June 4, 2007 at 7:43 PMAs I sat down on the last day of the Starling-DeLay Symposium, I spotted a fellow V.commer, whom I'd seen throughout the week, Nick DiEugenio. I remembered his eloquent way of putting things and wondered what he would have to say about the symposium.
He thought for a moment.
"The most striking feature about something like this is that the whole event has a certain spirit," DiEugenio said. "Everything together gives you something to think about to renew your approach."
For example, teachers Paul Kantor and Donald Weilerstein had different approaches, but they still worked for the same kinds of results. "They both are going into the same house, but they use a different entrance."
"The theme, for me, has been something Brian Lewis said, that you don't want to be the second of someone else, like the second Heifetz," he said. And that goes not only for how you play and perform, but also for how you teach. "Kantor and Weilerstein both teach at the highest level, but they don't resemble each other in their approach."
I agree. The idea of allowing students to find and develop their own approach ran deep in the teaching of Dorothy DeLay, who started this Symposium in 2001 and who was a mentor to nearly all the faculty at the Symposium. It was very much alive in all her students.
At the center of each teacher's unique approach is one goal: music, played beautifully and humanly, on the violin.
The violin has been analyzed to death for centuries; there are hundreds of methods and treatises written, from Leopold Mozart to Carl Flesch to Ivan Galamian to Simon Fischer. There are thousands of little technical exercises passed from one generation to the next.
It all boils down to one thing: how to fill this very moment in time.
All the methods, techniques, practicing, teachers, training, money in the world won't help you if you can't set it aside long enough to look at a student and say: What is the one thing, now, for this student? Or if you can't stop to hear yourself in a practice room and say: What am I really hearing, and is it what I want? Or if you can't be with yourself in a performance and know: What am I giving to this audience, here and now?
Later in the day, DiEugenio found me again. He had thought even more about the experience of the Symposium, and he had something to add.
"I think it's a tribute to Dorothy DeLay," he said. It's a tribute that so many people who are at the highest level of teaching and playing would come together to share their approach on the violin – and that each approach would be so very different. "I think she spawned all that – by developing these people as individuals."
"It's not just about understanding a template and imposing it on all your students," DiEugenio said. "It's about understanding yourself."
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