American violinist offers himself as Exhibit A as he fiddles with tried-and-true teaching methods
Do musicians succeed because they have a natural aptitude, because they worked harder and longer, or because they had a gifted teacher who chose the best teaching method?
This was the question I had after reading and listening to a story posted (in text as well as 5 minutes of audio) on the National Public Radio site. It's about American violinist Mark O'Connor, who has published his own set of graduated violin courses.
In broad terms, what O'Connor believes distinguishes his method from others is a broad stylistic scope that treats popular, folk and classical music styles as equals. Also, he values introducing young children to improvisation and theory. He told NPR:
O'Connor says he wants to create what he calls "super string players for the 21st century" — musicians who can improvise and experiment, who want to use the violin to play all kinds of music. He says he can bring fiddling in from the margins, all the way into the center of the world of classical music.
Here's a promotional video O'Connor has posted on Vimeo:
I think O'Connor has all the right ideas. There's no reason to discriminate between genres of music -- that's a decision the musician can make on their own, in their time. I also think it's brilliant to teach kids to improvise. But, ultimately, any pedagogical approach is only as good as the teacher's and student's talent, aptitude and attitude.