We recently blogged here about surprising facts we’d found when doing diligence on expert witnesses. We’ve looked into so many people and companies that we’re rarely taken aback when we find that someone left something off of a resume or lied about a degree. But sometimes we come across a news story that manages to catch us a little by surprise, like this recent news article we read about the founder of the Suzuki violin method which has been studied by millions.
According to several news articles, Shinichi Suzuki, the now deceased music teacher behind the world-renowned Suzuki method of violin is “the biggest fraud in musical history” for fabricating his training and background in violin.
According to the articles, Suzuki never had any proper violin training, despite his claims that he studied at the Berlin Conservatory under a renowned teacher. The articles state that Suzuki was rejected from the Berlin Conservatory in 1923, was essentially self-taught and never played in any orchestra.
The revelation that Suzuki may not have had the musical background he touted does not necessarily undermine the efficacy of his teaching method, but it does highlight the fact that even well-reputed people fabricate or omit things in their background. We recall in 2007 that the former Dean of Admissions at M.I.T. was forced to resign when the school discovered that she’d made up her education credentials.
We should also note that, while it is important to do thorough background checks, it is equally important to pay attention to the sources of background information. With Suzuki, the source of the negative information is Mark O’Connor, a violinist with a competing violin teaching method. The Suzuki empire (Suzuki himself is now deceased) is fighting back and states that they “can only speculate as to why Mr. O’Connor, who publishes and sells his own approach to violin playing, is so eager to discredit Shinichi Suzuki and why he has chosen to manipulate media at this time.” They also claim that Suzuki did not fabricate his credentials, and put forth some evidence to support this claim.
When we do a background check, particularly a background check that includes interviews, we always make sure to speak with a balanced group of people because we are aware of the potential for bias. If we speak to a negative reference like a litigation opponent, we will also to speak with a probable positive reference, such as someone that successfully did business alongside the person we are researching for many years.