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New York Times Refutes Mark O'Connor's Accusations Against Suzuki

Laurie Niles

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Published: December 8, 2014 at 4:39 PM [UTC]

Point-by-point, the New York Times refutes all of Mark O'Connor's claims against Shinichi Suzuki in an article published Sunday. Here is a link to the article, if you would like to read it in full. Here is a summation of the major points:

Did Suzuki study with German violinist Karl Klingler?

The article quotes the very well-respected longtime USC Professor Alice Schoenfield:

Alice Schoenfield"'Klingler told me about Suzuki,' she said, adding that while Mr. Klingler did not generally take private students, he made an exception for Mr. Suzuki, whose father owned a violin factory in Japan.

She said that she had the impression that Mr. Suzuki had been an 'on and off' student. 'But he studied with him, and he gave him also a beautiful violin to say thank you when he went back to Japan,' she recalled. 'It was a violin that I played at my recitals. So I know for sure that Suzuki was under his guidance.'"

Did Suzuki have a relationship with Einstein?

Says the article:


'Mr. Suzuki did not claim that he lived with Einstein or that Einstein was his guardian in any legal sense. Rather Mr. Suzuki wrote that when he was a young man in Berlin, a family friend, the biochemist Leonor Michaelis, had asked Einstein to look out for him. He wrote that he had attended some concerts and social events with Einstein and that he had been greatly inspired by him.

Several Einstein scholars said that there were no indications that Mr. Suzuki had a close or lasting relationship with Einstein. But there is evidence that the two men met in Berlin. There is a letter that Mr. Michaelis wrote to Einstein inquiring about a visit from Mr. Suzuki, a letter that Einstein wrote to Mr. Suzuki’s father thanking him for the gift of a violin and a drawing that Einstein inscribed to Mr. Suzuki.'

Did Pablo Casals go to a Suzuki concert, and was he moved by it?

The NYT interviewed Casals’s widow, Marta Casals Istomin:

Shin'ichi Suzuki

"...she confirmed that she had attended the Suzuki concert in Tokyo with Casals in 1961. She said that Casals, who had taken a lifelong interest in children and music for children, had been “very moved” by the sight of so many young children playing music, and that he had embraced Mr. Suzuki, but that he had not endorsed the method or given much thought to it.

'He was very touched to hear these children,' Ms. Casals Istomin said in an interview, adding that Casals had wept, as he often did at concerts. 'At that moment, he didn’t think of it as a method. He thought of it as an idea of bringing young people together with music, not whether it was a good method or a bad method.'

She said that the recording of the event — in which Pablo Casals described the concert as 'one of the most moving scenes that one can see' and praised the adults for training children in music, saying, 'Perhaps it’s music that will save the world' — appeared genuine."

So to Mark O'Connor: When are you going to apologize for contriving this "controversy" in an attempt to ruin the reputation of a man who is not alive to defend himself? When are you going to apologize for the personal and public smear campaigns you have waged against legions of teachers (including me) who have simply tried to point out the truth?

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Posted on December 8, 2014 at 7:13 PM
"An examination by The New York Times of some of Mr. O’Connor’s key charges found that they were undercut by evidence."

ACTUAL investigative reporting!

Posted on December 8, 2014 at 7:18 PM

If you dare, take a look at MOC's blog, and the totally twisted take he has posted about how the NYT article validates his findings.

I think MOC is a whack job nutcase, truly.

"New York Times Substantiates Mark O’Connor’s Findings on Shinichi Suzuki Bio"

From Ramón G Castañeda
Posted on December 8, 2014 at 7:41 PM
Why would an apology from someone so base as to spread these senseless accusations be of any significance now?

O'Connor has lost all credibility.

Posted on December 8, 2014 at 9:09 PM
I agree with the previous comment - why do we care about an apology?
He has lost credibility
Posted on December 8, 2014 at 10:10 PM
A couple of years ago, Mark got called out for misrepresenting the truth in the fiddle community, too:

From Lars Peter Schultz
Posted on December 8, 2014 at 11:26 PM
Now I don't know Mark O'Connor, but I have read several things on him here on regarding his very weird accusations.

Based on that I must say that it appears that Mark O'Connor has created black PR on himself to an incdredible degree by doing that.

Doesn't his own reputation matter to him?

Posted on December 8, 2014 at 11:44 PM

Mark OÇonnor is hardly my favorite fiddler anyway. Gosh so many more interesting ones!

Try Darol Anger for instance. Way cool player.

I think we can put this one to bed.

From John A
Posted on December 9, 2014 at 12:02 AM
Him again? Somebody medicate him already.
From John Rokos
Posted on December 9, 2014 at 12:44 PM
Michaelis ... Now, that name really means something to all of us that have anything to do with biochemistry. I knew nothing about his life before just now following him up in Wikipedia. He WAS a Biochemistry Professor in Japan for several years, hence his friendship with the Suzukis. Thank you, Laurie, for bringing him to our attention.
Posted on December 9, 2014 at 2:43 PM
it sure would be nice if would not commit the same infraction by choosing only select passages of the ny times article to share but would, instead, print the whole article. giving the article one's one title is another editorialised error both mark o connor and this site commit. don't twist or over-inflate the facts - on either side.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 9, 2014 at 3:07 PM
Please see the first sentence of this article, which has the link to the New York Times article, so that you can read the entire thing yourself. No, we should not reprint an entire New York Times article on our website, I will never do any such thing, that's actually illegal. It is fair use to print excerpts for comment. Otherwise one is simply stealing another organization's article! Please do go and read the entire article, then you are welcome to come back and comment. You can very easily judge whether I represented the facts well. In fact, here is the link again, to save you the trouble of having to find it, hidden up there in the first sentence:

From Gene Wie
Posted on December 9, 2014 at 4:12 PM
It sure would be nice if readers on would actually *read* the posts before commenting, saving Laurie the time of having to point out the link to the full NYT article "hidden" in the first line of her post (clue: it's not hidden).

Posted on December 9, 2014 at 7:26 PM
Back in my youth, I was considered quite talented, even something of a prodigy by the teachers I had. The second teacher I studied with started me off on the last Suzuki book, to correct some serious defects in my playing. She was a warm, generous woman. And a great teacher. One day, later on in high school, we had a guest conductor for our small ensemble and she made the comment to him that I was a "Suzuki Baby". Even then, I thought that was an odd comment to make. I had already been playing for two years, and was 13-14, when I studied with her.

I'm frankly more on O'Connors' side on this one, although I don't feel nearly as strong about it as he does. In my opinion, Suzuki figured out the American obsession with and prejudice against anything other than a European lineage in the arts. So, he took some on and off again lessons (as quoted by the Times) from a great teacher, a meeting (or two) from a genius, and a visit to a concert from a musical giant, and gave it a lot of spin, so he could sell his method to Americans.

Maybe what we should really be looking at is why as Americans, we can't, or won't, accept people's talent at face value. Why, in order for it to have any worth, it has to be associated with someone living in, or coming from, a far away land? I wish I could say that this is a problem from the past, but it goes on to this day. It's insulting, galling, and has got to stop. Well, that's my two cents.

From Seraphim Protos
Posted on December 9, 2014 at 9:43 PM
I still don't understand why he calls himself a violinist?

He is most assuredly a fiddler.

Is he somehow ashamed of that musical style?

Posted on December 9, 2014 at 10:04 PM
Seraphim to be fair, a fiddler is a violinist. Period. Whether he is talented in Romantic or Classical or Baroque or Berg is another question entirely.

From Seraphim Protos
Posted on December 9, 2014 at 10:37 PM
>>> The second teacher I studied with started me off on the last Suzuki book, to correct some serious defects in my playing. <<<

Why then denigrate the method? It seemed to have helped solve some issues, if I understand what you were getting at there.

If the method works, it works, and it doesn't matter if a guy embellished his resume or had a child out of wedlock, does it?

You say we shouldn't bias our opinions just because the music comes from a far away land.

But what's is the problem if the music happens to be from there? Quality is quality, I don't care who wrote it, or where.

Would Bach be better if he grew up and wrote his music in Detroit or Nashville?

The issue with MOC's strident tone about AMERICAN music is it comes across as jingoistic and close minded. And I'm a proud American myself.

Posted on December 12, 2014 at 6:19 PM
From the NY Times article:

"Lois Shepheard... provided a recording of the speech Casals made at the concert. (When the recording was played for Mr. O’Connor, he asked whether a voice-recognition analysis could prove it was really Casals.)"

This doesn't appear to say much to help O'Connor's cause, does it? If anything, it's a sad statement to where his ethics lie...

From Lars Peter Schultz
Posted on December 13, 2014 at 12:05 AM
It is my impression that Mark O’Connor despite his incredible stupidity regarding his attacks on Suzuki is a great violin teacher. This is probably a known type of situation you can find, a situation where a person is plain stupid in one area and yet brilliant in another area.

What would Suzuki say if he was alive today. Would he laugh at Mark O’Connor? No, because Sukuki was very much concerned about love and care and therefore would never laugh at someone's stupidity. He would probably rather feel a bit sorry for the person and at the same time he would appriciate and enjoy the work of a brilliant teacher.

Suzuki's ideas about violin education is about approaching how children are learning their mother tongue language, it is about talent education regarding early childhood education, how to develop skills and ability, it is about listening to great music, it is about care and love.

Thus it is NOT about whether you play European classical music or American fiddle music. You can play any style of great music and apply Suzuki's ideas.

And the teacher is more important than the method!!!

Thus if Mark O’Connor's teaching includes qualities of the kind mentioned above then he is in alignment with Suzuki and NOT in opposition at all. The big question is: Will he wake up?

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