fired as concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra after an investigation that found evidence of sexual misconduct. But you also might know his name from a different place -- the cover of the Suzuki Violin School recordings. He is the violinist on all the listening reference recordings to accompany the Revised Books 1-8 for violin.William Preucil Jr. -- you might have heard the name recently in the news, when he was
In August, after the Washington Post article that put years of rumors about Preucil's problematic behavior further into public light, the Suzuki Association of the Americas released the following statement: "In light of recent allegations of misconduct, the Board of Directors of the Suzuki Association of the Americas has removed William Preucil, Jr. as an honorary board member. As an association, working together as Dr. Suzuki intended, we will continue to aspire to the highest standards of personal conduct, professional integrity and respect for human dignity."
As a longtime member of the SAA and a Suzuki teacher for more than 20 years, I was heartened by this acknowledgement, as were many of my colleagues. But will it be enough?
Here is why there is so much at stake for the Suzuki world, when it comes to the recordings that it recommends and embraces. For some background: the Suzuki Philosophy, devised in the mid 20th century by Japanese violin teacher Shin'ichi Suzuki, is founded on the idea that children can learn instrumental music in much the same way as they learn their native languages. One important part of language acquisition is an environment filled with spoken language; similarly, the Suzuki philosophy advises that children have an environment filled with music. To that end, Suzuki teachers have always required students and parents to listen to recordings of the music they are learning to play in the Suzuki books. The violin recordings were first made by Suzuki himself, and subsequently by other violinists, including Koji Toyoda, David Nadien and David Cerone.
The recordings are meant to model the best-possible music-making and good violin tone. As Suzuki himself said, "Beautiful tone, beautiful heart." For Suzuki, building good tone and cultivating a sense of beauty were ways to help children build good character. This remains an important ideal for Suzuki teachers today.
Shin'ichi Suzuki died in 1998, and the beginning of the 21st century, teachers from all over the world met in committees, through the International Suzuki Association (ISA), and worked through a series of major revisions to the Suzuki Violin School volumes (there are 10 in the violin series, and all but Vol. 9 and 10 have been revised). It was a years-long, arduous process involving many people, and many hours, going over bowings, articulations, dynamics, style -- everything. Once the music was revised, Preucil Jr. -- who is the son of longtime teachers and Suzuki pioneers Doris and William Preucil Sr. - was asked to record the music. The elder Preucils were involved in the revision process as well.
The recordings were supervised by an international committee of Suzuki teachers, many who actually attended the sessions to oversee the many pedagogical details. They did many, many takes of every piece -- for example, 27 takes of all the Twinkle variations.
Since their release, Preucil Jr.'s revised recordings for Books 1-8 have been officially designated by the ISA as the recordings that Suzuki teachers are obliged to use and obliged to recommend to their students, putting the name "William Preucil Jr." on thousands of CDs all over the world and putting it in very close association with the "Suzuki Violin School." Considering the recent revelations over longstanding scandals, having the name "William Preucil Jr." on every child's Suzuki recording may not be a tenable situation.
Incidentally, the eight recordings were released over a period of years, from 2007 to 2016. Preucil Jr.'s character was first publicly questioned in 2007, in a Cleveland Scene article entitled Sour Notes, which outlined allegations of sexual misconduct and nepotism. The article circulated nationally and in fact elicited a lively discussion here on Violinist.com at the time.
Now more than 10 years later, allegations of sexual misconduct by Preucil can no longer be brushed aside as hearsay. On Tuesday the Cleveland Orchestra released a full independent investigation report (read it by clicking here.) that confirmed 12 incidents of sexual misconduct during Preucil's 23-year tenure as concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra.
A number of Suzuki teachers, whose careers are built on the reputation and integrity of this method, are clearly concerned about the recordings. Chicago-based viola and violin teacher Sarah Montzka started a blog called Character First, and a number of teachers have written essays on the site, in support of creating new recordings.
"I have grave concerns that William Preucil Jr.’s continued association with the Suzuki brand (through the recordings of the Revised and new International editions) will bring immeasurable harm to the name and legacy of Dr. Suzuki," wrote Plano, Texas-based Suzuki violin teacher Charles D. Krigbaum. "We live a philosophy that says beautiful tone, beautiful heart — and that who you are inside comes alive in your sound. I believe this with all of my being, and therefore I cannot personally use or recommend these recordings in light of the recent allegations. Yet these recordings are the only recordings that reflect the revisions of the last decade."
A parent responded to a recent article here on Violinist.com that "I have never been able to bring myself to allow my child to listen to his Suzuki reference recordings, despite the excellent playing. I wonder how many other Suzuki parents have this conundrum."
With so much time, money and the talents of many people invested in these recordings, there may be some resistance to re-recording all the volumes. To do so would be an international undertaking, requiring leadership and permission from the International Suzuki Association and Alfred Publications, which together hold the rights to the Suzuki recordings.
But teachers and parents are feeling an urgent sense that the reputation of the entire community is on the line. When Preucil was fired from
the Cleveland Orchestra for sexual misconduct, this was national news. When the rest of the world makes the connection that the musical voice of the Suzuki method is also known to be a sexual predator, the International Suzuki Association had better have a plan to save the community's reputation.
Because to continue to ignore this problem is to put that hard-earned reputation at grave risk.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Alfred Music has announced that they are "in the process of working with the ISA on commissioning and releasing new recordings with a new artist in 2019."
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Here are a some alternative recordings of the Suzuki repertoire:
Suzuki Violin Book 5
Suzuki Violin Book 5 (Koji Toyoda)
Suzuki Violin Book 6
Suzuki Violin Book 6 (Koji Toyoda)
Suzuki Violin Book 7
Suzuki Violin Book 7 (Koji Toyoda)
Suzuki Violin Book 8
Suzuki Violin Book 8 (Koji Toyoda)
Another source is Suzuki Evergreens, played by violinist Takako Nishizaki and pianist Terence Dennis. Here is a link for Spotify.
In September, the Suzuki Association of the Americas also put out a list of Additional Recordings for the Suzuki Violin School.
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