The Suzuki debate via Mr. O'Connor

November 5, 2014, 5:24 PM · This BLOG is my take on Mr. Charles Avsharian's BLOG about Mark O'Connor's anti Suzuki comments. And I must say, in my opinion, Mr. Avsharian's BLOG is very eloquent, kind, and understanding.

First of all, we live in the USA, and with all it's problems, it is still one of the very few countries on this planet where this very dialog can take place w/o recrimination. But this is not a flag waive.. and I do understand some of Mr. O'Connor's concerns regarding the Suzuki 'method'.

My own personal experience is one of a professional performer for well over 35 years now, and I have been doing a great amount of teaching for the past 11 years.

Most of my beginning students come via the public school conduit.. that is, by the time many of these kids are introduced to the violin, viola, cello or bass, they are about 9-10 years old (4th grade in San Diego County).
The Suzuki Method, at least in it's original model form simply does not work for these students. These kids are expected to learn to read 'now'. I feel to 'teach by wrote' is actually creating an hindrance to their progress.

While the Suzuki intended model of the parent teaching child via a teacher's guidance can work in it's purist form, I ask my fellow violinists/teachers out there, "other than getting them to the lesson, how many of your beginning students' parents have the time and energy to actually take an 'active' role in their child's violin, viola, cello, etc studies?" I would wager maybe 1 or 2 out of 50.
I actually have to ask the parents to please sit in for at least the 1st few lessons for my 7-9 year old beginners
The other aspect of the Suzuki 'method', in it's pure form, is a group lesson of students reviewing their learned pieces together. But it is very difficult for most private teachers to organize such a class on a weekly basis due to the shear scheduling difficulties.

Still, as I was weaned on Suzuki, I can't throw the baby out with the bathwater here...
Mr. Suzuki left us a legacy for bringing up string musicians... and my first influential teacher, the late Margarito Ramirez, in the late 60's introduced the Suzuki School to the town of my youth, Escondido, CA. Had he not, I probably would not be submitting this BLOG. And one cannot argue that there are many world class violinists who came up via Suzuki programs. Frank Almond, long time concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony, came up via the late Dr. Theodore Brunson's Suzuki program that he established at San Diego State University, my first Alma Mater, back in the late 60s. Mr. Almond went on to compete and do well in the Tchaikovsky competition, and other world class competitions, including the Paganini.

OK, so now I am now using Mr. Saussmannshaus' materials...
but I also still use some of the Suzuki material.
And, yes, I use some of Mr. O'Connor's material, and I am very grateful for his work in this area as well.

I really believe that the best teachers are those that are able to create their own 'approach' for their students, on a per student basis... I try to tailor my teaching for each student and what I perceive as each student's needs for their individual growth. Some of my students do better with the Hrimaly Scale system, and some do better with Flesch or Sitt. These days I use mostly Simon Fischer's Scale book, as I have found his approach a huge help to my own playing. But to say one of those scale systems are better than the others, is silly... Nor are the Mazas etudes better than the Kreuzter etudes or Dont, and on and on... All are vital and useful. Any 'method' or etude book is only as effective as it can be due to the one employing it.

In closing, I feel it does none of us any good to tear down this or that 'method'; to do so hinders our cause, as passionate musicians, in passing on the baton of 'LOVE OF MUSIC' to future generations.

Mr. O'Connor may want to ask himself if it really endears and attracts his own 'method' to the violin teaching community by 'trashing' others ... As I believe he is a brilliant musician, and a thoughtful, caring human being... I think he knows the answer to that question.

But I am sure many of you out there will disagree;
Hey, isn't this a great country!!!
Greg Lawrence - violinist


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