Suzuki method founder who lied about education: 'biggest fraud in musical history'

27 October 2014, 10:57 | Updated: 5 November 2014, 10:52

The inventor of the popular Suzuki string teaching method, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, has been declared a fraud for apparently lying about studying with a top Berlin teacher and being friends with Albert Einstein.

According to research by American violin teacher Mark O'Connor, Suzuki, who died in 1998, claimed to have been taught at the prestigious Berlin music conservatory. O'Connor uncovered an official document that stated Suzuki's failure to be accepted into the school from 1923, when he was 24 years old.

As well as his supposed tuition at the conservatory, Suzuki also claimed he had been taught privately by violinist Karl Klingler, but records show that Klingler himself was the one to have turned him down from the conservatory.

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O'Connor told The Telegraph: "I think it is one of the biggest frauds in music history… I don’t believe anybody has properly checked his past."

He also wrote in his revelatory blog post: "Shinichi Suzuki had no violin training from any serious violin teacher that we can find. He was basically self-taught, beginning the violin at the age of 18, and it showed. He was never allowed a position in any orchestra."

O'Connor also highlights the lack of evidence to support Suzuki's claim that he was friends with physicist Albert Einstein - although he did once deliver a violin to him in Berlin. 

The International Suzuki Foundation has since responded to O'Connor's claims in a statement:

"To call Shinichi Suzuki “the biggest fraud in music history” is groundless and wrong. The allegations have no factual base and can only be interpreted as an attempt by Mr. O’Connor to manipulate the media."

"Shinichi Suzuki had violin lessons with the prominent German violinist Karl Klingler in Berlin in the 1920’s. Klingler’s daughter, Marianne Klingler, was a strong supporter of Suzuki’s teaching principles and became the first chairperson of the European Suzuki Association. Ms. Klingler confirmed many times that Suzuki had indeed studied with her father."

The statement continues, listing the many honorary doctorates and other qualifications bestowed on Suzuki. It concludes: "In the end, however, it is not what Shinichi Suzuki did or did not do in the 1920s that is of importance. The important issue is the successful use of his teaching principles which have enriched the lives of students and has positively influenced music education worldwide for the past 70 years."

The Suzuki method is one of the most popular teaching methods in musical history, focusing on starting pupils very young and encouraging them to play from memory.