The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: Was the man who invented The Suzuki Method for learning strings and the musical instruments a fraud? Violinist Mark O’Connor thinks so. What do you think? | November 30, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

Was Shinichi Suzuki (seen below teaching British students in 1980) a fraud?

Shinichi Suzuki in 1980 in London

You might recall that he is the man who invented the famous Suzuki Method for learning strings and other kinds of musical instruments, including the piano. Entire schools are based on his method.

BUT: American violinist Mark O’Connor thinks he was a fraud.

O’Connor (below) is the same musician who teaches at the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston and who plays and records best-selling CDs like “Appalachian Journey” with bassist Edgar Meyer and superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

mark o'connor 3

Now The Ear suspects there will be millions, probably tens or hundreds of millions, of parents and young people – all Suzuki students at one time – who might wish to disagree with O’Connor.

And it sure seems like the Suzuki has led to a lot of Asian students and others who learned through Suzuki playing in major orchestras and attending major conservatories.

At the bottom is YouTube method by a Dallas-based Suzuki teacher who tries to explain and defend the Suzuki Method as a “natural” method that is based on the idea of a “mother tongue.”

But you should make up you own mind about such matters, which are as ethical as they are pedagogical or musical and which force us to confront the practicality and efficacy of competing teaching methods.

So here is a link to a story on NPR (National Public Radio) about the controversy.

Be sure to read the more than 100 comments from readers.

See what you think and then let us know.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. My sons’ teacher never claimed that the Suzuki method was about music; it was much more. They learned patience, discipline, perseverance, and ultimately a deep appreciation of the music, too! Some students became musicians; many became professionals in other fields. My sons made wonderful friends whom they support and cherish to this day. What more could one ask for?

    Comment by Kathy — December 1, 2014 @ 10:36 pm

  2. Jacob,
    My son, Ken, born in Japan, studied Suzuki method from 3 yrs. of age until about 13. Initially, like all Suzuki violin students, he copied his teacher. Ultimately, what this produced was a great ability to memorize & play without music. The drawback of course, was that his sight-reading ability was less than perfect. He never met Shinichi Suzuki but for awhile sent audio cassettes to him for comments. Despite the cost of the lessons, his violins as he grew up, his attendance at the National Music Camp, Interlochen, MI, I consider it all a good investment. Today he’s an almost world class violinist and though his occupation is as a CPA, he still plays in some Southern California symphony orchestras. Larry Retzack

    Comment by buppanasu — November 30, 2014 @ 1:03 am

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