Mark posted his views below on Google Plus on Friday, 12 April, 2013. I re-post them here because the issues he raises are central to violin education. Here's Mark:
"I have to write this because I am constantly asked what is the difference between the O'Connor Method and the Suzuki Method. I have been explaining this to folks for four years now. Many have still not understood the differences, so I have to uptick the message a bit. The Suzuki Method not only has promoted an all-technical approach to violin training for children, but was bent on starting it with kids who are as young as three years-old. When you start repeating finger and bow exercises on little German 2nd tier tunes and baroque pieces at age three to nine and that is your principle musical experience - repetition, memorization-ear training, repeating the same music exactly like a million other students with no individualism and creativity, maybe there are some survivors who are creative, ones who can get out in time and become creative string players, but the vast majority won't. After reviewing literally thousands, tens of thousands of students over the last 40 years, including at my own string caps that have seen 7,000 unique enrollments, there is nearly no way out for most of them. It is a death sentence in violin creativity, unless there is a huge cultural intervention that changes their musical life around 180 degrees. It is a phenomenon of the Japanese Suzuki regimented system and their militant philosophical background, the violin students playing in unison for performances, in formation etc...everyone mimicking the director. It is not the musical semicircle which is artistic, like the symphony orchestra performs in, but it is rows of regimented student lines in synchronized quasi-socialist-realist formations.
These formations never took place in the West before WWII and without the Japanese musical training influence. Music in large groups did not take place in the West without harmony, counterpoint and artistry. The Suzuki Method or Talent Education is basically, do exactly what I tell you to and only what I tell you, then you will have a "good heart" and be a "good citizen," all codes and ethics designed for Japanese children and their beloved emperor, not Americans. American musical culture includes many other and wiser principles of self-discovery, individualism, creativity, free spirit, journey, diversity, and a whole host of other philosophies born out of a multicultural experience. It is with these ideals and philosophies - the "American System," that I created the "O'Connor Method" for learning strings.
If there is a massive campaign by the majority of the string teachers who happen to be ingrained in Suzuki, to shut down the "American System" over the antiquated WWII era Japanese method of learning music, I feel that I must take a stand, given these stated issues. Every other music group enjoys a healthy "American System" of training in this country - with concert bands, jazz bands, choral societies, percussion, guitar and the myriad of American styles that most instruments get to train in and enjoy. The violin is the only major instrument that is still in an all-baroque, 250 year-old world for their training - literally year after year - after year.
In addition, Shinichi Suzuki's veracity has become a great concern. It has come to the attention of several researchers that he may have cheated and lied not only about his training, but also about his big-name affiliates, whose names and quotes he used to market his method to the West, and he did so after they were deceased. If this purported fraud did take place, in addition to the fact that the method has failed our young players as creative artists, students who could never improvise on stage, arrange music for performances, write or compose fine music and lead ensembles as an able leader, all because of their specific violin training in Suzuki, there is no way that I should not speak up, and speak up loudly. Yell if it is necessary. This may be one of the greatest frauds and injustices in music history. He may never have gotten his method out of Japan without potential fraudulent activities purposefully deceiving the public about himself as a man, his musical training and his credentials and endorsements from major names as a pedagogue. The Suzuki Method even affected kids adversely in my own family. I did not encourage them to follow the American system like I did myself unfortunately, going with Suzuki who was a trusted name. I even oversaw one of the kids for a two period, and I was frankly taken back by how inappropriate and non-inspiring I thought it was. I began to develop these concerns a long time ago. The kids I refer to quit violin by the way. It appears America was the first and biggest target of the fraudulent portrayals with Einstein, Casals... and his methodology.
One of the Suzuki advocates wrote me this today, trying to convince me what the merits of the Suzuki Method; 'one of the most basic concepts of Suzuki is he did not aim to produce a pile of professional musicians." Yes, I concur. According to Suzuki's claims, the Suzuki violin factory in Japan a couple of generations ago produced as many as 150,000 violins per year. That is millions of violins folks. Where did all of the players go in Japan? Midori is big. But she didn't take Suzuki violin lessons either."
Read the new blog here about the devolving of the "good citizen" Suzuki.
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