Matthew Charles Weiss
21st century composer and violinist

The Octava Chamber Orchestra
concertmaster/president
Seattle, WA USA
shalin327@yahoo.com




Bio   La Folia Variations   Clarinet Concerto   Opera and Other Works   Delian Society Concert   Suzuki War of Words  

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Phyllis Freeman

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Mark O'Connor has launched yet another unsubstantiated rant targeting the Suzuki method. This time he goes after John Kendall.

If you would like to know the truth, please watch this 2006 interview I did with Mr. Kendall. He speaks about his life as a Quaker, environmentalist and his worries about our children and their future. Once you watch these videos, you will see how absurd the following statement is.

From Mr. O'Connor:
"What is John Kendall’s central interest in the Suzuki approach? Non-individuality - in a free society like in America, is a good idea to Kendall? The “you do as I say,” mimic every note, memorization ear-training and constant repetition of music and art - makes a “beautiful heart” in the U.S.? While Suzuki thought it must have made “noble” and “beautiful hearts” in 1930s Japan, how could Kendall believe that it made sense in the U.S.? For Japanese children learning how to conform to an oppressed society, giving up on any originality or true individuality, finds logic in Imperial Japan, the era that gave birth to Suzuki’s “talent education,” “mother tongue” and education “philosophy.” But was his method designed and therefore ever meant for the West?"

John Kendall interview, part 1. 
http://www.classicalmusiccity.com/search/video.php?vars=1654%2FJohn-Kendall-Interview.html

John Kendall interview, part 2. 
http://www.classicalmusiccity.com/search/video.php?vars=2032%2FJohn-Kendall-Interview-part-2.html

I had been a long time fan of MOC, but because of his recent attacks I will personally no longer support him in any way, shape or form. I will not purchase his recordings or music or attend his performances. His recent behavior has no place in the classical music world. We are a better community than that.

1 month ago

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Gary LeeHelga Chojecki and 4 others like this

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Mark L. Priest

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Mark L. Priest • Perhaps he [erroneously] believes that Suzuki is predominately about creating solo artists. It is not, and does not claim to be. 

The Suzuki Philosophy is more about building musically-literate audiences, consisting of individuals who are capable of appreciating music from the inside out (because they themselves have spent some time learning to enjoy playing an instrument, and reading printed music for themselves). 

As a performing musician, he ought to appreciate the importance of having an understanding audience.

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Jean Antrim-Erickson

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Jean Antrim-Erickson • It is ABOUT TIME that this Suzuki Bubble was BURST!!!!!, YEAH For you Mark O"Connor, You have hit the Nail right on the HEAD!!!! 

Did any of you ever try to teach a student steeped in this oppressive method?? Well it is next to impossible, as they are never trained ,EYE -To _BRAIN TO HANDS!!!!! 
Ear training is a fine thing, but ROBOT learning doesn't teach anyone to become 
a musician. truly, honestly or CORRECTLY!!! 


Jean Antrim

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David Hlawiczka

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David Hlawiczka • Which philosophy would you recommend Jean? And I'm interested in classical music as a profession.

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Jean Antrim-Erickson

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Jean Antrim-Erickson • The traditional method ,of learning how to correctly play your chosen instrument, being taught to read notes and rhythms ear training For flute players that would be using harmonics correctly), embrochure developement tonal production, ande all being taught to play in tune ,to your self and to,others, by being introduced to group playing as well as your private lesson study.

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David Hlawiczka

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David Hlawiczka • Sounds almost like Suzuki violin school ;)

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Gary Lee

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Gary Lee • Hi Phyllis, thank you so much for posting those interviews. A number of my colleagues that I perform with in the St. Louis area studied with him and thought so very, very highly of him. I can't imagine the motivation the Mark O'Connor accuses. Perhaps someday he'll learn something different and change his mind. 

One of these days I'd love to have the funds to get the Suzuki training in cello. My income has been cutting off in the summer as my students go away to camps and vacations so I get no vacation and no teacher training. It's a trend in the St. Louis area among all the private lesson teachers. 

When I took the "Every Child Can" class I agreed with most of what was taught. If there was anything I disagreed with I don't recall. There is a lot of good to learn from Suzuki.

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William Pruett, D.M.

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William Pruett, D.M. • Fortunately for me, we pianist/teachers are not so dominated by any one "method" or philosophy. Although many writers and pedagogues have tried to establish their methods as the prevalent ones in piano teaching, piano teachers are very independent thinkers and resist categorization. I did watch some of the interviews with John Kendall and was glad to hear him say that he did not favor lableling teachers as "Suzuki teachers" or "not Suzuki"--that seems like a healthy attitude. I hope many strings teachers are as open minded as he seems to be. 
I also read some of O'Connors blog and was a little disappointed to find out that he seemingly is hawking his own method books. That's his right to do, but it makes me wonder about his motivation in his critiques of Suzuki's ideas. 
I like the idea that Mark is trying to teach improvisation and American music of various styles. I haven't seen his method books but wonder if they incorporate classical repertoire as well. There needs to be a balance of styles, classical being the bedrock in my opinion, but not the only style.

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Jean Antrim-Erickson

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Jean Antrim-Erickson • I do agree with tis broad based opinion, 
Jean

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • I actually agree with all of John's interview really! We are grabbing clips of it and am going to use it to bolster our message. What I am upset about mostly is what he did a long time ago, supporting this movement to such an extreme that he himself didn't test on students before "evangelizing it." He even says in the filmed interviews in question that Japanese students are far different than American students - those are his sentiments in the interview. You have to wonder when you are looking at his interview, what was he thinking for about three decades!

In my most recent blog "Was the Suzuki Method formulated by a Cult," of course the research exonerates Kendall as being in the cult, but it doesn't exonerate him from being equally fanatic about Suzuki that even he himself didn't think it was going to work. I talk about a few reasons for the fanaticism, but it is obvious by his own writing, he acknowledge the Suzuki "cultism" as "dangerous" in the 1960s and 70s in his book. Even on this filmed interview in question, he chose the word "clannish" to describe the Suzuki movement. Well, that is pejorative when talking about music education - by any definition - especially when it is coming from him. It is all very interesting, when he talks about Suzuki being opposite of Waldorf for instance. That is an argument I have had with I don't know how many Suzuki teachers. Now I don't have to argue it! I am just going to play them the John Kendall filmed interview here! And loop it! Also, I found it fascinating at the end, he was really getting into "rhythm" for learning to play. Wow! He was catching up to my concepts - maybe one of the reasons why he really liked the O'Connor Method and asked to see copies before he passed away.

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Tami Nelson • I just went to the Nisswa-Scandanavian fiddle series in Crosslake, MN two weeks ago and all of the music was learned by rote. Many of the fiddlers in my workshop were paper trained with new skills in rote learning and only a few learned strictly by rote. There was a discussion at my workshop concerning sheet music being used and the fiddlers attending that didn't read music were very vocal about how this would send them home with a recording to learn at their own speed. For those of us who are paper-trained it was a blast to read and play lots of music together that was new. Rote training is slow and reading is fast. What was missing though was the nuances of the rhythm and this was taught very specifically in the rote sessions. As a classroom teacher, I am embracing American music and ear training by rote rhythms and tunes. My fiddle kids have great performance strength because they love the music and they love to play it everywhere! My classical kids don't seem to have this strength and I wish they did. All of my Suzuki kids do and somehow I need to find a way to build this strength in all of my students. The rote training is extremely beneficial and a skill we all should have. It is a tough road to learn as an old player, but one that is well worth it. Thanks for the new method Mark O'Connor. I believe we should focus on what is great in a method and move forward with it. Adapt to what works best for yourself and the students and never be afraid to try something new.

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Jessica Madsen

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Jessica Madsen • I admit I do not know much about the Suzuki method, but I have been to Japan, and I know Japanese teachers that teach the method very successfully to very young children who are not reading yet. The American alphabet has 26 letters. Japanese contains something like 2000 kanji symbols. I imagine it takes young Japanese children much longer to grasp their language, so it seems perfectly reasonable to teach these children by ear until they are old enough to read and understand their native tongue. The problem with much of the Suzuki teaching in the U.S. is that it is followed far after children are able to read, so they rely far too heavily on playing by ear to the detriment of their sight-reading. I do not believe this is done in Japan, so it is ridiculous to blame Suzuki for his method being abused by teachers who don't understand the original purpose, as a stepping stone to reading music. As with any of the creative arts, the younger you start, the better your chances for success in training muscles (including the ear). It is far easier to teach someone who has had a few too many years of Suzuki to sight-read and count complex rhythms than it is to teach someone with great technique how to listen. I teach traditional music, but I refer children under the age of 5 to a Suzuki teacher first, and have had great success transitioning these kids when they're older and reading. I agree with William that maybe he's hawking his own materials. Attacking one of the most successful and widespread teaching methods will probably bring him his 15 minutes of fame. Suzuki will surely outlast, what did you say his name was?

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Join me and my guests Dale Morris Jr. Patrice Jackson, Alex DePue and David Wallace as we talk about music competition and contests. Is it healthy for kids, does it make a difference? 

In this video clip, there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. Right before I stepped on stage to perform on this national television show, (one of the awards for winning the Grand Master Fiddle Championships in 1975), my mother told me that if things go well, and I get a lot of attention that the family could move to Nashville without our dad and live on the money that comes in from music. When i realized that Porter Wagoner's house band was not only missing chord changes, bass lines, but they decided that loud steel guitar chimes played through my entire tune and in my range was a good idea, somehow I saw my young life in music crumble as I played. The fact that I was able to play this well under that kind of pressure obviously made for one of the top high-pressure contest players of my era. It somehow worked for me, but are competitions for everyone. Let's discuss at 4:15 to 5:15 today at the Berklee Performance Center! 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUYVy5kXL2s&list=PL52261B5D15067145

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • I have been blogging this last year on the subject of why the violin scene has been depleted with regards to creativity and nearly 60,000 readers have looked in on them in total so far. This was one that got a lot of attention. Because the Suzuki method is by far and away the dominant teaching method over the last 50 years, making for a virtual monopoly in most small and mid sized cities in the U.S., I lay the problem mostly with Suzuki's methodology and learning principles because of that obvious fact. But there are other contributors. 

http://markoconnorblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/violinists-creativity.html

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Bruce Molsky and David Wallace get things kicked off at Club Passim for our nightly concerts during my Berklee College String Camp Week. Fantastic evening of great music. The sitting concertmaster of the Boston Symphony was in attendance at Club Passim tonight! Now that is cool! 

http://twitpic.com/cz1crh

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Catch my discussion at the Berklee Performance Center tomorrow at 4:15 when I will talk about American Classical music with DBR, Tracy Silverman, Darol Anger and Eugene Friesen 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vguZmqHJ6OA&list=PL52261B5D15067145

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Catch my discussion at the Berklee Performance Center in about an hour at 4:15 when I will talk about American Classical music with DBR, Tracy Silverman, Darol Anger and Eugene Friesen. There is an opening for new ideas and career paths! 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cZGG3XgtiE&list=PL7D4C78D6C024C1D7

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • When the O'Connor Method teachers and teacher trainers played this orchestral arrangement tonight at one of the Berklee Camp performances, I got a little choked up about the moment. It usually happens at these camps for me, but at least I make it to Wednesday or Thursday before I have some tears - it happened Tuesday - Oh My Goodness! So beautiful and heartfelt. I told the teachers afterwards, that the couple hundred young people at this camp this week are the lucky ones. They get to discover all of this here around us! Just think about the tens of thousands who will quit violin this year. Who will never get to experience something like our camp! You, each one of you can take this back to your neighborhoods, your communities and bring the kids this magic we have created with strings, the magic you feel right now. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syV9lHh3rOE&list=PL30538F811506AE84&index=20

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Fraje Music

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Fraje Music • I would like to partner or do music together online.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XW6L8Ibhll4

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Myron A. Gilmore, Jr.

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Myron A. Gilmore, Jr. • I know a few people that have a problem with the Suzuki method, me, I don't just look at one method, I look at all of them because there is something to be taken from each one

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Gary Lee

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Gary Lee • I went to look for the O'Connor Method book for cello but didn't find it at my local music store. He also couldn't find it in his database. Oh well, with so many students taking off for the summer (worse than other years) it's not a good time to spend money anyway.

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charles avsharian • It's heartbreaking to see and hear musicians openly be critical of each other. As CEO of Shar, I have each musician, young and old, in mind.....to provide them with what they want and need. Independent thinking....the Art of exercising freedom of style in any personal way- that's what we do in America. 
I would hope that each person water his/her own garden ....live and let live without unnecessary and often hurting commentary.

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Charles, it is a beast of a place out there! I certainly don't think that some of these folks would ever say those things to my face, whereas, everything I write, is from the standpoint that I would say it in a room full of folks and right to a person's face. Let's hope for nicer folks in the violin community one day. 

This video that was shot during the O'Connor Method Camp last week in Boston speaks volumes. I wouldn't be surprised if after this video is watched here a few times, the author of this thread takes down her personal attack. 

Posted just now on YouTube: 

How incredibly moving... From last week in Boston. "Mark O'Connor Camp Field Trip to Bunker Hill" 

The music "Bunker Hill" is from the O'Connor Method Orchestra Book II. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x34RVaZFF4&list=PL30538F811506AE84&index=41

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Gary, here is the site that puts you right to all things O'Connor Method. The links on the store page go right to Shar Music for the purchase of Cello Book I and any others there of mine you care to obtain. I recommend Orchestra Book I for Group Class! 

http://www.oconnormethod.com/

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Just out today - Strings Magazine 

Reimagining the Orchestra as Instrument 
Mark O'Connor premieres his 'Improvised Concerto' 

http://www.allthingsstrings.com/News/News/Reimagining-the-Orchestra-as-Instrument

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Gary Lee

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Gary Lee • Great. Thanks, Mark. I'm looking forward to purchasing - probably this fall. 

Gary

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • O’Connor performs both unamplified and with electronic effects so that he can improvise over the loudest dynamics scored for the orchestra. According to O’Connor, this piece is not only “brand-new to the orchestral world,” but also in the concerto world. “In the past 300 years of concerto composition, nothing like this has ever been written.” 

Or would it be more appropriate to say, left unwritten? 

http://www.allthingsstrings.com/News/News/Reimagining-the-Orchestra-as-Instrument

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Robin Steinfeld • What Ive found a bit difficult as a teacher is to help my students push past the ideas of the Suzuki method .Theyre under much pressure by their peers that its the only/ best way to learn .The subject is visited & revisited each lesson .whether or not it's a good or bad method isn't the issue anymore .It seems to have taken on a life of its own ,resulting in my students feeling conflicted ; hampering their focus .we spend a good 10 -15 minutes weekly discussing this until their focus is regained .Frustrating to say the least .

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Robin, that comes from the fact that Suzuki is the dominant teaching method in America for the last 50 years. It is nearly all there is in most mid sized cities and small cities. It is a shame that we all let it happen. A monopoly, a virtual monopoly or a monopoly created by peer pressure that you describe, is anti freedom and anti American. It should have never gotten that out of hand and that big. Suzuki would be manageable if it occupied 20% of the scene, so there could be a free flow of other ideas for students and parents to choose from. But the realization that that it had recently grown to 90% of the scene is ridiculous. It needs to come down from that point, no matter if you like it or not - it is not correct to have one way or the highway in music in this country. The strings have suffered by it, and will continue to suffer by it, unless there is a correction. I think the correction could come with the American School of String Playing taking its rightly place. My method is a part of that school. People will have a hard time turning on our own music once it is more established in strings. Then the students and parents have choices, and maybe to your point, will have popular choices. The Ford or the Honda. Those are good choices to have in this country and it feels like you are in America when you can make those choices free from ridicule by peers.

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Mark L. Priest

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Mark L. Priest • If and when I am asked "what method do you teach" I usually specify "whatever I think the student needs." I believe in the value of a somewhat eclectic approach, so I use the materials that I judge to be most beneficial for the individual student. What does this mean, for me?

Since I have training and experience in Kodaly (as well as Suzuki, and Kindermusik, to name a few), I often incorporate "moveable do" solfege into the course of instruction, yet rarely do I promote myself as a "Kodaly teacher," a "Suzuki teacher," or as a teacher of anyone else's name method for that matter.

I do start off the very youngest beginners with a modified Suzuki Approach, applying the "Mother Tongue" concept, the recordings, preview and review of the book materials, and so forth. This gives them a good foundation for playing technique, and ear training. Ear training of course can also be learned by studying jazz theory and transcribing from recordings, but frankly I don't receive many requests for jazz lessons.

The upper level Suzuki books focus on the traditional repertoire anyway (i.e., Bach, Bartok, Beethoven, Mozart), so, why not? This is why from the very first lesson, knowledgeable teachers who follow the Suzuki Approach are simultaneously introducing pre-reading theory, and a favorite non-Suzuki method book series as soon as the students are ready to read the symbols of pitch and rhythmic notation. (I have my reasons, however, for NOT parroting the Suzuki lingo by distinguishing the latter as "traditional method books," which in Suzuki circles always seems to suggest "second-rate"; to me, they're simply "non-Suzuki" methods.)

That said, I don't feel bound by anyone's methodology but my own, certainly not in the case of my advanced and/or transfer students. I think teachers need to be flexible. I don't subscribe to the one-size-fits-all mind set, because in the long run, my experience has shown me there is a larger world out there, and black-and-white thinking is not the road to follow to find it. My long-range goal with serious students is to guide them to the completion of whatever series of method books they are following, in order to finally introduce them to the near-infinite world of advanced repertoire for their instrument.

I do not think it wise, practical, or in the best interests of education to blindly crusade for any one man's (or woman's) particular ideology, whether the initial ideas came from Shinichi Suzuki, Zoltan Kodaly, Carl Orff, or another. Those who wager such crusades are certainly setting themselves up to the accusation of following a cult (and perhaps the accusation is deserved in at least some cases).

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Mark L. Priest

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Mark L. Priest • "what you are describing is an ad hoc methodology" "you are teaching the Mark Priest method" "it probably isn't going to be the best, where I can offer that!," etc. 

Mr. Mark O'Connor, when you employ the term "ad hoc" in connection with my way of teaching, this sounds to me like a put down, as if everything I do is merely makeshift, unplanned, inadequately thought-out, or improvised on the spur-of-the-moment. If that was what you intended to imply in your comment, then I can't disagree more. 

I don't find it necessary (or good business practice) to go around proclaiming to teaching colleagues in my local area that what I offer is "the best," or even that it is so much better than what they have. Some of us belong to the local and national music teachers association, and most are not Suzuki teachers, yet it is not rare that these in turn refer additional students to me. 

Footnote: A number of my students performed at this past spring's Piano Guild Auditions, some at the National Level, and according to their adjudicator (an experienced artist-teacher, but NOT a Suzuki teacher), they all performed excellently. If "the proof of the pudding is in the eating," then this is an important, if not THE most important point.

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Mark L. Priest, I threw that up there quickly as we were heading out to fireworks, it had a bunch of typos. Be right back with a corrected version of my note (above). And I was referring to violin, not piano... I actually complimented you though... also I don't know your method, so how could I put it down? I was using you as an example of the many teachers out there trying to put a lesson plan together - a methodology. If yours works, congratulations. But again, you are speaking of piano. A more ad hoc approach to piano might be better than it is for violin, so please keep the context correct for what I was saying here. I am narrowing my comments to violin education. The last time I checked, the piano has a very healthy and secure place in American culture. Whereas the violin is precarious because of the Suzuki era, and it most definitely hangs in the balance as to what the future holds. I think it is imperative to have an American School of String Playing. Piano is fine - places like NEC teach Jazz piano. I was talking specifically strings, so your comments or responses to me should remain in that area. I did not know you were teaching piano and not violin. That would have helped for you to add that to your letter so I could have written you about piano instead. I don't have a method in piano, so it would have been much shorter.

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Mark L. Priest, what you are describing is an ad hoc methodology. A potpourri of ideas, experiences, literature and methods... In short, I would trust you better than I would trust a 100% Suzuki approach. But make no mistake, you are teaching the "Priest Method." When someone comes to you for a lesson, they are putting faith in you that you will make all of the right decisions in every aspect of the lesson plan. Whatever a teacher feels like at that moment, and whether they want to toss in the whole kitchen sink to their lesson plan, is probably ill -advised for the majority of teachers. In essence what you are suggesting is that you are pitting your own experiences as a musician up against someone like myself who has accomplished quite a bit, and has seen tens of thousands of students and developed a Method drawing from decades of experience. I just don't think it is wise, and I would advise any parent or student against an ad hoc approach by an individual over one that has been taught already by thousands with lots of results..

The reason why there is Methodology in the first place, is that people like it, and want it. People feel comfortable that there is research, and that one thing leads to the next thing, and there are results that are tangible, and there are examples available of what that success could be. Rather than a teacher just trusting their own whims with a student. Also there is money involved. Firstly, parents want to know the product, if it is tested out there in the field, and in many different situations. While my Method is only 4 years-old, already tens of thousands of students are taking it with huge success. My string camps have produced many professionals so the teaching philosophy is sound and parents can see that. And there is my own career...they can see the result of a Method in my own music making and output.

The other issue is materials. A method is the culmination of materials that a student and parent wishes to take home with them after the lesson, not a bunch of illegal Xerox sheets! If you are expecting your students to buy several manuals, just to grab a few things out of each, it is certainly very confusing for the student, not cost effective at all, but it is beyond presumptuous that nothing is good enough for that teacher to give to a student.

Basically, a student wants to have an idea of the end result. That is a lot of trust to put into every single individual teacher across the country. So while you teach 10% of this, 20% of that, 5% of that, 30% of the other...the teacher across town does 5% of this, 60% of that, 4% of another.... In sum, that is not going to get it done I believe - there is nothing that string players can latch onto as groups of people - there should be some standard rep. Otherwise it is an ad hoc system out there that is not fully researched other than each person's own limited experience in many, many cases, which as we all know can vary greatly.

That is why there are methodologies. Manuals that have been thoroughly sussed out, researched, tested... I used my own String Camps as laboratories to design my Method - 7,000 students, 7,000 different students have come through my camps...in addition to the many thousands more that I have met with on my travels. That is an experience that not many teachers will ever have. That puts me in a much better situation along with my success as a player to put together a Method that works, that will have results. When parents put down the money, they will want to know what they are getting, and my books are complete. There is no need to supplement. As soon as a teacher feels like they have to supplement, is when they know their method is not working. That has been happening with Suzuki especially so.

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • And to lighten the mood! It is the 4th of July! Posted earlier on our sites! And speaking of great pianists! John Jarvis and Matt Rollings, two of Nashville's best from the 1980s when I was a session player there and recorded this album with them and a great rhythm section! All my tunes. Have fun! 

OK! If you want to party to MOC ha ha ha... ! Put this on. One of our favs! Hot Tamale! Get Set, Go! ... Happy 4th of July from Mark O'Connor family! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBSreGA9h2Q&list=SPA0EE51DABBF63E4D

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Mark L. Priest

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Mark L. Priest • "As soon as a teacher feels like they have to supplement, is when they know their method is not working. That has been happening ..." 

... when one feels like they have to supplement a discussion with irrelevant changes of subject, just to "lighten the mood." 

Unconvinced, I still disagree, and since well over half of the comments on this discussion are yours, Mark O'Connor (at last count, over a dozen, not counting deletions), this also seems to indicate the weakness of your argument, since you seem compelled to keep "supplementing" and dominating it with more comments. 

I don't feel any need to 'supplement' this discussion with further comments on my part. - mp

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Mark L. Priest, I was being as thorough as I could for you in answering your question, and clearing up the typos at the same time. The "supplementation" of posting the CD link for July 4th celebration is to get to some music in the conversation as well. I post music and videos in all of my work to describe musically what is possible in The New American School of String Playing, rather than only words. Yes I have done that several times here - links to music and articles. I thought that it was cool to mention the two excellent keyboard players on the disc, since you are a piano instructor.

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • I just wrote this to someone else, but will reprint it here as it goes to the heart of the issue with Suzuki: Maureen, we definitely don't need Suzuki's philosophy designed in Imperial Japan - in the 1930s. It is much better to update the philosophy for learning. It is brutal enough for Baroque music...we don't need it to ruin American music and everything else. It is a method with a philosophy. The method is not good and the philosophy is not good. The method and philosophy of learning that includes mimic-repeat-memorization-rote-non individuality-non-creative ear training is what we have had in violin for the last 50 years. In that time, the Suzuki philosophy has yielded less quality across the board. Nearly no top soloists, player-composers, improvisers, ensemble leaders, arrangers and nearly no new violin literature. In short, that "philosophy" is sucking the life out of the violin in classical music. It is time to move on from Suzuki's method and his philosophy and do something that will be better for the kids and better for the violin and string world. The violin over the last 50 years has struggled to maintain relevance in our life and culture. Suzuki's philosophy of learning has overseen this downfall. It will only get worse, the more we tie his philosophy to other music. It was flawed from the beginning because Suzuki himself was not an expert at music...He created what he thought was good for himself to learn as an 18 year-old beginner, and applied it to 3 year-olds. This was bad. he called it Talent Education, teaching himself to be "talented" at 18! It didn't work for himself as a player and it has had sobering results on the majority of 3 year-olds - most of them quitting at some point in their childhood. He in so many words, didn't know what he was doing. He was a product of marketing in America. There is no great music or musical movement than can be tied to his teaching. He proved that hundreds of thousands of 3 and 4 year-olds can learn to play the violin, and hundreds of thousands of 8,10 and 12 year-olds can quit the violin. It is not the right fit for America, for music, and certainly for the health and future of the classical violin.

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • "Mark O'Connor's 'The Improvised Violin Concerto' is a innovative way to approach the musical interaction between soloist and orchestra. It also requires a new set of skills that will encourage young virtuosos to develop high level improvisational skills. The string world welcomes this addition to the repertoire that supports one of our national standards for music education, improvisation." 

-Bob Phillips - President, American String Teachers Association 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntC6lSBeYZs&list=PL7D4C78D6C024C1D7

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • This weekend on NPR across the country - Mark O'Connor for an hour! 

"Violinist is one of the most versatile fiddlers in music today: He seems equally at home playing bluegrass, country, jazz and classical. With its roots in Texas fiddling, O'Connor's music has shaped an entirely American school of string playing. His approach to teaching violin is considered a rival to the Suzuki method. 

In this episode of Song Travels, O'Connor and host get together to explore American music — a journey which includes a performance of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and O'Connor's elegant arrangements of traditional American pieces." -National Public Radio 

http://www.npr.org/2013/07/05/199052458/mark-oconnor-on-song-travels?ft=1&f&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

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Gary Lee

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Gary Lee • Do people here know about Katrina Wreede's "Concerto for Improvising Viola and Orchestra". It's been around for about ten or more years. Katrina Wreede is a former member of the Turtle Island String Quartet.

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Gary, It is a piece for small string ensemble. Mine is written for full symphony orchestra and the entire solo line is improvised, not even any themes given to the soloist. So literally every note is made up on stage for the entire 40 minute piece by the violin solo. I think it is a direction that is certainly possible with more training and earlier. Since the violin is known for the concertos and not the viola, it was very interesting to embark on that turf with symphony orchestras and the tradition of a violin concert. Certainly there are many jazz players who could blow over changes with orchestration and have done so - sax players, pianists...

“Mark O’Connor’s "The Improvised Violin Concerto" is a phenomenon. An exciting and appealing concerto, with great rhythmic vitality and rich harmonic sonorities, it is one of a kind. It will prove to be a challenge for any top classical violinist to ever perform unless the current training for classical violinists will include more improvisation, arranging, and composition as well as jazz theory and American styles.”

-Igal Kesselman - Director, Lucy Moses School, Kaufman Center, New York, NY

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Mark O'Connor's motto is that every child can learn to pay the violin in the 21st century, even if they don't have parents, or a single parent who is working, or a parent who is handicapped, or a parent on drugs, or in Mr. O'Connor's case, a parent dying of cancer as his mother was when he was young and an absent father due to alcoholism. Hear him talk about his pedagogy with show host Michael Feinstein and listen to him play tunes and pieces from his Book III on NPR across the country over the holiday weekend! National Public Radio's "Song Travels" 

"Violinist Mark O'Connor is one of the most versatile fiddlers in music today: He seems equally at home playing bluegrass, country, jazz and classical. With its roots in Texas fiddling, O'Connor's music has shaped an entirely American school of string playing. His approach to teaching violin is considered a rival to the Suzuki method. 

In this episode of Song Travels, O'Connor and host Michael Feinstein get together to explore American music — a journey which includes a performance of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and O'Connor's elegant arrangements of traditional American pieces." -National Public Radio 

http://www.npr.org/2013/07/05/199052458/mark-oconnor-on-song-travels?ft=1&f=10002&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

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William Pruett, D.M.

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William Pruett, D.M. • As an author (see my ABCs of Jazz Piano on the iBookstore:https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/abcs-of-jazz-piano-level-one/id552913067?mt=11 ) and teacher for over a decade, I can confidently say that no method has it all, no matter how good it is. 
I have no direct interest in the argument over string methods since I am a pianist, but piano teachers have always used their own judgment in choosing repertoire and other materials for their students. The massive size of the piano repertoire and the vast array of approaches to the instrument mean that no book can contain it all.

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • William, I agree that piano education is much different than strings and it is obvious that a more far ranging amount of literature in professional music circles has been established in academia. The piano's position in our American culture and in all music environments is considerably more comprehensive. All of these facts would have to reflect another pedagogical approach, whether it was causation, or byproduct of such teaching is anyone's guess I suppose. But strings are in a far, far different place in our culture that piano, therefore piano pedagogy. That is why I decided to author a string method.

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William Pruett, D.M.

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William Pruett, D.M. • Mark, 
I agree with you that string education was in dire need of new method books, like yours. (more in need of it than the piano pedagogy field) I think it's great to teach kids American music styles too. We must stay relevant musically and culturally to our current times and society. My books on jazz piano are, I believe, the only books about jazz piano that are actually designed to teach kids as well as adults. The one area that I wish had a real comprehensive, and yet manageable, method book series is classical piano--it seems like too complicated of a task for any one person.

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Thanks William, yes that is what I have been able to accomplish too with my Method... is to have something that young students, teens and adults all really enjoy and can benefit from. With American music, this possibility emerges. With Western Classical not so much, because those great composers offered little if nothing in the way of beginning instruction literature. Even those Bach pieces in Suzuki Violin are not even violin pieces, they are the very few things that Bach arranged for beginner piano. But as violin pieces, for beginning especially, they are not organic to the instrument. So yes, a big improvement in many areas. That was my aim all along, a big improvement beyond the status quo. Thanks so much!

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Carl Todd • Once you learn how to walk you now have to learn to teach yourself how to dance. Suzuki gets you to solidly walk - period - you must then take it from there.

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • Carl, we really don't need Suzuki to learn how to "solidly" walk on the violin, just like we don't need it for guitar, or for horn. There is nothing there that is worth holding on to, if Suzuki is just being considered for early child development. Research is out and it is strong. It points away from Suzuki's rote-repetition-memorization-ear training to a much more creative and holistic approach to music via rhythm, tonality, improvisation and I have fashioned it all through American music. This is the new foundation that string playing students must address if there will be a healthy string environment going forward. The Suzuki era has produced, almost NO top classical soloists, player-composers, arrangers, improvisers, and ensemble leaders. In short, it really has failed the violin and related string instruments. We need a much better start for kids today. That is why I authored the O'Connor Method. More information is here. Thanks. 

http://www.oconnormethod.com/

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • 'Mark O'Connor is a true American genius. He is bringing to our culture our music, and he's doing it in a way that celebrates both the tradition and beauty of our heritage with the pedagogy that can teach our string players how to play this music in a technically sound and healthy way, in addition to the obvious importance of American string music in the grand historical tradition. He is an absolutely ground breaking artist and his commitment to defining what American music is, is absolutely essential to defining what is unique about our culture and what we need to instill in every American musician who plays a string instrument. His contributions as an artist, teacher, composer, pedagogue are incalculable and will be remembered for ages to come in American music.'

Dr. Robert Livingston Aldridge - Composer, Director of Music, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University 

http://twitpic.com/d1r01q

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss • I created a blog in response to Mark's ongoing war on Suzuki here: 

http://matthewcweiss.wordpress.com/

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss • In response to Mark's various arguments against Suzuki, it can all be summed up as a distorted view of what Suzuki is designed to market his own Mark O'Connor Violin Method which he claims to be superior. In fact, Mark's books might be good for fiddling and learning improv, but they have no chance of replacing Suzuki Method, Barbara Barber's books, or anything similar due to the simple fact that standard repertoire is absent in Mark's books.

1 month ago

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Antonella DiGiulio

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Antonella DiGiulio • Well... I followed the discussion here. As Suzuki trained piano teacher I think Mark is right, particularly regarding Suzuki teaching in USA. I do use the Suzuki Method... adapted... 

My students compose their own pieces and play contemporary music from the beginning on. They start reading really soon... I call that Suzuki method with European approach,as it is really different what I know and the way I teach from what I see here around in the States. 

It has also not so much to do with the Method itself: it was wonderful to have such kind of approach after WWII. But it has to do mainly with many other things that people (corporate interests... "let listen children to that -awful- recordings every day" kind of things) around the Method did after. 

I taught the Method in 4 different countries and it doesn't work in the same way everywhere! Probably in Japan it works at best. Besides these considerations, I love Dr. Suzuki's trust in the unlimited possibilities that children have at very young age. We should just adapt them to our own time and culture.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss • Yes my 3 kids all started in Suzuki and follow an "adapted method" also, using repertoire from the Barbara Barber Series, Galamian and Carl Fleshc scale systems, chamber music, standard violin repertoire such as the Bach Solo Partitas, Mendelssohn Violin Concero, and so on. As far as I am aware, all the good to excellent "Suzuki" violin teachers use Suzuki as the core starting point and then augment it with various other materials as suits each individual student. 

That is also how I learned violin and now am learning cello. Such an approach works great and seems to me to be a no-brainer. 

Why Mark O. seems to think that this so-called "ad hoc" approach is wrong only indicates his own inexperience as an educator, extreme arrogance, or blatant commercialism. 

---Matt

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Antonella DiGiulio

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Antonella DiGiulio • (well... if you want to sell a method... :D )

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Mark O'Connor

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Mark O'Connor • We are proud to announce a website that features the rich historical text and stories behind all of the American Classics repertoire contained in the O'Connor Method to date (three books). The website concentrates specifically on the classics and standard repertoire in what we are calling A New American School of String Playing! 

Historical Text Researched and Authored by Mark O'Connor 

http://americanstrings.blogspot.com/

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Follow William

William Wise • I haven't read all of this discussion, but I'm going to jump in with what some will find completely off the wall. I began learning dressage about four years ago and now feel that the methods used to teach and evaluate progress in dressage are equally valid to 
learning to play the violin. There are things that one must master to play the violin and 
the Suzuki method ignores most of them to get kids to play tunes. I began learning the 
violin at the advanced age of 35 years. I made some progress but stopped for nearly 30 years to pursue a career in science. I returned to trying to learn the instrument 15 years ago with a Suzuki teacher. It didn't workout well at all. I knew and loved interesting and mature music and found my year or more of learning to play Twinkle, Lightly Row, Song of the Wind, etc. totally uninspiring. I'm still trying to learn to play. My poor preparation has challenged the coaches in the music camps I've attended. I apologize to all of them for being such a challenging student but thank them all for helping me play some real music. During this past year I decided to begin all over. I've been playing scales, etudes (Wohlfahrt), trying to learn to read, and maintain some semblance of a steady rhythm. 
It hasn't been fun but I don't what else to do since few teachers know what to do to bring an adult to a competent playing level to participate in a quartet or other ensemble.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss • Suzuki is a method designed to teach young children music from a very early age, so it's usually not appropriate to begin as an adult using Suzuki. The reason it works for me on cello is because I already play violin and much of the technique can transfer over to cello---except the darn string crossings which are upside-down and cause me most of my trouble :).

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