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Laurie Niles

Laurie's Violin School: Planning the Recital

November 17, 2014 14:40

fall notes

What a full feeling I have, the day after my students give their recital!

My studio's fall recital yesterday left me feeling very proud of the accomplishments of all my students and their growth over the months and years.

The big reason I put on these semi-annual recitals is to provide a performing opportunity for students. But it does more than that. It brings together a small community of people to mark a milestone in everyone's progress. It allows kids to perform, but it also shows them something about being an audience member and, hopefully, about showing support for their peers. Parents see their own child progress, but they also witness the progress of other students. Parents and students have the chance to chat and get to know one another at the reception afterwards. (I always close by saying, "Tell everyone else something they did really well!")

At the end of each recital, I take the opportunity to call up each child, one-by-one, to acknowledge their violin progress and also whatever ripple effect his or her violin playing is having on his or her community. This last part has nothing to do with me, but when one of my students is playing in the school orchestra, youth orchestra, jazz band, Suzuki group, if they are helping teach other kids, playing at their church, singing in the choir -- I think it's all to be commended.

I have a small studio (about 15 students) and my recitals are likewise small, but over the years I feel I've figured out a few things about putting them together. Here is a checklist of things to do, to prepare for a recital. Please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments!

1. Hire a good accompanist. This is the first call I make, even before setting the date. I see if one of my preferred accompanists is available. A good accompanist can roll with whatever the students throw his or her way. A good pianist is not always a good accompanist, so be sure that you know your pianist for his or her collaborative abilities.

2. Secure the venue and set the date. The sooner you set the date, the sooner you can commit to every aspect of the recital. Students will have their other important commitments (soccer, tennis, school musical, etc.) and you may want to check a few of those. (If you set the recital on the day of their graduation ceremony, or their required school concert, or the youth symphony concert, that's a big conflict.) But if you can tell parents several months in advance to reserve the time and date, there is a much larger possibility that you will get high participation and that just maybe, this is the one soccer practice they miss because they have an important and mandatory violin recital!

About the venue, pick something that suits the size of your studio. The little chapel at my own church is just beautiful, so I hold my recitals there. I feel lucky, as it took me a while to find such an ideal setting. If you have a hard time finding a place for the recital, you can ask your students' parents if they have connections; I've had some really lovely recitals at people's homes as well. Keep in mind, the venue should have a decent piano that is in tune. This can be a complete deal-breaker! So make sure you are familiar with the piano (bring your tuner, see where the "A" is at) before you sign a contract. You will probably have to pay to use a public or church facility.

3. Pick what your students will play. My general rule is: it should be completely memorized a month in advance of the recital day. We make the final choice of each student's repertoire about a month in advance. They may be working on other, more advanced pieces, but the recital piece needs to feel comfortable and extremely practiced and familiar.

4. Practice performing. In the weeks leading up to the performance, we practice performing during the lesson, and I encourage them to perform for others at home. I have them walk in, bow, play the whole piece, no stops, bow again. If I played the piano, I'd accompany them on piano. But I don't! So I accompany them on violin, with much thanks to arrangers Martha Yasuda and also Marianne Rygner for making violin duet parts of the accompaniment to the Suzuki tunes as well as many other pieces. (Thanks to Martha, my students have recently been able to put Meditation from Thais with piano with the greatest of ease, yay!)

5. Rehearsal. I have everyone come to the venue where the recital will take place and play with the pianist. I try to schedule the rehearsal at least a week in advance for the "Wow, I had no idea but I really need to work on this!" revelation that inevitably occurs! Sometimes it's hard to schedule this in the venue, but I really aim for that, because I think it helps performers to hear themselves in that space, imagine themselves playing in that space, etc.

6. Reception. Are you going to have a reception? I've found it easier to do the reception as a potluck. I have the families sign up to bring something in the 2-3 weeks before -- using a sign-up ensures that they can see what others are bringing and we don't wind up with 10 veggie trays, or conversely, 10 plates of cookies! I provide the drinks, cups, plates, tablecloth, etc. Be sure to bring several trash bags, if you plan a reception, and ask kids and parents to help you clean up afterwards so you can leave the venue in good shape.

7. Program: The week before the recital, I type up and print the program. I try to make it look nice! This time I drew the picture you see at the top of this article. If you can, print the program several days before the recital, so you don't wind up in a mad dash on the day-of.

with Sebastian8. Awards. Not necessary, but I make everyone a certificate that acknowledges the piece they have just performed. I've known teachers to give out practice awards, for most hours practiced, or awards for those who practiced 100 days in a row. I give the certificates at the end of the performance and use the occasion to acknowledge students both for their violin accomplishments and also for what they have been doing in their violin lives -- if they play in youth orchestra, school orchestra, band, church, teaching, giving performances at nursing homes, etc. etc.. This allows other students and teachers to think about what possibilities are out there for making the violin become a part of their lives. Because ultimately, that's what this is all about: teaching them to play the violin so that they are free to go whatever direction they wish with it and use it to enhance their own lives and the lives of others.

P.S. At right is my newest student, Sebastian, 4, whose certificate was for "First Recital"!

12 replies

Hilary Hahn Returns to Performing after Four-Month Muscle Strain Recuperation

November 17, 2014 10:43

She's back!

According to Hilary Hahn's anthropomorphous violin case on Saturday:

"We are back on the road!! Greetings from Regensburg, Germany. Hilary will play Beethoven tomorrow -- matching repertoire to region," tweeted the case, then, "Hilary and I are grateful to our fans and colleagues for their support in the past months. We hope to see you all soon!"

On Sunday she performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto Sunday with the Luxembourg Philharmonic at University Hall in Regensburg, Germany.

Hilary Hahn
Photo by Michael Patrick O'Leary

Since July, Hilary has been recuperating from a muscle strain, which forced her to cancel a number of appearances, including performances with the Baltimore, Seattle, Dallas, and San Diego Symphony Orchestras, and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Here is her November tour schedule, which has her playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto at locations in Germany and Luxembourg, with Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Joshua Weilerstein.

1 reply

Going Over NPR's Story about Mark O'Connor's Attacks on Shinichi Suzuki

November 16, 2014 10:24

Today National Public Radio aired a spot called 'Twinkle' Sparks Fireworks As Fiddler Guts Violin Method, by Liz Baker.

Shin'ichi SuzukiWell, certainly, Mark O'Connor has been doing his best to gut the Suzuki method and those who use any bit of it in their teaching or try to defend Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998).

One of the lines in the story struck me: "Anyway, the facts are almost beside the point."

Indeed, the method never needed anything but its successful students to prove itself.

But since NPR saw fit to air O'Connor's shaky allegations, I'd like to go over a few of the facts that the piece brought up:

1. Suzuki indisputably took lessons from Karl Klinger:

The NPR piece addressed that Suzuki took privately from Klingler, not as a student at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. Suzuki never claimed he was a student at Berlin Hochschule für Musik. Here's a little more:

Suzuki with Klingler"Shinichi Suzuki had violin lessons with the prominent German violinist Karl Klingler in Berlin in the 1920’s. Klingler’s daughter, Marianne Klingler, was a strong supporter of Suzuki’s teaching principles and became the first chairperson of the European Suzuki Association. Ms. Klingler confirmed many times that Suzuki had indeed studied with her father." From the International Suzuki Association.

Also, from cellist Amy Barston: "I have a tape of Alice Schoenfeld saying Klingler talked often about Suzuki studying with him (Klingler) privately for 8 years, And how Suzuki was his only private pupil. (Schoenfeld) studied with Klingler in the 1920's and 30's."

2. Suzuki had a friendship with Albert Einstein.

NPR brought up O'Connor's claim that Suzuki faked a relationship with Einstein but didn't address its veracity.

Suzuki describes having a relationship with Albert Einstein; you can read that in "Nurtured by Love," p. 76-78. They were friends in Berlin who sometimes wound up at dinner parties together, both there and when they were in America. Suzuki's book does not actually devote a lot of space to this relationship, and what he does write is extremely deferential. Mentioning Einstein seems less about name-dropping than it was about describing qualities he admired in Einstein. He describes an incident, when both men were at a dinner party in America. Suzuki was asked to play by the host, and he played some Bruch for the guests. A woman there asked, how could the music still sound so German, played by a Japanese man? Suzuki writes in the book:

"After a brief interval Dr. Einstein, young enough to be her son, said quietly, 'People are all the same, madame.' I was tremendously moved."

I'd call that man my friend, too.

Besides that, there is also physical evidence of this friendship: Norman Lebrecht published on his blog and Amy Barston published on her Facebook page Einstein's self-portrait drawing, made for and given to Suzuki. Here it is (thank you to Amy Barston):

Einstein-portrait-for-Suzuki

The autograph says, “Herr Shinichi Suzuki in freundlichsten Erinnerung” which translated is, “Mr Shinichi Suzuki in friendliest recollection” – Albert Einstein November 1926.

3. Pablo Casals came to a Suzuki concert and praised the performance.

The NPR piece brought up O'Connor's accusation that Suzuki faked an endorsement from cellist Pablo Casals but did not address its veracity.

In his book, "Nurtured by Love," Suzuki describes Casals, at age 75, coming to a concert of Suzuki kids, being moved by it and offering hearty congratulations (p. 101-102). The following video shows Casals at a Suzuki concert (see 5:33):

4. Mark O'Connor just got re-married and so he's dropping this attack on Suzuki.

NPR brings up O'Connor's new marriage. All best wishes to him. It would be great if he's moving on.

It's worth noting that O'Connor's attacks on Suzuki coincided with the apparent dissolution of his relationship to Sadie deWall, mother of his four-year-old daughter. Sadie's mother is Pam (deWall) Wiley, who taught the Suzuki method for 40 years before helping O'Connor conceive the first books in his method and also going on the road as the teacher trainer for the O'Connor Method.

* * *

For more about this:

Just in: Suzuki Empire Strikes Back at Fraud Allegations: Norman Lebrecht pretty much takes down all of O'Connor's arguments, point-by-point, then commenters offer even more concrete evidence.

Mark O'Connor Harms the Violin Community: This article by me describes Mark's destructive tactics.

Room for All: Shar Weighs In on Mark O’Connor’s Anti-Suzuki Statements: Shar CEO Charles Avsharian writes in support of the Suzuki method as well as O'Connor's method, which Shar publishes. He expresses disappointment over O'Connor's attacks on the character of Shinichi Suzuki.

30 replies

Guest Master Class with Stephen Shipps at The Colburn School

November 14, 2014 10:52

What do you say to a student who already plays so well?

I found myself thinking about this several weeks ago during a master class at The Colburn School in Los Angeles, as I watched University of Michigan violin professor Stephen Shipps work with the students of Robert Lipsett, who holds the Jascha Heifetz Distinguished Violin Chair at Colburn.

Legacy loomed large over this gathering: besides the ever-presence of Heifetz (whose studio, where Lipsett teaches, was moved piece-by-piece to Colburn), Lipsett's teachers were Ivan Galamian and Endre Granat -- whose teacher was Heifetz; Shipps' teacher was Josef Gingold, whose teacher was Eugène Ysaÿe, whose teacher was Henryk Wieniawski. Different schools, different approaches, but that is the beauty of the guest master class: it shakes students out of their habits and allows them to hear things -- probably many of the same things -- put in a different way.

First was Kevin, who played the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Shipps first emphasized having a solid stance when playing. If you go up on your tiptoes when you play, you lose sound, he said. "Involve your heels in making the sound," Shipps said. Though it may sound like strange advice, there is a certain feeling in one's playing and change in one's sound that comes from being rooted to the ground.

He also directed Kevin's attention to the words written in the music; for example (get out your scores, friends) after the first big tutti, two bars after the violin enters, Tchaikovsky wrote, "Molto sustenuto il tempo moderatissimo." In other words, "very sustained, very moderate tempo," or: It should be slower here.

Tchaik score

(By the way, finding that marking, without the full orchestra score, will really depend on your edition. I have two editions, both with piano reduction. My Auer/Carl Fischer edition did not have the marking in either the piano or violin part; my Oistrakh/International edition had the marking both places. In 2012, Shipps, along with Endre Granat, edited a critical urtext edition of the violin part for the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, along with Ševcík exercises designed particularly for the Tchaik that is well-worth studying for this kind of detail.)

"I want some story here," Shipps said, still referring to the same place. He pointed out that Tchaikovsky was a specialist in ballet music, and related that Gingold used to dance around the room to illustrate it. "Easy, easy," he said, as Kevin played this most difficult of passages.

Then they went back to the beginning, where Shipps preached rhythmic faithfulness, and in this place:

spin

"Spin, spin, tell the story! Is it sad? Happy? Happy! Show us!"

Shipps' manner was polite and genial -- and totally unrelenting. Like an unassuming, approachable friend that just so happens to be a bulldog.

We all know this melody:

Tchaik melody

"This is one of those great Tchaikovsky melodies that sounds dumb if you play it straight," Shipps observed. (So true!) Not that Kevin was playing it straight, but Shipps was acknowledging that a little rubato is necessary to make it flow properly.

Shipps-Kevin

Playing that melody also requires a fullness of the bow, so to make him think more horizontally with the bow, Shipps demonstrated by holding the bow so Kevin would have to pull for a down-bow, and push for an up-bow.

Next we heard the third movement of the Tchaikovsky from Will, whose playing technique was already excellent. Instead, Shipps focused on bringing greater calm to his stage presence.

"If you've ever seen a Youtube of David Oistrakh playing," Shipps said, "it doesn't look like he's working hard."

In fact, Oistrakh doesn't move much. "It's a strange paradox. He draws no attention to himself on the stage, but you're drawn more to him by what he doesn't do."

"You are a great fiddle player," he told Will, "This is easy for you! It's got to look easy and let the music speak for itself."

He spent the next 10 minutes, hovering close to Will as he played, reminding him, "Make it look like you aren't working very hard," then, "Make it like a science experiment in efficiency," then, "We are in balletland, don't be so serious!" then, "You're looking worried or p---ed, CALM!"

Shipps was like a personal conductor, a very tenacious one, relentlessly getting the point across while also getting Will to laugh.

Youjin then played a Schubert Rondo, and again Shipps went back to the words in the score: "What does 'Allegro giusto' mean?" He repeated the question for the class, but no one (myself included) had the answer for "giusto." Then Shipps told about a Parisian teacher who quit on the spot, because her students didn't know the definitions of the words in the music, specifically of "Allegro giocoso" in the third movement of the Brahms Concerto. ("cheerful, playful.") A general squirmy feeling fell over the class.

"'Giusto' means 'justified,'" he said after allowing the squirminess to sink in. Also: Just, equal, square. And in this case, steady and slower.

Shipps-Youjin

She slowed the tempo, that did transform it into something different with new possibilities.

During a short break in the masterclass, Shipps shared that, in honor of Heifetz, he had strung his violin to approximate Heifetz's setup. Heifetz used a Goldbrokat E, pure gut A and D and Tri Color G. (In Shipps' case, he used the Goldbrokat E, Eudoxa straight gut A, Eudoxa wound gut D and Thomastik G Perlon.)

"They're completely impractical!" Shipps said of the gut strings, tuning his fiddle again for about the half-dozenth time.

Lipsett explained why: "When you put straight gut (strings) on your violin, it will go down (in pitch) for five to seven days. Then it stabilizes for three to four days, and then it goes false." Four days max of stable tuning! Though he played with impeccable pitch, Heifetz' violin was always out of tune, and he even had fingerings for open strings for those (frequent, it sounds like) occasions when his strings were out of tune, he said.

Next we heard an excellent performance of the first movement of the Mendelssohn Concerto by Usha, and Shipps talked about how to take this to the next step: performing with an orchestra. He first asked her to imagine playing with the Boston Symphony, and being on T.V., with a cameraman filming. If you move too much, you're out of the frame. "Make all your emotions come out through your bow speed, but not movement," Shipps said.

Also, "I'd be a little stricter" with tempo, he said. "Don't give the conductor too many chances to lose you."

In another spot: "It's gorgeous, but the wind players are going to be mad at you," he said. One has to play in fairly strict time, when playing with orchestra. "Take time when it means a lot to you, but don't take time all the time." It's possible to play in time, but still play in an exciting way.

The master class concluded with Blake playing the final movement of the Mendelssohn Concerto.

Shipps-Blake

The two had worked together before, last time on Carmen Fantasy, and Shipps talked about the difference in performing Carmen vs. Mendelssohn, that one has to have feet on the ground and cool things off for Mendelssohn.

After the class, Lipsett encouraged Shipps to speak for awhile about his mentor, Joseph Gingold.

Shipps-Lipsett

Here are a few highlights: Gingold was a man with an amazing memory for both history and music -- he could play nearly anything in the violin or orchestral repertoire by memory, he knew all the Opus numbers to everything and he never forgot a name. Shipps said Gingold read the Groves Encyclopedia start to end, and "he remembered the whole thing!" In fact, Gingold once corrected Heifetz about a fact at a dinner party with George Szell. Though Gingold wanted to drop the matter, Szell insisted they look it up, and when Heifetz realized he indeed was wrong, Heifetz physically threw the book at Gingold!

As a young man, Gingold studied with Ysaÿe, and over his three years of study learned a different language every year, Shipps said. Ysaÿe would teach his violin lesson in that language, and then they'd have lunch with Mrs. Ysaÿe and converse in that language as well. Another hard-to-believe anecdote: though Gingold is known as the great violin professor who built a world-class violin program at Indiana University during his 30-year tenure at that institution, the first year he was at IU, nobody applied to be in Gingold's class!

12 replies

Seven Violins, Five Centuries, One Recital

November 6, 2014 14:55

Five centuries converged right before my eyes -- and ears -- at an extraordinary house concert I had the honor of attending a few weeks ago in Pasadena, Calif.

My good friend, David Scheidemantle, gave a benefit recital for the Los Angeles Children's Chorus (an excellent group in which my son sang for several years) which featured seven violins ranging in year from 1610 to 2014 and in origin from Italy to the U.S. He was joined by his daughter Kaela, also a violinist, pianist David Dunford, and oboist Michael Bernard. Luthier Georg Eittinger of Hans Weisshaar Fine Violins and Bows also spoke about each violin.


Violinist David Scheidemantle and pianist David Dunford

First was the beautiful setting, the historic 1913 James Allen Freeman house, on a perfect-weather autumn evening in Southern California. The recital took place in a room that had been specially designed for chamber music, David said.

piano

In fact, he said he was enjoying the acoustics so much that it reminded him of the fiddle trial room at Bein and Fushi that they refer to as the "Ego Room" -- because everything sounds so good in there!

the room

The seven violins representing five centuries were lined on a long table by the window. They included a Paolo Maggini (Brescia, c. 1610); Goffredo Cappa (Saluzzo-Turin, 1690); Hendrik Jacobs (Amsterdam, 1699); Alessandro Gagliano (Naples, 1709); Benjamin Banks (Salisbury, c. 1775); Janos Spiegel (Budapest, 1918) and a just-made, varnish-barely-dried Georg Eittinger (Los Angeles, 2014).

fiddle table

About 50 people gathered for the recital, which included works by Corelli, Bach, Brahms and John Williams.

First David and his daughter played Corelli's Trio Sonata Op. 4 in A minor -- David playing Georg Eittinger's 2014 violin and Kaela playing the 1690 Cappa. "I thought the contrast between the age of the instruments was a good reflection of the contrast in age between father and daughter!" David joked.

More compelling to me than the contrast was the ease with which those instruments -- and musicians -- sang together. To be sure, the older instrument had its mellow tone and the new one was a bit brighter, but in Corelli those voices weaved in and out just beautifully, old intertwined with new. And it was fun for me to see Kaela, 17, once a three-year-old in the Suzuki group class where her mother and I teach together, now a mature musician -- there's another bit of time travel for me!

By the way, the violin that David was playing was only completed weeks ago -- "I worried that the varnish would be dry enough!" Eittinger, its maker, said.

Georg Eittinger
Georg Eittinger and his 2014 violin

Eittinger said that it takes him about 200 hours to make a violin in the white, with a few more hours for the varnish. This particular violin was made of flamed maple for the back and scroll and spruce for the front. "It still has that new car smell!" David said.

The next instrument was a 1699 Hendrik Jacobs (1639 – 1704), made in Amsterdam. The violin was based on an Amati, not a Strad pattern, as was the custom in Holland. It's a smaller pattern, with a more pitched arch. The varnish is transparent, with a deep color. Because Jacobs was a contemporary of Dutch painters such as Vermeer and Rembrandt, his aptitude for varnish often gets associated with those artists, though there is no widely acknowledged evidence of a direct connection.

David and oboist Michael Bernard played Bach's Concerto for Violin, Oboe and keyboard in C minor.

Maggini backFor the Brahms Violin Sonata in D minor, David played each movement with a different violin: a 1918 János Spiegel for the first movement, a 1610 Paolo Maggini for the second, and his own 1709 Allesandro Gagliano for the last.

I'm afraid I lost all sense of attention upon hearing the Maggini, though -- a violin "from the beginning of violin-making," as Eittinger described it.

Never mind that the maker's name sounds to me like a cross between "magic" and "genie," or that the back of it has some of the most elegant decorative purfling I've seen in person -- this violin had a special sound. Something in its sweet tone, smooth voice and easy partnership with David captivated me. The violin was made in Brescia, one of the earliest places in Italy to be known for violin-making, where Maggini was a student of one of the earliest violin makers, Gasparo da Salò.

This violin, in this living room, from 1610, to 2014.

After the recital was over, and after everyone had retired to the patio for the reception, I found my way back into that living room. With permission from David and Georg, I tried playing the Maggini. It was everything I suspected and more. I was just playing "Meditation from Thais" and some Bach, but I really didn't want to stop. Isn't a violin a strange thing? It has its own voice, yet hundreds of violinists over a period of 400 years can sing with it. It can stand alone as an object of great artistry, value and historical worth. But paired with a musician to play it, the object of art takes on the dimension of the living, breathing being. That really is magic.

Maggini
1610 Maggini from Weisshaar

3 replies

Grigory Kalinovsky and Joseph Swensen named Starling Professors of Violin at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music

November 6, 2014 11:31

Congratulations to Grigory Kalinovsky and Joseph Swensen, who became inaugural Starling Professors of Violin at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music this fall. Both had joined the IU faculty in fall 2013.

Grigory Kalinovsky Joseph Swensen
Grigory Kalinovsky and Joseph Swensen. Photos courtesy Indiana University

Grigory Kalinovsky, who also teaches at the Pinchas Zukerman Young Artists Program in Canada, Heifetz International Music Institute and Manhattan in the Mountains, previously was a faculty member at Manhattan School of Music. A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, Kalinovsky started his music education with Tatiana Liberova then continued his education in New York, graduating from the Pinchas Zukerman Performance Program at Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Patinka Kopec and Zukerman. His recording of Shostakovich’s Violin Sonata and Twenty-Four Preludes with pianist Tatiana Goncharova was praised by the composer’s son, conductor Maxim Shostakovich, as “a must-have for any Shostakovich music connoisseur.” Kalinovsky has has taught at many summer music festivals, including the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine, Soesterberg International Music Festival in Holland, Summit Music Festival in New York and Pavel Vernikov’s festival “Il Violino Magico” in Italy.

Born in Hoboken, N.J., Joseph Swensen was raised in Harlem, N.Y., by a Japanese-American mother and a Norwegian-American father, both professional musicians. He attended Juilliard from the age of seven, first as a piano student of Thomas Schumacher and Christopher Sager and then, at the age of nine, as a violin student of Dorothy Delay. He studied chamber music with Robert Mann and other members of the Juilliard Quartet, Leonard Rose and Felix Galimir. He studied composition with David Diamond and Vincent Persechetti, and coached privately with Isaac Stern over a 10-year period. A passionate chamber musician, Swensen performs in recital with pianist Jeffrey Kahane, and with his trio, Kahane Swensen Brey, alongside Kahane and cellist Carter Brey. He is an active guest conductor and longtime violin soloist. You can check out his recent TED talk, called Habitats for Music and the Sound of Math, here.

For more details about both violinists, here is the full press release from Indiana University.

Archive link

Mark O'Connor Harms the Violin Community

November 3, 2014 16:02

For a long time, the Suzuki community has tried to ignore Mark O'Connor's efforts to discredit it, but his recent attempts to carry a blatant misinformation campaign about Shinichi Suzuki into mainstream media cross the line.

At this point, and very unfortunately, it's impossible to separate Mark O'Connor's efforts to create American music books for children, and the inspiring music camps that he ran in the past, from his mean-spirited misinformation campaign against Shinichi Suzuki and his personal bullying of music teachers and anyone who wishes to defend Suzuki (who is not alive to defend himself).

The broader violin community has recognized a problem evolving with Mark over the past few years, during which time Mark has been kicked off almost every violin-related website there is, including Violinist.com, Facebook Violinists and other fiddle, viola and mandolin sites, due to excessive self-promotion and bullying. His claims about Suzuki (which have been refuted many places, and are nevertheless tangential to Suzuki's accomplishments) have appeared in a one-source story in the rather unreliable British tabloid broadsheet, The Telegraph. They also appear on his blog, which many people simply have stopped reading because of the anger and inaccuracy. Unfortunately, this all serves to turn people off, to Mark's work, to Suzuki, and to the violin overall. Recklessly tearing down one way of doing something doesn't mean that people will embrace another. It just tears us all down.

The vitriol is so toxic, distracting and inaccurate, I have simply turned off the channel on Mark O'Connor: unliked the Facebook page, turned off the Twitter, and completely quit going to his website, even if it's just to see what degree of unbelievable inanity he's come up with now. I've enjoyed his music in the past -- embraced it, performed it, written about it, taught it to my students. But it is not compelling enough to outweigh his personal offensiveness and blindness to the destruction he is causing not only to those he criticizes so mercilessly, but to himself.

Given my past experience, I fully anticipate that, in response to this blog, Mark will attack the level of my violin playing, the veracity of my resume, my ability to write, everything about my website, my abilities as a teacher, maybe even the color of my hair, the quirkiness of my personality, my status as a woman and more, as he has done to so many other people who have dared to say anything critical about him. I don't intend to read it. I believe his response will reveal more about him than it does about me.

2008
Mark and I at UCLA in 2008

59 replies

Previous entries: October 2014


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