From the dark side

March 31, 2018, 1:23 PM · I just read a fascinating article in the NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/30/nyregion/redemption-of-a-lost-prodigy.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news


Replies (24)

March 31, 2018, 9:08 PM · Thanks for posting that. Quite a read.
March 31, 2018, 10:27 PM · I read that article. It's extremely well-written but I kept thinking that perhaps the writer should have just left Mr. Chandler in peace. Seems as if Mr. Chandler has lived a good life on his own terms, and quite successfully too by most metrics (professional career that paid well enough for him to pursue his passion, a long marriage, etc)--who is anyone to describe him as "lost?"
March 31, 2018, 11:16 PM · Very sad read really, I do agree with Mary Ellen though, he should be left in peace to live his life how he wants to live it..........though it would have been a glittering career.
Edited: April 1, 2018, 1:44 AM · I believe Mary Ellen has it right, but "left in peace" seems to imply a victim struggling on the fringes of society. To my mind this is a slanted piece of journalism, trying to portray tragedy where none exists. Child prodigies of various degrees of prodigousness are frequently over-praised and pressed into making a career move far too young. Mr Chandler was lucky to have discovered quite early on that he was temperamentally unsuited to becoming a professional violinist. It was a painful discovery at the time, but he moved on. Did it ruin his life? No. Was the world deprived of a great talent? Probably not. Think of the countless talented sportspersons who were forced to find another career on account of injury or having their opportunities thwarted by chance. What is so special about musicians?!
April 1, 2018, 5:26 AM · “They loved me in Yugoslavia,” he said.
Edited: April 1, 2018, 6:05 AM · Somehow this isn't sad at all to me. He escaped the grind, ends up building yachts in New York City, sails across the world for fun. One flew over the cuckoo's nest. You guys are always informing teens how tough a musician's life is. And Steve I agree with you, slanted piece...it struck me when the writer tries to ask Perlman if some guy got a better grade than him in a school recital once 50 years ago. Really?
Edited: April 1, 2018, 10:07 AM · It also struck me that the violin depicted in the NYT article looked in remarkably good condition for one that we were told had been in an unopened case for 50 years - strings, bridge and chinrest apparently very well preserved. Or were we seeing an example of journalistic dramatic licence somewhere along the line?

Fwiw, I know from first-hand experience what a violin looks like that has been encased for over half a century. It is a violin that I inherited in the late 1990s. At the start of WW2 it had been put in its case and stored in cupboards in a succession of houses until it was handed over to me. Mainly, the bridge and soundpost were down, the gut strings were a sorry frayed mess, the tail button was in two pieces, there were three cracks in the belly, and the bow was in bad need of a rehair. Very much a job for the local luthier before I could start learning to play it. He worked wonders to the extent that it is now my main violin and I wouldn't be without it.

I also noted that Chandler's original name was Lipschutz and that his father was a professional mathematician at university level, which explains why Chandler got himself a good career in maths. When I saw the name Lipschutz that rang faint bells dating back to my uni maths and science studies - there was a Seymour Saul Lipschutz, a university professor, who authored a number of math books, some of which I remember referring to. I wonder if that person was Saul Chandler's father - dates and location fit.

I have no disagreement with the main thesis of the article, that some child music prodigies can be much better off mentally and emotionally if they go down a completely different career road, as Chandler did.


April 1, 2018, 8:35 AM · Meanwhile some of us adult-starters with no special talent are determined to slogg on down the amateur's path....
April 1, 2018, 11:52 AM · Interesting. He comments that Galamian was an idiot. This was not the case. It is true that he rarely demonstrated in lessons and when he did it didn't sound too good. However, he was teaching at least 40 hours a week if not more, so he was always out of shape. His success was due to the fact that he was able to get his students to practice, not a small feat. Chandler said that Galamian never said your playing was good, only better. I believe it was at least my 3rd year of study that he said something was good. I practically fainted. With many of his students he set up an adversarial relationship so the student was constantly trying to prove to Galamian that they actually were "good."
This worked with many of us. I actually studied with him for 8 years, getting BS, MM, and DMA degrees. Eventually I rationalized that by thinking that he was the least harmful teacher at Juilliard. Dorothy Delay had a different way of getting students to practice. She had a very positive approach.
April 2, 2018, 3:53 AM · A moving story, and I fear far more common than we like to think.
Parents, (and teachers) take note!
April 2, 2018, 9:10 AM · He hasn’t completely given up! A jury grade received more than 50 years ago still matters to him.
Edited: April 2, 2018, 10:16 AM · Right, and he says that he “hates” his violin so very much, yet there it still is....I’m sure he could have sold it off for quite a bit if he really wanted to wash his hands of it completely.

Complicated situation for sure.

April 2, 2018, 10:24 AM · It's so sad that he hasn't continued to play as an amateur... in the true meaning of the word.
Edited: April 2, 2018, 12:25 PM · Boats and violins actually have much in common. Both, in their traditional forms, are contraptions made of wood and wire. If you've sailed a boat you know that the rigging sings in the wind. Their forms can be voluptuous and their structures gorgeous. I've been attracted to both since I was young. I'll read the article later; right now I need to go practice.

Okay, now I've read the article. Wow! Melville novels and the Three B's: Bach, Brahms and Budweiser. Not so fond of Mozart apparently. Great article!

April 2, 2018, 11:29 AM · I might gather incorrectly that he felt robbed of time and his childhood. I am not sure this was so much a mental breakdown as a rebellion against the thing that he felt robbed him.He spent the rest of his life reclaiming it.

It's a shame there couldn't have been more of a balance. Yes there are many good violinists. I don't believe he would have just been another one of those.
No more than Edison was just another physicist. The individual would shine through. None of us are cord wood.

I can understand why he felt like a "trained monkey".Perhaps he would have excelled better playing new compositions. We'll never know. Being recognized in the violin world seems to be all about replaying the works of the "masters".JMHO. YMMV.

April 2, 2018, 2:20 PM · Interesting responses. My personal take on the article is that Mr. Chandler (interesting name choice for a boat builder) has a mixed relationship with the violin despite all of his talk, he still owns the violin and, if the pictures are to be believed, he takes good care of it. Maybe he still plays it for himself when far-far away from other people.

That he met with the reporter and spent time with him tells us that he does want his story told to the world.

I sometimes wonder about what actually happens to the majority of prodigies that rise up in music. While rare, my guess is that most of them never come to the level of being recognized at the level of a Perlman or Midori or Bell. Some do become meteorites that flash across the musical sky and disappear. Most, I imagine, find alternate careers.

April 2, 2018, 2:24 PM · By the reporter's own admission, he had to ask Mr. Chandler more than a few times for an interview before one was granted. I am not so sure Mr. Chandler wanted his story told to the world as much as he wanted to get the reporter to leave him alone.
Edited: April 2, 2018, 3:07 PM · This is just guess work, but Mr. Chandler and I were born the same year. If he's a virgo, then our birthdays are really close together. I remember a nautical movie when I was growing up called "Away All Boats" starring Jeff Chandler. I've always remembered it. Maybe that movie is why he liked that name. His violin does appear to have had loving care. And if it had really been neglected for 50 years, the bow would have been rendered unusable by bow mites. Thus, I suspect, he's given it more care and attention than he would like to admit. Typical love/hate relationship.
April 2, 2018, 3:23 PM · It's OK. I agree with the person that stated that quitting was right for him. He clearly did not enjoy the process, so why prolong it? Make your original teacher happy? Not fair.

But if you love your instrument, you are not Mr. Chandler, and should not stop. The violin is not as terrorizing as it's made up to be-what he loathed the most seemingly was the "professional musician" process. The violin and its repertoire themselves are innocent, and not guilty of humanity's worse aspects.

I also disagree with many of Mr. Chandler's characterizations of his teacher, the violin, and music in general. One thing I agree is that it was probably not a life meant for him.

April 2, 2018, 4:20 PM · My father had a mentor (medical doctor) who liked to say that what you do is not what you're good at-- it is what you are. He saw many gifted surgeons, for example, wind up in radiology because they couldn't handle the instant decision-making and high-ego, macho culture of the operating room.

It's not clear what happened with this guy, but a lot about the music business obviously wasn't clicking with him, at least what he saw at Juilliard in those days.

BTW, "chandler" is a seller of equipment to boats and ships.

April 2, 2018, 4:42 PM · BTW, "chandler" is a seller of equipment to boats and ships.

Yeah, but I'm going by what I knew as a teenager.

April 2, 2018, 5:41 PM · “Then he placed it to his chin and released his bow. A warm, glorious tone rose through the apartment. Then he bowed again, violently sliding his hand up the violin’s neck, and a graceful, thunderous sound filled the room. Then the note faded away.”

I bet he still practices!

Edited: April 2, 2018, 5:57 PM · Can I suggest we re-imagine the story, substituting "circus boy" for "violin prodigy". A child of 9 is found to have a talent for tumbling and is sent to be trained by a troupe of circus artistes. After 6 years of intensive practice he becomes adept at the high wire and the flying trapeze, but decides he has had enough of being controlled by adults and wants to lead a normal life instead. He runs away from the circus and becomes an accountant. When asked 55 years later whether he has any regrets he answers "Nah, I hated it then and I hate it now". The interviewer decides this doesn't make a good story, tries to depict him as a bum and headlines his piece "Redemption of a lost prodigy" (redemption - "the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil"). Unintentionally rather appropriate I think!
April 3, 2018, 5:10 PM · I agree with Adalberto Valle-Rivera...


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