Suzuki--Innovator or Fraud?
“I think it is one of the biggest frauds in music history,” said Mark O’Connor, a violin teacher and professional fiddler who has spent years delving into Dr Suzuki’s past. “I don’t believe anybody has properly checked his past.”
Mr O’Connor writes “Shinichi Suzuki had no violin training from any serious violin teacher that we can find. He was basically self-taught, beginning the violin at the age of 18.” (www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/11188226/Violin-teacher-Suzuki-is-the-biggest-fraud-in-music-history-says-expert.html)
O’Connor misses the point. Suzuki’s past is not the real issue. It is what is being done in his name in the present that needs to be examined.
It would make no difference if Suzuki came from Mars, had never studied the violin, was an amateur, or turned out to be Korean. What does matter is whether his method teaches correct violin technique.
He based his method on how he taught himself to play the violin: “I found this out when teaching myself to play the violin. That’s why I planned Book 1 the way it is....” (Dr. Alfred Garson, Suzuki Twinkles, USA, 2001, 81.)
Did he guess right? Is the way he taught himself correct enough to teach students to become expert players?
Had Suzuki been an expert violinist or known the musical/technical approach of great masters his method might have validity. Unfortunately, he was “none of the above.”
Is his method a fraud?
It is claimed by the British Suzuki Institute that millions of students have been taught the violin with this method over the last 50 years. There are currently more than a quarter of a million Suzuki students being taught by 8,000 teachers worldwide. Minette Joyce, the administrator of the Institute, said: “The idea behind the Suzuki method is people can be taught to play an instrument to the best of their ability. It isn’t designed to turn out professional musicians but to enable children to play regardless of their ability and to increase their enjoyment of the music.” (www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/11188226/Violin-teacher-Suzuki-is-the-biggest-fraud-in-music-history-says-expert.html)
Can students be taught to play “to the best of their ability” if what they are taught is fundamentally incorrect?
If a teaching method is not geared to teaching people to become master players how will their trained ineptitude “increase their enjoyment of music?”
John Kendall writes in his pamphlet, The Suzuki Method In American Music Education:
"Have any students emerged from the American Talent Education program to become professional musicians or performing artists? Since the objective emphasized by Mr. Suzuki is not to produce performing artists but to produce better human beings, the answer to such a question may not be relevant.” (John Kendall, The Suzuki Method In American Music Education, USA, 1966, 31.)
Very few people learn the violin in order to become a better human being. It is more reasonable to assume that they want to learn how to play the violin.
If over 8,000 teachers around the world are teaching 250,000 students to play the violin it is not unreasonable to examine the methodology used. After all, one’s assertion of a method is not proof of its validity.
In Lost Secrets of Master Musicians, Suzuki’s method is extensively examined, as is his teaching philosophy. A serious review reveals that nearly every aspect of Suzuki’s method is fundamentally opposite to the training, technique and musical understanding that produced the world’s greatest violinists. His method is superficial and fundamentally incorrect. It is not a legitimate method for teaching classical violin technique and is, therefore, damaging to the development of musical talent, at least for developing the skill to play the classical violin repertoire.
The method is currently being applied to teach other instruments as well. There is no reason to believe that using the violin method as a template will be a harbinger of good results.