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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000146.txt from 2005/04

From: "Margaret Thornhill" <>
Subj: [kl] legendary teachers (was legato)
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2005 13:40:43 -0400

Tony Pay wrote:
>And I'm open to other people's ideas, and willing to
experiment with them; and I continually try to develop new ideas of my own,
always endeavouring to tailor what I say to the person in front of me.
You sound to me like you're doing the same thing.

Thank you; this is certainly what I consider most important about teaching,
problem solving on my feet for that individual, inventing new ways of
communicating in the moment that speak to that person.

But I did learn this way of teaching from observing someone whom you may be
lumping into the "legendary" teacher group.

>Of course, it's part of the bullshit folklore that 'legendary teachers' can
solve them routinely.
>But, I don't believe it. (And I'm very, very suspicious of the 'legendary'
part of it.)
Tell me more?

Doesn't the term legendary convey one more level of separation though--what
we say about a famous teacher whom no one living actually remembers, but
about whom everyone knows a few anecdotes,"clarinet virtuosi of the past"?
Do we say this about peole like Kell and Bellison, or more like (fishing for
a name) Cahuzac, or Hamelin, or Lefevre? Or are you thinking of some of our

Mazzeo, for example, had hundreds of students, most of them still alive and
many still young. At his memorial a few years ago,--where almost all the
guests were former students--one of the most touching tributes I heard was a
reception-hour remark made by one of his last students, a young woman who
said "he always treated me as if I were his beloved only child, and now I
see that all of you felt the same way."

Everything I wrote about Mazzeo in the obit that is still up on this site is
really true. He was a mensch, and certainly not of the one-size-fits-all
mentality. The trouble when somebody writes a book (and in his case, a book
that was a compilation of articles!) is that it can't convey any impression
of the spontaneity, inventiveness and life in someone's teaching--the
genuine charisma of a great musician is a very powerful teaching medium and
ultimately goes beyond the verbal, as with great conductors.

I didn't know Russianoff as well, spending only a few months with him; other
people on the list are more in a position to comment about his work. What I
principally found inspiring about him was that he really didn't play and
hadn't for years. He had a shtick where he would go into his shop, grab a
new-looking clarinet, mouthpiece out of the box, random reed out of the box,
put them together and play the passage he wanted you to improve, with great
style--See? Forget that it wasn't perfect.A unique lesson about mind over

Another type of legendary teacher is one a concert pianist friend had. This
man was legendary for his cruelty. His sarcasm drove most of his students
into extended therapy. He taught primarily by requiring imitation. Story
after story details how this man had not a kind or really personal word for
anyone, yet students kept flocking to him. I've heard a lot of similar
stories about other great musicians, but I don't know anyone like this in
the clarinet teaching profession. It sounds as if you do.

Margaret Thornhill

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