Respected advocates of pioneering Japanese teacher defend his reputation following reports of fraud.

Claims made this week that Dr Shin’ichi Suzuki, the pioneering founder of the Suzuki Teaching Method, was “a liar and fraud” have been labelled as “scandalous” and “entirely false and misleading”, with many respected advocates of the Suzuki Method leaping to the defence of the respected pedagogue.

Suzuki’s ground-breaking approach, developed in the 1950s, has been utilised by thousands of teachers all over the world, with the British Suzuki Institute estimating that today over a quarter of a million students are being taught using the technique worldwide.

Dr Suzuki teaching a group of children in 1971.

In an article published initially by London’s Telegraph newspaper and then reported on the Sydney Morning Herald website earlier this week, claims by Violin teacher Mark O’Connor asserted that Suzuki lied about certain aspects of his early life including receiving training from notable violin teachers and meeting Albert Einstein. O’Connor also alleged that Suzuki was self-taught and wasn’t a competent performer, insisting that Suzuki “was never allowed a position in any orchestra.”

O’Connor has been making derisive allegations against Suzuki on his blog since 2013, but the articles published by the mainstream media have brought the claims to public attention. However, immediately the accusations about Suzuki’s apparent fraud surfaced, advocates of the Suzuki Method as well as the Australian Suzuki Association moved to quash criticisms of the revered Violin master.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Goetz Richter, Associate Professor of Violin and Chair of the String Faculty of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, branded the alleged fraud as “ridiculous.” Richter also speculated that O’Connor’s motivation for attempting the rubbish Suzuki’s reputation may be connected to O’Connor’s own teaching method, which is in direct competition with Suzuki’s. Karen Carey, one of the Australia’s most celebrated musical educators labelled the suggestion that Suzuki lied as “scandalous”, adding “It’s a disgraceful thing to say.”

Mark O’Connor

Irene Tognetti, mother of Australian Chamber Orchestra Artistic Director Richard Tognetti, who was himself first taught using the Suzuki Method, added her sense of frustration to the growing number of parents, students and Suzuki teachers angry at O’Connor’s attempt to defame Suzuki. “Thousands of students have benefitted from this method,” says Tognetti. “It creates a love of music with sound technique. I can’t think of a better way to enhance general learning.”

Sheila Warby, the Chairman of the Pan Pacific Suzuki Association, in a statement published on their website today, expressed her “disappointment” at the credence O’Connor’s claims have received by mainstream media. She also outlined a number of sources that disprove the allegations made against Suzuki. “Mr O’Connor continues to offer his opinions as fact,” Warby says. “It’s disappointing that he does not put his efforts into advocating his own teaching method, instead of spending his time trying to discredit Suzuki.”

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