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Room for All: Shar Weighs In on Mark O’Connor’s Anti-Suzuki Statements

Charles Avsharian

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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

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