Mark O’Connor is making headlines for a series of highly critical articles and blog posts against the founder of the Suzuki method. I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about the situation. As I ponder it longer, though, I’ve realized that the overall effect of his criticism is a negative one and detrimental to worldwide musical education.
Basically, Mark asserts that Mr. Suzuki was a fraud, and not a great violinist as many believe. He also attacks the method itself as being impersonal and actually ruining students’ love for music. I don’t really find the claims on Mr. Suzuki himself to be all that relevant. We should be looking solely at the actual pedagogy and the net effects of the Suzuki method.
Millions of students have been introduced to music through the Suzuki method (primarily) on violin and piano. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the actual teaching method, there is no denying the positive influences it has had on young people. It provides an accessible way for very young students to get involved in music, usually in a group setting. There is obviously not an emphasis on personal creativity and expression at that early stage, but that is not really the point of this method. The point is that people get exposed to music, many of whom, otherwise, would never have a chance to be involved in this art form.
No teaching method is perfect, and no teaching method works for everyone. Not every principal trumpet player used the Arban method. There are many paths that can lead to the same place (all roads lead to Rome)…so we should be less critical of other methods and appreciate them for the uniqueness they possess and the positive values they offer.