Review of Teaching Musicians – A Photographer’s View

What makes a great musician? What makes a great teacher? You will find a panorama of answers to these questions in this beautiful book – Teaching Musicians: A Photographer’s View into the Art of Music Teaching by Diane Griliches (Bunker Hill Publishing). Every teacher is unique. Each one manifests his own philosophy in his approach to teaching. And yet, all are about the business of passing on a musical legacy to the next generation.

Teaching Musicians is a compendium of quotes, biographical sketches, and black and white photographs that give the reader a glimpse into the lives and studios of some of the greatest music teachers of our time. These are more than candid shots. Ms. Griliches, a musician herself, masterfully captures artists in action, uninhibited, as though unaware of the presence of a camera. And the quotes themselves are a treasure trove of advice from and about these master teachers! Here are two in particular that inspired me:

Not a single missed beat nor a misplaced stroke will elude his vigilant ear. Though always gentle, he is exacting. In every lesson, Swapanji expects us to stretch our capabilities.
~a student, speaking of Swapanji Chaudhuri, a world renowned Classical Tabla Player

I think the greatest thing about Dorothy Delay is that she has the ability to look at a young student and pretty much size up their character, their personality, and how in a short period of time what’s the best door to use to get them in. And that’s her method – the fact that there is really no method.
~Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, speaking of Dorothy Delay, revered violin pedagogue

I found myself eagerly perusing each page – studying the photographs, reading the accompanying short paragraphs of text, looking for thoughts and tips that I could apply in my own teaching. The collection is varied. Teachers from Emmanuel Ax to Yo-Yo Ma to Dorothy Delay to Roberta Tzavaras Guaspari – whose story inspired the film, Music of the Heart – come alive on the pages. The object of their arts encompasses tuba to piano to erhu to conducting to composing film scores. A world of music! The clean interior layout enhances the photography, successfully captures the emotions of the musicians contained in them, and invites the reader to flip through the pages and read the entries that grab her attention.

Be sure to read the front matter of the book where you will “hear” from the photographer herself about why she chose certain teachers and instruments, and how she gained access into what she calls “their inner sanctums.” Teaching Musicians is a great “coffee table book,” and would be a wonderful gift for any music teacher!

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  1. Pingback: A Year of Reading in Review - 2009 - Pajama School Blog

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