Margaret Pardee - An Appreciation

May 30, 2017, 7:53 AM · Violinist and teacher Margaret Pardee was a remarkable woman who made a great impact on so many lives. She died in January 2016 at age 95. I was thinking of her on her birthday this month, and wanted to share the the eulogy I gave at her funeral.

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I met Miss Pardee at the age of 17 when I went to study with her at Juilliard Pre-College. After that year there were five more years of study with her along with Mr. Galamian, while I did my work on Bachelors and Masters degrees at Juilliard. For my last years of college I was her assistant at Juilliard and at Meadowmount, giving extra lessons to students at her direction. Especially at Meadowmount, I had the chance to watch her at work —sitting in on many lessons so I would be able to reinforce the foundation she was building for her students' playing. As I was finishing up at Juilliard, she recommended me to Mr. Galamian as a teacher for Meadowmount, and during the summer of 1980 I began teaching on the faculty there. In my 14 years teaching at Meadowmount, Miss Pardee and I listened to many student concerts together, got together socially, and talked about work and people and music. After she spent her first summer at the Killington Music Festival, she suggested that I might be of help to the administration there, and I ended up spending seven years as the artistic director of that summer program. So for more than 25 years I worked with Miss Pardee, first as her student, then as a fellow faculty member at Meadowmount, and finally, running the Killington Festival, where she was teaching.

Margaret Pardee worked with determination and energy. She was loyal, generous and deeply ethical in a profession that all too often encourages the opposite qualities.

Margaret Pardee
Margaret Pardee.

I remember this energy as I think of one rainy Thursday morning at 8 a.m., when I was sitting in on one of her scale lessons at Meadowmount. The sound of the rain was hypnotic; both the student and I were finding our eyelids heavy. Miss Pardee wasn’t fazed by the miserable weather, the early hour, or our lack of enthusiasm — she was completely engaged in getting this student to produce the most crisp and articulate martelé in the history of violin playing. As she continued exhorting the student with much excitement, I found it difficult not to laugh at the idea that anyone could get so worked up about how short a bow stroke might be. "This is a very special woman," I thought, with real doubt that all this effort could possibly be worth it. Over years, as I reflected on that hour, I came to understand better what I had seen on the sleepy morning: Miss Pardee gave every bit of energy she had to each student because she had such confidence in what the student could become. She saw each of us with the eyes of possibility.

Miss Pardee was loyal — to her husband Dan, to Ivan Galamian and his legacy, to her students. All of us remember our first lessons with her, when she took us though an exhaustive series of bowings on those scale sheets of hers. Through her whole life as a teacher she maintained complete fidelity to the teaching principles she’d learned from Mr. Galamian. She knew what his work was worth, and she would never compromise on a course of study she believed in so strongly.

In the years when I was responsible for setting up concerts at Killington, I had a chance to experience Marge's fierce advocacy for her class. I would always be her student, and even her friend, but she would certainly let me know if I proposed any plan that would not feature her students on these concerts as she thought they deserved!

In my first year as her student, I saw how generous Miss Pardee could be. She quickly expressed her concern to me and to others that my instrument was impossibly poor. Before the year was over, she had lent me her Vuillaume, which I played for most of my years at Juilliard. Of course I was only one of many students whom she allowed to use her ever growing collection of violins and bows, most of which she eventually donated to Juilliard.

Every week Miss Pardee took the time to hold a studio class for her students. This was not something that she was paid to do, and I didn’t know any other teacher at Juilliard or Meadowmount who was willing to hold these classes with such regularity. At Meadowmount she made a point of taking each of us who were her students on some weekend outing. We students didn’t realize how much her teaching schedule demanded of her, and what effort it must have taken to plan and carry out these trips. She was willing to extend herself this way because she was aware of how much a few hours away from the confines of the campus would mean to us.

And who ever heard of a teacher who would give each of her students gifts for Christmas?!

Margaret Pardee had a clear sense of what was ethical, and made sure that she lived up to this. Over years she spoke at length to me about her experiences at Juilliard. When there were developments there she found difficult, I saw that she didn't hesitate to speak up for what she believed was right, even when this outspokenness might risk creating unpleasant consequences for her.

Seeing others who were not as loyal, as generous, as ethical, as committed to our profession as she was, could cause Miss Pardee real suffering. Still, no matter what others did, she remained faithful to her own ideals with characteristic determination.

I believe we can best honor her memory by following her example—working tirelessly to meet the highest standards we can achieve, remaining loyal and kind even when our professional world is at its most harsh, being fully honest even when this might seem to be less than expedient.

I remember Miss Pardee once telling me, "I love all my students." She did love us, she believed in us, she saw we could become. Thank you, Miss Pardee, for teaching us so much not only in the violin studio but also by the way you lived your life.

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