You’re Missing The Point, Mark O’Connor

by Cookie

So there’s this violinist/teacher/fiddler called Mark O’Connor.  He is a very successful musician and performer and has his own series of method books for students.

The problem, in my opinion, is that he seems to feel threatened by any one else who has found success.  As if the validity of other methods and teachers or musicians somehow threaten him.

It’s insecurity at its best.

Let me tell you a secret about musicians.  We’re terrified of failure.  We’re terrified at someone not approving of us.  We’re terrified that we might actually be frauds deep down.  We struggle with stage fright and feeling like we belong to our musical communities and pray our colleagues accept us, faults and all.

What I find surprising is that a man who has found success and fame and all that still feels all of these things in his heart.  But I guess at the end of the day he is still human.  And still has his own demons.

So why do I care about this man?  How do I feel to know these things about him?

Mr. O’Connor has chosen to attack Dr. Suzuki, the founder of the Suzuki method of music instruction.  The founder of a pedagogical philosophy that at its best creates amazing musicians who go on to perform and teach all over the world, and at its worst creates wonderful little human beings whose families belong to a community.  At it’s worst, it teaches children to work hard and be good at something  because of their own merit, and not to measure their success against the failures of others.  At its worst, it teaches children to play with others and learn from them, and in turn teach them.  At its worst, it teaches children to focus and develop manual dexterity and good memories from a very young age.  And at it’s worst, teaches children to be respectful and loving and kind.

I don’t know his background, but I would think that Mr. O’Connor didn’t have the privilege of studying in a Suzuki program.  He didn’t have the luxury of a teacher who while teaching him excellent technique, also taught him to be kind and respectful.  He didn’t learn to play alongside others without being in silent competition with them.

Because if he had, he would understand that his attack on Dr. Suzuki and his method doesn’t hold any water.  Because nobody cares if he went to this university or that universtiy.  Nobody who truly embraces the pedagogy cares what the details of his education and performance history are.  Because it doesn’t matter.

The reason that this pedagogical method is so successful is because we as music educators have formed a community around the ideas of this one kind, nurturing and genius man.  It works because we share our ideas and help each other to become better at what we do.  It works because when we see a colleague or a student struggling, we come together and help them.  It works because we love our students, and we love what we do.  And alongside all of that, it works because we train constantly not only in technical growth, but in the how of teaching.

And even if Dr. Suzuki was self taught, which he was NOT, I wouldn’t care.  All it takes to change the world is an idea that can grow and the courage to try it. And he had one and he did.

So in the end, I’m not entirely sure what the motivation behind Mr. O’Connor’s attack on the Suzuki method is.  We as Suzuki teachers are certainly not a threat to him and his millions.  And we are certainly not going anywhere.  I can only conclude that either he is simply an unfortunately malicious individual who grudges anyone elses success or is completely ignorant of the objectives of the Suzuki teachers out there.  We are not just trying to make amazing musicians, we are trying to make amazing human beings.

Dr. Suzuki used to say, “Beautiful tone, beautiful heart.”

How’s your tone, Mark O’Connor?