Wednesday, November 7, 2007

RIP: Virginia Schneider

My last violin teacher-- during my early years in Louisville-- died on Monday...

I don't remember details about her all that much, but I remember her. And I remember a brief moment with her backstage after a Louisville Orchestra concert-- catching up, after I had returned here to work.

As the C-J story lays out, she was very active in bringing the Suzuki violin method to Louisville. And her efforts there bore much fruit-- in violin, in music, and in life-- for me and many others.

The other interesting reference in the article is to David McClure-- whose father was my optometrist. Dr. McClure encouraged my mom to get me into Suzuki violin. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Thanks to Dr. McClure, Ms. Schneider-- and my other teachers in Louisville (Sherry Hoffmeister and Carol Hughes).

Virginia Kershner Schneider, who played viola in the Louisville Orchestra for 54 years and established the Suzuki teaching method at the University of Louisville School of Music, died Monday of heart failure at Jewish Hospital. She was 92...

She led the section for nearly 40 years, passing it on in 1984 to one of her students, Jack Griffin.

Griffin said Schneider was a dedicated and caring teacher, equally committed to students, regardless of their ability to pay, as long as they "would take advantage of her knowledge."...

Addressing her talent as a musician, Griffin recalled her solo in 1976 of Richard Strauss' "Don Quixote" that has become an orchestra legend. In mid-solo, one of the four strings on Schneider's viola broke. Stopping for only a split-second, she composed the remainder of the solo in her head and continued on three strings.

Schneider joined the Louisville Orchestra in 1945 and retired in 1999. She also began teaching in the preparatory department at U of L's School of Music in 1947. While she officially retired in 1985 at the mandatory age of 70, she continued teaching more than another decade.

She began the Suzuki program in the Music Preparatory Department at U of L in the 1960s, starting with a 4-year-old David McClure, who eventually went on to play in chamber music groups at Harvard.

She studied with Shinichi Suzuki, who founded the method of teaching children as young as 2½ to play violin by listening instead of reading music. She'd served on the board of the Suzuki Association.

"Every child has musical ability, if they just have an opportunity to develop," she explained in 1995. "That's the Suzuki method. I didn't start playing until I was 10 years old. I felt handicapped."

By 1978, there were 150 students in the school's program with six other violin teachers and a cello teacher.

"Of all the things I've done in my life, music has been the most important to me," Schneider once told The Courier-Journal. 'I don't think anyone has been as happy as I've been with music. Everyone wants to know what my hobbies are. Music is my hobby."


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