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
2 Comments

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.

http://www.npr.org/2014/11/16/364140413/twinkle-sparks-fireworks-as-fiddler-guts-violin-method

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Mother’s Day turns 100 today. What piece of music would you play for your Mom on her holiday? And can you pass NPR’s Mother’s Day opera quiz?

May 11, 2014
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Mother’s Day, 2014.

That makes it the 100th anniversary of the national holiday that President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed in 1914, as World War I was beginning. The timing then seemed appropriate since the now festive and consumer-driven holiday was started in 1908 by Anna Jarvis as a way to honor fallen soldiers and to work for peace.

Here is a link to a story about the holiday’s history — with information about how Mother’s Day is celebrated in the Midwest and the Arab world — from National Geographic Society:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140508-mothers-day-nation-gifts-facts-culture-moms/

In past years I have asked: What is the best music you can think of to express Mother’s Day? ?Songs My Mother Taught Me” by Antonin Dvorak? The lovely and moving “mother” movement from the “German” Requiem by Johannes Brahms? The beautiful song cycle “Frauenliebe- und -leben” (A Woman’s Loves and Life) by Robert Schumann?

Mother and Child face to face

Here is a Top 10 list from Limelight Magazine:

http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/Article/256734,top-10-classical-mothers-mothers-day-special.aspx/0

And here are the Top 5 classical choices by the famed classical music radio station WQXR-FM in New York City:

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/208323-top-five-classical-pieces-about-moms/

Today I want to challenge to take a Mother’s Day quiz that appeared on the “Deceptive Cadence” blog on NPR.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/05/08/310427456/mothers-of-intervention-the-operatic-moms-puzzler

But this year my thoughts are more personal.

The Ear lost his Mom a year ago last March, but in the time since then I have had plenty of time to think about the loss and to see what music comes to mind when I think of her.

Now she was not a sophisticated listener of classical music.

But she loved a lot of fine music and had good taste.

She especially loved one piece in particular: Frederic Chopin’s Waltz in C-sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2. It is arguably Chopin’s finest waltz.

But it also embodies my Mom for two reasons.

One reason: When I was young she took to see Arthur Rubinstein  (below top) at Carnegie Hall (below bottom) – she even got STAGE sets — for his all-Chopin recital on Nov. 10, 1961. (I later found out that a young Emanuel Ax was also in the audience that evening, and was as impressed it as I was.) Rubinstein played that waltz, as I recall, perhaps as an encore.

artur rubinstein in moscow 1964

carnegiehallstage

More importantly, she also liked the particular Chopin waltz because I played it. In fact she probably liked the way I played more than the way Rubinstein did.

I was her son, after all, and Rubinstein wasn’t.

So this one is for you, Mom, on your day:

Now, if you care to, please leave me a REPLY, with a link to YouTube video if possible, of the one piece of music -– instrumental, song or opera aria, whatever -– that you would like to play and dedicate to you Mom whether she is living or not.

The Ear wants to hear.

And so would your Mom.

 

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Classical music education: NPR offers a terrific and helpful primer of how to get children started on music lessons and keep them practicing and playing.

June 23, 2012
9 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

School is out, for the most part, and many families will be looking for a way that children can pursue cultural enrichment activities.

Or maybe parents are looking for a way to replace what many budget-strapped schools districts have been cutting out.

For that case, music lessons might loom large – whether they are started in the summer, or the summer is an interim before music lessons start in the fall.

But parents, especially parents who themselves have no experience in music, can have a lot of hard questions:

When should children start taking music lessons?

What is the best instrument for a particular child?

How can you tell if you have found the right teacher?

How can get your child to practice without being a nag?

And how far should you be encouraging of playing and performing?

These are just some of the tips that were feature all this past week on NPR, derived from the radio show “From the Top,” which highlights and showcases young talent around the country. The series is called, in a reference to a composition by British composer Benjamin Britten, “The Young Person‘s Guide to Making Music.”

The Ear found the series – which has a lot of specifics and a lot of links – a terrific primer. Now he wonder if they will do the same for ADULT MUSIC STUDENTS since they often face difficult and confusing questions, as well as self-doubt and a lack of confidence, about starting late.

Anyway, here are some of the topics covered by the NPR series, which has performed a valuable public service and deserve all our thanks. BE SURE TO READ SOME OF THE COMMENTS AND TIPS ABOUT THE SERIES LEFT ON THE NPY BLOG ‘DECEPTIVE CADENCE.”

And if you have tips from personal or professional experience, please share them in the COMMENTS section of this blog.

Finding the right instrument for your child:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/06/14/155034276/finding-true-love-helping-your-kid-choose-the-right-instrument

Finding the right teacher for your child:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/06/18/155282661/finding-the-right-teacher-for-your-music-loving-kid

Getting kids to practice without a fight:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/06/18/155282684/getting-kids-to-practice-music-without-tears-or-tantrums

How to be a supportive and encouraging parent without becoming overbearing and overly ambitious:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/06/18/155282938/how-do-you-encourage-your-kid-without-being-a-crazy-stage-parent

How to help your child through the anxiety of the nerve-wracking process of auditioning or competing in a competition?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/06/18/155283138/next-how-do-you-reduce-audition-anxiety


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