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 Great Teachers/Great Players
Author: SecondTry 
Date:   2020-11-09 19:29

After reading a recent thread here on Yehuda Gilad being better know for his teaching than playing I began to think about in which of 3 categories some of the world's best clarinet teachers, former and present, lie:

1) great player and teacher
2) more known for teaching than playing
3) more known for playing than teaching.

Leon Russianoff, like Gilad, was better known for his teaching. This is not to say that either wasn't a wonderful player--the truth is I don't know, and yet further, it's entirely possible that a virtuosic player might still be better known for their pedagogy.

Perhaps Stanley Drucker might be better known for his playing. Again, I don't know, and even if true, it might only be because his playing was so virtuosic that it overshadowed his teaching legacy: Charles Neidich and I suspect a host of other players (e.g. Mitchell Estrin) being wonderful examples of his ability to not simply demonstrate but convey clarinet concepts.

And maybe Kalmen Opperman was both; just as sure as I personally know first hand from some of his students how (they felt) he tended to be a more "one size fits all" teacher, insisting on double embouchure and other attributes, and who was both fiercely loyal and demanding (not necessarily true or a bad thing.)

Who makes your list and in which of these three categories would you stick them?

Is there a "Bob Spring" or "Jon Manasse" or "Harold Wright" type of award here to those few who do/did both great? Are these 3 players more one than the other, or dare I say, in some people's opinion, (gasp) neither?

Is there truth in the idea that those few who so quickly and innately developed clarinet skills at a young age and failed to suffer through the time honored "knee scraping" process the rest of us 99.99% did, might not be the best ones to explain to a student how to overcome particular clarinet obstacles?

Post Edited (2020-11-09 19:36)

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 Re: Great Teachers/Great Players
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2020-11-10 01:44

I did not comment on the last thread because it may not be too helpful to do so. You mentioned Leon Russianoff who had personally seeded many orchestras across the country with former students. He was in fact also pretty self effacing about his own playing.

Here's the thing. If you want to be a competitive player on the highest level and have a fighting chance at winning top symphony jobs you'll already be familiar with the names of the teachers who might best help you get there. There is also a technique to taking auditions that is just about as important to know as clarinet technique itself. And there is a podcast by one or two (don't recall exactly who's involved) that emphasizes that aspect of the business.

Now, most players who remain at this for a career must teach out of necessity to supplement their income. I'm sure of those some enjoy it and some hate it (with a bunch in between depending on the level of engagement by their students) but the truth of the matter is that they all LEARN as much from the practice as they impart.

But like any other pursuit some of us are better at it than others. So find a teacher with whom you communicate well and helps take you where you want to go.

Personally I wouldn't care much to find out that Richard Muhlfeld couldn't teach his way out of a paper bag (if that were the case). I'm just glad he was there to inspire Brahms.

...............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Great Teachers/Great Players
Author: nellsonic 
Date:   2020-11-10 07:55

I have heard that Lorin Levee was not much of a teacher because he couldn't understand why anything was ever hard for anyone. It had all come easily to him since he was a child. This is a story from one former student of his, so take it as anecdotal.

To be a great teacher one must actually be interested in teaching, and in helping people one at a time. It also helps to have some talent for it and to be willing to work at getting better at it over time. Not all great players are going to be great teachers and vice versa. It's something for every student to be cognizant of.


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 Re: Great Teachers/Great Players
Author: Ed Palanker 
Date:   2020-11-12 17:48

I've known a few great players that were not great teachers but you could learn a lot from them by listening to them play. Some great teachers that are also great players faulted if they could only teach the way they played. What I mean by that is those that insist you play the same equipment they do, do everything the way they do no matter what limitations or differences the students phyicial make up is that prevents them from doing it that way and can't explore a way to help the student achieve the goal another way. The "my way or the highway" approach.
I'm not going to name names but I've come across that in my many years of teaching when I would get a student on a temporary basis, summer, or long term that studied with a "recognized" teacher and told me they were having a problem with something or I recognized a problem and would ask how are you trying to doing that and they would replay, the way so and so told me to do it. Tonguing is percect example. So I would experiment doing it slightly different ways until we achieve the desired resut. That didn't make the other teacher a poor teacher, it just meant they were unwilling or unable to explore other ways for a student that couldn't achieve somethng the way they did.


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 Re: Great Teachers/Great Players
Author: Ed 
Date:   2020-11-12 21:47

Great points Ed!

Some teachers have a one size fits all approach. Some are better at explaining or diagnosing problems. As was mentioned above, for some it comes so naturally that they can't really explain HOW to do something. A good student of mine used to come back to work with me during breaks from college. He had many questions and we would engage in deep discussions about various techniques and different approaches. He was often frustrated that his college teacher would sometimes tell him "just go home and figure it out"

Years ago a repairman I met in NY told me "finding the right teacher is like finding a spouse". While some teachers are highly regarded, it can be about finding the right fit for the player. Each has their own approach.

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 Re: Great Teachers/Great Players
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2020-11-12 22:04

Ed wrote:

> Years ago a repairman I met in NY told me "finding the right
> teacher is like finding a spouse". While some teachers are
> highly regarded, it can be about finding the right fit for the
> player. Each has their own approach.

And each student has his or her own needs. The student is lucky who finds a teacher who can address his needs (even those the student isn't aware of) without unnecessarily breaking whatever is already working.


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 Re: Great Teachers/Great Players
Author: Ed 
Date:   2020-11-12 23:42

Yes, Karl I agree completely. I entered college with very little training and got in through some kind of dumb luck. My teacher took the time to recognize that I was very inexperienced and really guided me. If I had gone to someone who was not able to recognize this or who did not have the patience for me I would have possibly given up rather than end up having a career playing and teaching.

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