It may be worth noting that I did not write the quote that a major newspaper headlined "Biggest Fraud in the History Of Music." However I believe I probably said it off the cuff in a conversation while I was driving in the heavy rain to a gig in the Northeast. It created an internet sensation and here we are. I take responsibility for the comment and wished it was not quoted and used as a headline because it obscured finer points that I wanted to make. I know that we all deserve better than what is happening with friends and colleagues and I fully agree with Charles that there is room for all. Sincerely and with apologies, Mark O'Connor Nov, 5, 2014.

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Room for All: Shar Weighs In on Mark O’Connor’s Anti-Suzuki Statements
Written by Charles Avsharian
Published: November 5, 2014 at 8:46 PM [UTC]

Sometimes a conversation goes too far and crosses the line from spirited discussion to something potentially hurtful and damaging. In my role as CEO of SHAR, I take great pains to focus on appropriate customer and business issues and leave such conversations to others. SHAR has always sought to bring useful and innovative products and services to the attention of our customers. Censorship plays no part in our operation, since we strongly feel that our own music community (“the market”) is best equipped to make its own decisions.
However, the most recent comments in an ongoing online argument, and elsewhere, have made it impossible to avoid.
And, as a teacher and violinist, I feel obligated and impassioned to state my opinion, as well as present SHAR’s official response. Of course, I am referring to violinist Mark O’Connor’s attacks on the Suzuki Method, and, in particular, on the character of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki.

It was in the early 1960’s, just after Shar began its own “Early Development” here in Ann Arbor, when America first witnessed the potential and great value in the Suzuki Method. Dr. Suzuki brought a small class of young children to perform here in the states. In just a few short years, Dr. Suzuki’s “Talent Education” combined with the unique perspectives of American Teachers, brought the joy of playing the violin to a new, and large, audience. We had never seen anything like it and felt that Suzuki’s method had brought much needed new blood into what many felt was a rich person’s pursuit.

Indeed, in that time-honored American Way, the “democratization” of teaching the violin opened countless new doors, and Dr. Suzuki’s dream of “making good citizens” was firmly established. The method had transformed into a movement, a way of living a good life. SHAR has been a strong supporter of Dr. Suzuki’s Talent Education from the very beginning, faithfully sponsoring the SAA and related organizations at the highest level. That support does not waver today.

When Mark O’Connor put pen to paper and created his “O’Connor Method”, he put his lifetime of experience in learning and teaching the violin into a beautiful, passionate, and effective series of books with a uniquely American approach. Not content with simply accepting old-fashioned pedagogical violin methods rehashed using American tunes, O’Connor took his method much further. With an emphasis on improvisation, playing and listening together, and gaining an understanding of music that was already revered worldwide yet somehow rejected as not being “serious”, he created something that could not be ignored. As with Suzuki, it is the uniqueness of O’Connor’s method that opens the doors to scores of new players into the mainstream of violin playing, and injecting fresh blood into teaching the violin.

It is the opening of doors that has created opportunities for so many, strengthening violin teaching in the process.

There is no need to restate here what has already been said on the internet and elsewhere. Suffice it to say that the conversation is no longer useful. I have in fact made this point directly to Mr. O’Connor several times since he first began posting on this subject more than a year ago. Unfortunately, my hopes for calling an end to the hostilities have failed.

SHAR’s position is that our community of players, teachers, students, parents, and composers, benefits greatly when doors are opened. When those doors begin to close, whether through neglect, hurtful comments, or institutional stasis, our community suffers.

Freedom of speech is part of our wonderful culture in the free world. However, that does not mean one is protected from how people react to what is said.

Charles Avsharian
CEO Shar Music Company

One interesting comment^
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I wonder if Charles threatened to remove the MOC method from Shar's catalogue if MOC didn't curb his vitriolic assault. Hmmmm…

The word "However" just doesn't belong after a sentence like "Censorship plays no part in our operation."
It should read: Censorship has played no part in our operations until now.

November 08, 2014, 09:12:48 AM
Reply #22

Offline Peter

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Re: Mark O'Connor on the founder of the Suzuki Method
« Reply #22 on: November 08, 2014, 09:12:48 AM »
I thought this Facebook post from Suzuki CEO Gilda Barston worth sharing, especially in light of  Charles Avsharian's successful censorship of Mark. I can understand Gilda wanting to present her and Suzuki Method Inc.'s side of the story, but to try to stop the interview from being broadcast borders on the cultish. She should check her email more often^

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Dear Friends:

It has come to my attention that NPR has recorded an interview with Mark O'Connor presenting his "facts" about Shinichi Suzuki and the Suzuki Method. The interview is scheduled to air tomorrow (Sunday, November 2, 2014) between 8-10 am on the "Weekend Edition" program.

This interview was recorded WITHOUT any input or rebuttal by the Suzuki Assocations or any member of the Suzuki community. (I spoke with the journalist involved, and was told that she had attempted to reach me and the SAA but was unsuccessful.)

It is outrageous that NPR will air this without checking O'Connor's "facts."

I am asking each of you to write a short email to the journalist, Liz Baker: [email protected] and Scott Simon, the host of "Weekend Edition": [email protected] (I am not completely sure of his email, but I am sure of Liz Baker's email) urging them to not broadcast, or to delay broadcasting the interview until they can check all of O'Connor's "facts" and give equal time to a spokesperson for the Suzuki Community.

I purposely did not include a generic email that could be sent under your names, as I think it is important to write something that conveys your own concern and care about Shinichi Suzuki and his legacy.

Please also forward this email to any of your friends who can add their voice to this!

The addresses once again are:

[email protected]
[email protected]

Thank you for your help.

Gilda Barston
CEO - International Suzuki Association

Browsing Mark O'Connor's page on NPR, I'm not seeing an interview about this: http://www.npr.org/artists/102122971/mark-o-connor

November 17, 2014, 06:59:37 AM
Reply #23

Offline Peter

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Re: Mark O'Connor on the founder of the Suzuki Method
« Reply #23 on: November 17, 2014, 06:59:37 AM »
NPR just realized the interview and they've been following this pretty closely^
http://www.npr.org/2014/11/16/364140413/twinkle-sparks-fireworks-as-fiddler-guts-violin-method

Mark George, spokesman for the Suzuki Association of the Americas: "Mrs. Suzuki named my daughter," George says. "So you know, when somebody says not so nice things about them, of course I'm going to respond."

That's kind of odd^


December 08, 2014, 05:08:45 PM
Reply #24

Offline Peter

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Re: Mark O'Connor on the founder of the Suzuki Method
« Reply #24 on: December 08, 2014, 05:08:45 PM »
Nice New York Times piece^
Violin World Yowls at Challenge to Fabled Teacher
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The bitterly traded charges of deception and unfair attacks would have been right at home in a rough-and-tumble political campaign. In this case, though, the acrimony erupted in an area that is usually much more placid: the market for children’s violin lessons.

It all began when the American violin virtuoso and composer Mark O’Connor, who started publishing his own instruction books several years ago, took aim at the giant of the field: the Suzuki method, known for teaching legions of children around the world to saw away at variations of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Mr. O’Connor not only criticized the method but also accused its creator, Shinichi Suzuki, of fabricating parts of his biography to promote it. ...