Sunday, August 20, 2000

Great music teacher profiled




By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Master violin teacher Dorothy DeLay, whose students include Itzhak Perlman, Kennedy, Midori and many others, has the Midas touch. Author Barbara Lourie Sand writes about the secret behind the success of the legendary teacher in a new book: Teaching Genius: Dorothy DeLay and the Making of a Musician (Amadeus Press; $24.95).

        Ms. Sand, whose book grew out of an article for Musical America, attempts to demystify the pedagogue, who at one time had 160 students between New York's Juilliard School and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

        But, whether grandmotherly figure or power broker, the real Miss DeLay eludes the author. Written in the first person, the book is a string of interviews with Miss DeLay, her students, colleagues and Ms. DeLay's husband, New Yorker writer Edward Newhouse.

        How did so many of her students get to Carnegie Hall? The author devotes a brief chapter to Miss DeLay's critics, where she touches on her “political clout with conductors and management.” In a chapter about finding jobs, Ms. Sand writes, “According to DeLay, managements have no interest in you if you are over the age of 22” — a good segue to a chapter on child prodigies.

        Curiously, Kurt Sassmannshaus, Miss DeLay's former Juilliard associate and chair of CCM's string department, is not quoted. But Peter Oundjian, former first violinist of the Tokyo Quartet, discusses Miss DeLay's career advice when he had hand problems. “It gave me an insight into how she thinks,” he says. “It is a very competitive attitude, and perhaps very political.”

        There are wonderful pictures, such as a 5-year-old Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg cradling her violin. Readers may enjoy prodigy Sarah Chang's story.

        Still, the author's hero worship is hard to mask. At Miss DeLay's 80th birthday in Aspen, Colo., Ms. Sand writes, “I felt choked up on her behalf. All those years at Aspen, all those students — what an emotional moment this must be for her.”

        It is Toby Perlman, wife of violinist Itzhak Perlman, who provides one of the most revealing insights.

        “She did it as a teacher — scales and so on — but she also did it, most important, as a human being. She nurtured his interests,” Mrs. Perlman says. “She took him to museums herself, took him to concerts herself. ... She knew that eventually his art would be a reflection of his life. Therefore, he'd better have a life!”

       



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