My Teachers: Galamian, Delay, Neikrug, Gingold, My Mother a Comparison

September 5, 2020, 4:45 PM · I have been thinking a lot about my violin teachers and here are some observations.


I studied violin with Ivan Galamian for 8 years at Juilliard, Dorothy Delay for 3 years while she was Galamian’s assistant, and George Neikrug over 2 years, the best known exponent of the Dounis Method; I have incorporated the best principles from each style to come up with my own manner of teaching.

In his teaching Ivan Galamian insisted upon a rigorous, disciplined approach which included following specific fingering and bowing instruction, and a basic and effective technical and musical approach to playing the violin which allowed the student to improve through their own ambition and talent.

Dorothy Delay added a positive and encouraging psychological approach to Galamian’s and actively promoted her student’s careers. She made each student feel that they were special.

George Neikrug’s method emphasized maximum, instinctive expression and focused on solving technical deficiencies using teaching analogies based on natural, unique, and personal observations. Neikrug credited his mentor, Dr. D. C. Dounis for inspiring his passion for pedagogy. Neikrug said, "Teaching is one profession where your skills increase with age."

I cannot neglect to leave out from my studies Josef Gingold with whom I took lessons during my high school aged years 14-18, or my mother who started me, put up with me, and taught me how to vibrato. Mr. Gingold taught a midwestern kid that it was OK to love music.

Replies (10)

September 5, 2020, 5:20 PM · Did you find their approaches ever clashing, or having one teacher have you rework something in a completely different way?
September 5, 2020, 11:40 PM · My mother was my first teacher on the piano, plus a very vigilant coach on school holidays , which meant that I probably did much better in exams than I would have otherwise.
I often wonder what it would have been like for someone else to have her as a teacher.
Edited: September 7, 2020, 8:34 AM · I'd love to hear more about the Dounis/Neikrug method(s). There is a nice interview online with Neikrug about it, but I'd be fascinated to know how he tackled individual problems, or got you in and out of a whole piece.

Also, any tales of how Dounis quietly helped many of the famous soloists, either with their playing or their teaching, would be interesting.

I have studied with a few Gingold students. They all have the same reaction you did. The only time I heard him live was in a summer festival near Boston, when he played the Mozart e-minor Sonata with MTT, and the Quintet K516. It is clear that every string player onstage worshipped him, and pupils of all ages came up respectfully in the intermission to say hello. My mother (not a musician) had the sensation that he was playing for her, personally-- even though she knew that everyone else in the church felt the same way.

The closest I came to Galamian was via an excellent teacher who was one of his disciples. Galamian parts, suspicion of different solutions. To the point that often discussions came down to "Mr Galamian says that..." Not the best approach to a nerdy adolescent. My playing always improved most in the summers between the academic years, when I had a chance to digest what was said without feeling threatened or bored. The summer institute would say "wow, you really improved over the winter." Then I would go sideways for a few months, to then be told in September, "wow, you really improved over the summer!"

September 6, 2020, 6:48 PM · I remember asking my most recent teacher about a certain bowing in the Galamian Bach edition–one where a similar phrase was bowed three different ways in succession. I wondered out loud why he made those choices, imagining that there was certainly some musical reason that wasn't immediately apparent.

"Because Mr. Galamian thought it sounded best that way" she said sternly. End of discussion. That might have been our last lesson together. Bad fit.

September 7, 2020, 3:31 AM · Irrespective of that specific case Katie, but musically it may well make sense to bow or finger passages that are identical notewise differently, because they may have another place in the larger sentence so to speak.
September 7, 2020, 8:21 AM · You know, Bruce, a scholarly book where you compare the teaching styles and methods -- in rather more detail than you have here -- of your former teachers and maybe a few others, based on your own experience combined with interviews of some of their other students, could be pretty valuable. Especially the thoughts of those -- like you -- who became career teachers and professors in their own right. What parts of Galamian's teachings could you apply immediately to your students at Baylor? What parts didn't convert well? A book that really plumbs what people (not necessarily top soloists) have experienced -- with top teachers -- and tells it straight would be compelling. Better start now. A book like that could take you ten years to write.
September 7, 2020, 4:39 PM · @ Jean, exactly! I mean, it obviously wasn't random, nor was it a typo. I wanted to understand the choice both so I could be sure to perform it as intended AND for my own broader mapping-bowings-to-musical-intent purposes.

I think this teacher preferred working with kids who would just do stuff without asking questions. It wasn't a good fit.

September 7, 2020, 4:52 PM · Sounds fascinating Bruce. Would love to hear more especially about Mr. Gingold. I’ve always been a huge fan of his playing and his teaching from watching those masterclasses at IU. He seemed like such a nice man too.
Edited: September 7, 2020, 6:22 PM · I found it interesting to view the 5 (I think) Galamian videos (VHS) that were available at the time from SHAR. I did not find them at all instructive (t was annoying to watch Galamian sitting there smoking through it all) - but it was cool to see Joshua Bell as a young student (on the final video).

This youtube "masterclass" is more informative - at least Galamian uses his violin in this.

September 8, 2020, 3:15 AM · Aha I see Katie, thanks for the clarification!

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