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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000172.txt from 2005/04

From: Tony Pay <>
Subj: Re: [kl] legendary teachers (was legato)
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 2005 09:39:12 -0400

--- Margaret Thornhill <> wrote:

> ....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.

OK, I´ve written in a way that has confused two ideas. My fault.

There have obviously been very many fine clarinet teachers, even superlative
clarinet teachers; and of course, some of those rightly become legendary, in
the sense that their students were inspired by them, honoured them and loved
them. From what I hear, Mazzeo and Russianoff would be good examples of that

However, those teachers become legendary in a rather less productive way. Their
teaching gets stripped of its context, and isolated statements of theirs are
presented as gospel, without the qualifications that must have accompanied them
in a real teaching situation.

As you say, the situation becomes worse when there are books that purport to
capture the essentials of their teaching. I actually have the Russianoff
books, and I have to say that in several regards I find them very lacking, even
though there is a lot of useful stuff. I am not the only one to find this, by
the way -- several of his students, perhaps you included, report that you get a
very limited view of his abilities from what he writes.

He does make a significant effort every now and then to temper what might seem
a dogmatic pronouncement -- "Don´t believe what anyone says; even don´t believe
what *I* say! Trial and error is much more important!" -- but I think the
problem remains. But this is inevitable. If you´re a charismatic figure, and
if you can often see what needs to be said to a student, and if you then say
that strongly to that student: then any report of the event, or any book that
includes that piece of instruction, is bound to be inapplicable to quite a
portion of its readership.

I suppose what I want to say here about ´legendary teachers´ is: you can´t *do
anything* with them -- unless you can, of course, in which case the thing to do
is go and visit them.

But otherwise, if you weren´t there, you missed it.


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