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Classical 101

Musician, Teach Thyself

Itzhak Perlman celebrates his 70th birthday August 31st

Itzhak Perlman grew up with an autocratic style of teaching.  He termed it "fascist."  His teacher told him what to do and he did it.  You did not question your instructor's authority.  

So when he began studying with Dorothy DeLay, one of the preeminent music teachers of all time, he was extremely insecure.  In an interview with Listen Magazine, Perlman said:

"She was — as you’ve said — ‘What do you think of this,’ and ‘What do you think of that?’ and ‘What’s your concept of A-sharp?’ That’s another way of saying the A-sharp is out of tune. I said, ‘Just tell me what to do and I will do it.’ I didn’t like that approach, and that’s now the way that I teach. It’s very funny."

In the same interview, Perlman said his teaching style grew out of both the instruction he received from DeLay and the philosophy espoused by his mother, a high-school English teacher, who said, "It’s not that ‘teaching is everything,’ but rather that ‘everything is teaching."  

Itzhak Perlman Timeline
Credit Maggie Fisher / WOSU
Itzhak Perlman Timeline. Click to enlarge.

That when you teach, you also learn.  For me, watching a Master Class with Itzhak Perlman is such an exciting experience as he guides a student through small changes which make a big difference.  This small clip really demonstrates that.


He has an affable, easygoing style which works well with students and plays well with the Master Class audience.  


He even goes toe-to-toe with Peter Schickele.


As a soloist, many hours are spent preparing to perform with different ensembles.  There is much practice done alone.  While it may seem glamorous to jet from city to city to perform, it's the regular playing with other musicians, in performance or otherwise, which feeds him musically.  He described his first experience playing in a quartet and realizing how special it was to be a part of something - not just listening to himself.  He says it is now an absolute must for him...an obsession.

I leave you with Itzhak Perlman, joined by Pinchas Zuckerman playing viola and Lynn Harrell playing cello with a movement from one of Beethoven's String Trios.

Happy birthday, Itzhak!