Dorothy Delay: what kind of person/teacher was she?

February 22, 2007 at 03:41 PM · i am sure those who did not know her personally would like to hear from those who did...

Replies (16)

February 22, 2007 at 03:41 PM · Al, she passed away a number of years ago. But she was a very interesting person, from all accounts.

February 22, 2007 at 05:28 PM · happy b day laurie by the way:). ms delay sure seemed bigger than life and with her golden touch has contributed to the classical world with such authority and influence.

February 22, 2007 at 07:52 PM · There is a book about her, "Teaching Genius".

February 22, 2007 at 09:47 PM · So who can spill the beans,what was the magic golden touch? We all want to shimmer!

February 22, 2007 at 10:49 PM · Greetings,

I never studied with her but I have attende dher masterclasses, talked to many of her studnets. I believe ther e were a number of overriding factors in her teaching that made her extraordinary.

Firstly she clealry understood the point that identifying strong points is often more powerful tahn pinting out weaknesses.

Second , that telling somebody not to do something embedds a stimulus to do just that!

Third she could reframe everthing she wanted a studnet to grasp in imagery that related specifically to them as individuals.

Fourth, she understood the importance of breaking problems down into the smallest coomon demoniators.

Fifth she knew that the brain can process anything if done slowly and carefully.

Six, she could identify a technical reason for a musicla deficiency.

Seven, like Mr Bron, she actually had a very clear list of factors involved in playign and tended to work on only one of these at a time with a stuent.

Eight she had an innate sens e of when to introduc e something and when to let it go.



February 22, 2007 at 11:44 PM · I heard that many of her students studied with another woman in New York at the same time because they learned more from her than Delay. This is second-hand knowledge, however.

February 22, 2007 at 11:52 PM · D. Delay was a VERY DEMANDING TEACHER!


February 23, 2007 at 12:09 AM · The frequently stated ideal about a fine teacher is that s/he teaches you to teach yourself. Having studied with Miss DeLay throughout undergraduate and graduate school at Juilliard, my impression was that she was the supreme master of that ability. If you studied with Miss DeLay you learned how to teach yourself.

She was intensely curious about other disciplines, such as acting. She was always searching for ideas from these other disciplines that would be helpful to the study of the violin. There is a Mishna in the Hebrew text known as "Pirke Avot" which speaks about a person like this. It asks: "Who is the wise person?" and answers: "He who learns from all people." Miss DeLay epitomized this quality.

February 23, 2007 at 12:36 AM · I read a funny story somewhere, can't remember who said it or where I found it, but the gist of it was: if a student played something out of tune in a lesson, other teachers might get angry, yell and admonish "What are you doing? Play that right! You can't hear if it's in tune or not?" etc. etc. etc. Ms. Delay, on the other hand, would pause, look at the student and say simply, "Sugarplum....just what is your concept of F sharp?" and leave it at that. :)

February 23, 2007 at 01:25 AM · Maura,

It might make a good story, but I don't see it as accurate. The part of it that rings true is that she abhored teaching in which temper tantrums, insults, sarcasm or any other form of disrespect to the student was involved. Her criticism was 100% constructive.

February 23, 2007 at 01:38 AM · Yup, that's how I learn as well.

I pretend I know nothing, and learn everything all over again -- sort of hanging more stuff on my christmas tree of throughts. If I get all cluttered, I start over and rehang everything so it's beautiful.

Umm... every little thing has some distant or degree of relation -- when you think of those ties, you pull together more things that have never been turned over or discovered, faster than those who stick to one discipline. It's risky, but it's the difference between being revolutionary or just plain evolutionary.


February 23, 2007 at 02:05 AM · I studied with her for awhile as an adult at Sarah Lawrence College in NY. She sometimes reduced me to tears from laughing. Unfortunately my flight schedule interfered with lessons and I had to stop.

When I auditioned for her, thanks to Skitch Henderson's intervention, she said to me after playing, "do you know that you play out of tune?" I said "yes." She asked me, "What have you done about it?" After I told her about my frustrations in that she laughed and said, "didn't work, did it?" She said this with a twinkle in her eye and a laugh. Miss Delay told me the problem was finger pressure. Push harder and you finger pad spreads out, softer and it doesn't, thus easily changing the note by a half step while putting the finger dead on in the right place.

She said "here's what I want you to do. Go in the Men's restroom outside, (remember, I'm quoting verbatim here) sit on the can and drop your left fingers against your right forearm and get the pressure exactly the same for all four, then come back and play again. I don't care if your finger pressure is hard or soft, just even. And the reason you go in the bathroom and sit on the can is if you do that out in the room outside where people can see you they'll think you're a demented idiot."

You know, it worked.

Rest in peace Dorothy, you're the greatest.

February 23, 2007 at 02:55 AM · Oliver,

Sorry. I need to quit posting on topics I'm totally ignorant about...

February 23, 2007 at 02:54 AM · Ray! What a fantastic story! I will grin at the mental picture for quite some time! haha

February 23, 2007 at 03:00 AM · Greetings,

Maura, taht story is actually true and is cited by Perlman in teachign Genius. The point is not that she left it at that though. She wa savoiding telling people directly that soemthign was wrong and at the same time , in my opinion, reminding them that they are responsibilty for creaitng their own mentl structure of sound. A teacher can say `sharppen it, flatten it` till they are blue in the face but there is very little devolution of power to the student. It is part and parcel of teachign yourslef.



August 6, 2007 at 12:42 PM · Although I have not personally studied with Ms. Delay, I have many friends who were her regular former pupils at Juilliard. I had the fortune of sitting in on a few lessons to observe her teaching in action. Whether you agree/disagree, like it/not like it, here are my thoughts...

Ms. Delay is a genius who stood out as one of this century's best teachers. Although she was very demanding in a gentler, less intimidating way, she was an outstanding psychologist, violin teacher, agent, and career coach combined into one.

If a student want to go to her to acquire a machine-gun like technique, that was the wrong reason to go to her. Her methods worked for students who had the willingness to work hard and dedicate their lives to the violin, working under a caring and nurturing environment. She had alot of knowledge about teaching and violin technique but her assistants taught most of the technique, etudes, etc. One would go to Delay more for a "finishing touch" so to speak.

If she saw a big talent in a student, she had the political connections and ability to introduce them to the top agents, conductors, presenters, etc.

She also knew how to help her top students develop their own voice and marketability like a business entrepreneur.

Whereas most teachers just teach technique and music and hope for the best, Delay was an expert at seeing the whole picture.

Now this is why I think Delay is a genius!

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