Cyrus Forough, Almita Vamos, and Desiree Ruhstrat

November 16, 2004 at 06:43 AM · For the people who have studied with these teachers or know people who study with them... Who do you think is the best teacher among these three: Cyrus Forough, Almita Vamos, or Desiree Ruhstrat? Why? Which one's most demanding or gives out harshest criticism?

I know that the Vamoses teach at the Music Institute of Chicago. Do you know any ways to contact either Forough or Ruhstrat?

I am thinking about auditioning for one of these teachers. Do you have any idea what they would typically ask you to play in an audition? scales, concertos, etudes, etc. Or do they tell you what to prepare before the audition?

Thanks!!! Any input would be appreciated.

Replies (39)

November 17, 2004 at 04:28 PM · I have heard students of Forough and of Vamos, and Almita Vamos' students are all extremely good, and I would recomend her over Forough.

November 17, 2004 at 08:27 PM · Go with Forough. He'll be relentless until it's perfect.


November 17, 2004 at 10:01 PM · Thanks for these comments! But do you know how Forough can be reached? And do you happen to know which of them is more demanding and gives our harsher criticism? So far, what I know about Vamos is that she's an extremely good and nice teacher. And Forough is also an extremely good but stricter/harsher teacher. Do you have anything to add to this?

November 18, 2004 at 02:20 AM · I've not had any contact with the Vamose's at all. I only know about Forough. Best way to contact him is first to research him and find at which school he teaches, then arrange an audition.


November 18, 2004 at 08:48 PM · I think so. I'm also wondering what those teachers would check for in an audition. I want to know what I should practice. which scales, etudes, concertos... Or would they tell me beforehand? Thanks!

November 18, 2004 at 09:53 PM · anybody know?

November 19, 2004 at 01:21 AM · Any competant teacher in an audition is basically going to evaluate the student as a whole musician. I doubt they would simply look at one specific thing.

Of course playing in tune is important, and playing musically. I think mostly they will be looking for your potential. Just practice hard and be prepared with whatever you bring to the audition.


November 20, 2004 at 12:40 AM · For a direct line to Cyrus Forough telephone the Sherwood Conservatory where he teaches on day a week:

Sherwood Conservatory

of Music

1312 S. Michigan Ave.

Chicago, IL 60605

Phone 312.427.6267

Ted Kruzich

November 20, 2004 at 03:22 AM · Just be prepared...prepared to practice your rear off. Prepared, like most teachers, is his most especially favorite word.

November 20, 2004 at 03:16 AM · So basically, if I just want to play a concerto (most likely the Bruch), that's okay? Like they won't ask to see scales or etudes right after that?

November 20, 2004 at 05:56 AM · It depends on what you are auditioning for. If you are auditioning for a program, go look up the audition requirements.

If you are initiating the audition just for private study you have more control. Tell them what you've prepared. Prepare scales and play them well, they might like it. If you don't want to, then don't.


November 20, 2004 at 10:58 AM · i have to say, foroughs students have routinly impressed me with their big, robust sound and great technique

November 20, 2004 at 07:41 PM · Forough is stil at Roosevelt and he also teaches at Carnegie Melon. you can contact him through those schools. he's a great teacher, go for it!

November 21, 2004 at 04:19 AM · Just one more question... How exactly do you pronounce the name 'cyrus forough'. for 'forough' is the accent on the 'for' or the 'ough'??? And for 'vamos,' is it with a long 'a' or a short 'a'? thanks!

November 21, 2004 at 05:24 AM · accent on FO-rough

long a in VA[Y]-mos

November 26, 2004 at 04:32 AM · I highly recommend Mr. Forough as a teacher. I am a freshman in his studio at Carnegie Mellon, have only been studying with him for 3 months, and already realize that he is the best teacher around. He is very demanding, yet sensitive, and caters to the needs of each student as an individual.

November 26, 2004 at 06:34 PM · The only reason why I am hesitant about taking lessons from Cyrus Forough is that I am only a freshman in high school and unlike college students who are majoring in violin performance, I don't have the whole day to practice the violin. And I heard that Mr. Forough makes you practice a WHOLE lot.

But the problem is that not only am I interested in violin, I am also interested in academics. As a matter of fact, I plan to double major in violin performance and something related to biology in college. Right now, school, homework, and academic competitions take up a lot of my time. So I'm afraid that I won't be able to practice as much as he demands.

Do you guys have any suggestions for this problem? How many hours of practicing does he usually demand? I think I would only get about 2 to 3 hours done during the academic year. But during the summer, I could do 4 to 5 hours. For high school students, do you think that Mr. Forough expects them to be committed to becoming a professional violinist? Because I probably won't become one even though violin will always be a major part of my life.

February 20, 2005 at 03:54 PM · Rachael Mathey, I am a junior in high school. Ive always wanted to go to Cmu and study with forough. Did you arrange an audition with forough before the school audition? or did you jsut audition for the school and got in? Its been my dream to study with him and i just wanted to know if any connnections with the teacher are necessary to get accepted into cmu with forough. thanks. oh and by the way, can you do early decision into cmu with music?

February 20, 2005 at 04:36 PM · Hey Grace,

I live around here and many of my friends take from these teachers. I've heard good things about Forough, he's got some very good students, but recently, there have been issues with politics and lesson fees that drove away about 4-5 of his Chicago area students. Desiree Ruhstrat seems beloved by her students, and I haven't heard one bad thing uttered about her by anyone that studies with her. Her students are also generally very good. Then there are the Vamoses. From what I've seen, they just have really good students with amazing technique. Their students really are some of the very best in the Chicago area.

One thing to consider here is the economics of it all. I don't know if this is kosher, so if it isn't, someone let me know and I'll remove it with an apology. Forough is $150 an hour. Desiree is around $100 an hour, I think. And the Vamoses are $100 an hour, but people have told me that you have to take two lessons a week, so that means you're at $200 a week. Thus, while the teachers might expect a great deal out of you, I wouldn't be surprised if your parents (assuming that they are financing your violin education) would be expecting just as much out of you, if not more...that is, assuming you don't have your own private jet! :)

February 20, 2005 at 07:25 PM · Cyrus Forough Recital

For your information---

Friday March 11, 2005

Free Concert

Cyrus Forough, violin, faculty recital

Program begins at 8:00 PM

Presented in the Rudolph Ganz Memorial Hall (Room 745)

430 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605


Cyrus Forough, violin Tatyana Stepanova, piano

Bach Sonata for Keyboard and Violin in A Major-

Bach Solo Sonata in D minor-

Ysaye Sonata No. 3 in D minor called the "Ballade"-

De Falla Spanish Dance

For further information, contact the Performance Activities Office at

This is an unfrequent event and should not be missed if you live in the Chicagoland area…

Ted Kruzich

February 21, 2005 at 07:41 PM · oooooo. thanks for all the helpful comments!

March 1, 2005 at 06:00 PM · FYI

Desiree Ruhstrat also does many performances, solo and with her trio. You should check the website, its pretty cool. she also does lots of solo performances too, so watch the chicago trib. desiree's students are all over the place, juilliard, curtis, cim, peabody, rice... and yes, daniel was right. desiree is most certainly beloved by her students....that's actually an understatement.

March 1, 2005 at 05:54 PM · I heard a story that Desiree did this competion (I think Tibor Varga) when she was around 13, and Cyrus was much older... anyways im not sure how many rounds there were, but he didn't get very far and she won second.

March 3, 2005 at 10:02 PM · I have heard that the Vamoses and Forough are more renowned teachers than Desiree Ruhstrat. And I know that the Vamoses and Forough both expect their students to practice many hours a day and that their students are all like prodigies. How much does Desiree Ruhstrat expect her students to practice? Because I am committed to the violin but I am also interested in academics and it is impossible for me to practice 5 hours a day during the schoolyear, although I could do that during the summer. Any ideas?

March 17, 2005 at 06:14 PM · I would recommend getting a trial lesson with all three and stay for a performance class of all three. All three of these teachers are going to have good students, but the question is, which sound will you want? Do you want a Forough sound? or a Vamos sound? or perhaps a Desiree sound? there is a difference in which all three of these teachers operate. You will find that all three teachers will focus on different elements and will maybe push your focus towards different things. The question is who is right for you? and no one can tell you that except for yourself.

March 18, 2005 at 03:16 AM · Greetings,

I agree with you about the trials, although keep in mind that it is sometimes not so easy to turn down a teacher in favor of another if you enjoyed the lesson and appeared enthusiastic.

I am not personally so convinced by the idea of wanting a partu\iclar sound form a teacher. At this level it is your sound and I think those sentiments would be echoed by all three of these world class teachers,



March 18, 2005 at 03:30 AM · id love to study with Forough...i heard so many good things.

March 18, 2005 at 05:02 AM · hhahaha, this is where parents come in if you get in a sticky situation with having to turn down any. BTW, I am a student of the Vamoses and have had chamber coachings with Desiree. Both of these teachers are amazing and I have been lucky enough to have been able to work with them. Desiree will help promote you once she thinks your ready. Mrs Vamos may suggest some competitions, but overall, if you want to do a competition, you will most likely have to come to her with the idea first. (and I"m not trying to sound bais.. but i must say i luv mrs v! especially when we have performances classes at her house, and sometimes on friday afternoon we make lunch. lol..moving on) (also, both Desiree and the Vamoses teach at the Music Institute of Chicago). The only thing I know about Forough is that he travels a lot and isn't in the Chicago area all the time. The Vamoses probably have a couple openings for students this year but I am not possitive. As for Desiree, I honestly have no idea since I have only had chamber coachings with her and not private lessons. Hopes this helps a little :)

April 7, 2005 at 08:41 AM · If you want a job, you study with the Vamos'. Mrs. V can be harsh, but it's because she wants you to be successful. Btw, don't tell Mrs. V you going to play for Forough, they don't like each other.

April 12, 2005 at 02:51 AM · Talking to people is good, but the best way to find out for yourself what teacher might be best for you is really to have a lesson with all three of them (sorry if this was already mentioned; didn't read the whole thread). Also, when you ask about who is the "most demanding" and gives the harshest criticism, take some time to think about what you're looking for in a teacher and what teaching style you think would fit you best and encourage you to develop. If lots of criticism is very motivating for you, or you thrive on competition, a stricter teacher might work well. But if you need someone more supportive, or more understanding of your personal life, it's good to be aware of the effect that a "harsher" teacher could have on your self-esteem. Good luck figuring things out!

May 9, 2005 at 12:51 AM · I would like to throw a new name out there. Clara Takarabe. I just want to do this, because I think she will be the next major teacher out there, in spite of herself.

I’ve been studying with her for a year, and all the teachers I have had, no one has been able to come close to her—for many reasons.

She is perhaps the most eccentric person I know---loving, passionate, fiery—not to say those other three teachers aren’t wonderful—but she is really a different creature as a teacher.

Basically---there are too many great things to say. Clara never puts her students back to back, because she tends to go an hour and a half. She never works by the clock, but I have to say every single lesson is so intense that I feel like passing out at the end of 20 minutes. She charges a lot—she’s worth it (if you don’t prepare enough, she will cut the lesson short, but also refuse to take money---her ethics in terms of money are really amazing---and if she sees that you need a lesson every day or 3 times a week, don’t worry about the money, there’s always a way to make it work out)--but it’s clear that teaching is totally not about money. The most refreshing thing is that there are absolutely no mind games, no ego games, no power games.

Even though the gestalt feeling of being her student is wonderful, her actual teaching is relentless technique, technique, technique----she seems to thrive on working on technique, it’s kind of disturbing. If there is any technical issues that need to be addressed---SHE is the one who will make it happen. And she is devoted. To a point of insanity. And the musical interpretations are really amazing and the process of getting there makes one forget that there is a competition, audition, etc.

But, it’s really hard to get her to agree to teaching a student, because she does have a lot of performances. I think, she also has a hard time accepting students, because it takes a certain personality to work with her. Not everyone can work with her. She will literally show you how to put every finger down, at what velocity, what angle, with what pressure, and WHY.

For auditions and competitions, I have seen her work with students 3-5 times a week, doting on them, and I’ve seen her turn technique around from problematic to really amazing in several months. I know that her students are not many, but they are in the Paris Conservatory, in Juilliard, and not all of them go to conservatory, because she does value learning in the broad sense (since she also has a degree in Classical Greek and Latin, as well as being a pretty savvy political and social thinker and closeted writer), so she has a lot of sympathy for those who have intellectual pursuits.

So, if you are looking for some old-fashioned dog-with-a-bone commitment in the real sense, I think she’s totally where it’s at. She would be the teacher one would want to have, BEFORE taking the big audition with Sassmanhaus, Lipsett, Ashkenasi, Kaler, or any of the great viola teachers like Imai, Kashkashian.

Good luck. Hope you find the teacher you need.

May 9, 2005 at 03:32 AM · Sorry--I didn't clarify earlier, but she lives in Chicago, that's why I was making teacher comparisons.

May 9, 2005 at 04:20 AM · please check out any teacher's name on "google" and you will discover what they do in their spare time, if anything.

May 12, 2005 at 05:47 AM · By the way, I also agree with Buri about the "sound"--your sound is your own, and you should probably be wary of a teacher whose students all sound exactly the same.

November 22, 2006 at 07:48 PM · i've been a vamos student for a LONNNNNG time.

i would highly recommend her though, it is really up to you. its what you want in a sound and ur decision on who's right for you.

ruhstrat don't know. u can reach her at the music institute. she's more of an intermediate i think.

vamites ;D

November 22, 2006 at 08:50 PM · uh...a forouhg sound? a vamos sound? a rhustrat sound? how about...YOUR OWN SOUND!

November 23, 2006 at 01:14 AM · Almita and Roland Vamos teach at Northwestern University's School of Music. They have a reputation of "team" teaching (a lot of Almita's students also take lessons with Roland (the only viola professor at Northwestern). Roland Vamos is the protoge of Shumsky, who is a hero in my book.

The Vamoses have taught a ton of great students (Jennifer Koh, Rachel Barton Pine, and a slew of international competition winners). So their reputation is definitely up there in the ranks of highly succesfful pedagogues. One note though - they have a LOT of students. They live for teaching, which is an amazing thing, and are close with their students (housed students over Thanksgivign at their house and everything). The downside to this - Roland Vamos is quite old now, and I've heard from friends who study/studied with them that they sometimes have trouble keeping track of each student's progress.

In any case - if you are dedicated and work hard, there is no doubt you can get a lot out of the Vamoses. In regards to your double degree idea, Northwestern offers special dual degree program between music and the other academic departments. Northwestern has been consistently ranked in the top 15 of all universities, so the academic side, other than offering a good backup for your music degree, will also kick your butt around a bit - VERY rigorous academic courses, especially in biology and organic chemistry - so tough many science/premed students take organic chemistry at Harvard over the summer instead of taking it during the normal school year.

Forough I don't know too much about, but he is on faculty at a few places: Carnegie Mellon and Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. He I know has a few really great students (semi-finalist at Indianapolis Violin competition most recently with who won a special Paganini prize). Roosevelt doesn't have the greatest academics though.

If you're serious about dual degrees, many schools have academic options to go hand-in-hand with music degrees with superb violin faculty. New England Conservatory-Harvard (Stolzman, Weilerstein) Juilliard-Columbia-Barnard (pretty much every violinist there is famous) Manhattan-Columbia (see Juilliard), Peabody-Johns Hopkins (Pam Frank, another Russian guy, they both teach at Curtis). Oh, Rice University is top notch too - Kathleen Winkler? Good academic school too.

Excuse my spelling of names.

Ok, I'll stop writing now. I have more info just ask ; ).

November 23, 2006 at 01:57 AM · Eric, I think the "other Russian guy" you refer to, who teaches at Curtis and Peabody, is Victor Danchenko? :) I've studied with him at Encore: he's very demanding, pretty intense, but really brilliant. :)

November 25, 2006 at 07:19 AM · yes! that's the dude! i hear he's a hardass!

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