June 1978 marked the end of the twelfth year of my close association with the Indiana University School of Music. During this time I have become familiar with both American education and musical life in the United States. The newcomer from across the Atlantic meets a situation here that is totally different from that on his own continent. He is alternately fascinated by the wealth of material equipment in music schools and the caliber of their faculties and shocked by situations to which, initially, he cannot adjust. Gradually he learns to understand the American lifestyle as well as the educational system, which for better or worse is an expression of the needs and aspirations of this society. In the end, everything slowly combines to form a logical picture in which many weaknesses turn out to be only illusions and goals become clear.
It might seem that teaching the violin is the same in the United States as in other countries. The personalities of the professors and the talents of the students seem to exist in the same cooperative relationship as in Europe, and the same esthetic ideals are guiding lights for musicians all over the world. The final product of education is the same everywhere (regardless of the standard): a high-caliber professional musician. Nevertheless, upon closer observation, it may be contended that in Europe there exists a certain kind of continuity in music pedagogy. In the course of the last three hundred years progressively better methods of teaching have devel oped, none of which appeared in a vacuum but rather were based on the past, and none of which was the definitive method, but allowed for evolution either through its continuation or through reaction against it. National schools were established, flourished, and passed away, and through the study abroad by students of a given nationality, a characteristic osmosis of ideas was achieved. Weak points were overcome; new teaching approaches were sought. Nothing like that exists in the United States. Here, outstanding individuals achieve extraordinary results in teaching—and that is all. Perhaps that is a great deal, especially since the number of such outstanding musicians in the United States is probably the greatest in the world. Nevertheless, these individuals live in the isolation of their own class. Even their influence on other circles in their own music school is slight, and then only through their students' performances. That other, less prominent teachers benefit from this seems doubtful to me. Influence outside one’s own state does not exist at all. Individual schools have no contact with one another, nor is there any exchange of ideas between centers of musical life and music education.
Carl Flesch’s The Art of Violin Playing influenced the standard of teaching in all of Europe. When Flesch’s adversary, Siegfried Eberhardt, published his interesting series of books on violin playing, aspects of his thought supplemented Flesch’s rather mechanistic approach to teaching. Then before World War I Friedrich Steinhausen’s Physiology of Bowing appeared. That book was the beginning of a modern approach to the teaching of the violin, and not only in relation to the right hand. I will not elaborate here on the succession of minor authors of methodological works, like Trendelenburg, von der Hoya, Blobel, Jarosy, and Jahn, whose significance is of no comparison to the triumvirate of Flesch-Steinhausen-Eberhardt. Among more recent authors, the works of Jampolski and Mostras (Russian) and Feliriski (Polish) truly open new perspectives for the music teacher. In addition to the contributions of musicians, the research of other scholars, for example, Nikolaj Garbusow (Zonal Nature of Musical Pitch), has enormous importance for understanding the nature of good intonation in playing stringed instruments.
In Europe—either because educated people are more familiar with foreign languages or because methodological works have been translated into various languages—modern works on violin playing are widely known. In America they are unknown. Flesch’s works are, of course, translated into English, but practically no one reads them and no one encourages their reading. As far as I know, Steinhausen, Eberhardt, and others are still awaiting translation into English. Even if they were to be translated, that would not guarantee that they would be known, for several reasons. The first is that the programs of music schools do not include courses on the methodology of teaching instruments. The second is the fact that the teacher spends about one hour a week with each student; this, coupled with the demands of teaching (recitals), means that he does not have sufficient time to acquaint the student with the fine points of the methodology of playing or teaching. There is not even time to teach the student how he should work, how to develop his talent, how to shape his musical memory, how to conquer his stage fright, how to correct the faulty functioning of his hands, how to dislodge his psychological blocks. We barely have time to prepare the pieces to be played for recitals. Teachers have even less time for regular meetings on pedagogical or curriculum problems. Such meetings do not take place at all, and, furthermore, would probably not meet with general approval. We are all overworked to a degree unknown in other university fields, and we must confine ourselves to doing only the essentials.
If we were to look for what is typically American in the structure of music education, we would find it in the Bachelor of Music Education program. It is not my particular partiality to teaching at this level that causes me to confine myself to that subject here. My reasons for choosing this topic are twofold: first, this program is unique and has no exact counterpart in European education; and second, certain shortcomings of American music education in general can be seen most easily in the context of the program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Music Education. These deficiencies pose less of a problem in the programs leading to the Bachelor of Music or Master of Music degrees.
I do not know whether Americans are aware of the striking differences between their B.M.E. students and students in the education departments of European schools. The latter are those who are not sufficiently talented for performance careers, and therefore the playing demands are very low, something on the level of students who study music as an elective in American schools. At most, the graduate of the education department in Europe must be able to conduct music classes in secondary schools, lead the school choir, occasionally conduct a small instrumental group, teach classes in music appreciation—and that is all. In the United States, in thousands of schools, in thousands of small towns and locales, the graduate with the B.M.E. degree must know how to do all that we demand of a first-rate musician: teach all the instruments, conduct the school orchestra, teach theory, and, in a word, be a versatile musician of considerable ability. The requirements for the major field (the violin, for example) are high. The graduate must be able to play on performance level the concertos of Mozart or Bruch, or, what is even more difficult, the sonatas of Beethoven or Brahms. It is evident that the American B.M.E. program is a difficult one, and at the same time, socially important, for upon it primarily depends the musical education of society.
Thus the teacher of the B.M.E. student is presented with a very responsible task. He is given a student who is, on the average, less naturally gifted for performance but more overworked than the others because he must learn to play all the instruments as well as study a wide range of theoretical subjects. Very little time remains for work on his major instrument, yet the requirements of the Senior Recital are high. His intellectual development must be superior to that of the more narrowly specialized Bachelor of Music student. The graduate with the B.M.E. degree may face very difficult times: through his hands will pass not only hundreds of children playing just for pleasure and to earn credit hours at the secondary level, but often outstanding talents that he must know to guide without ruining them. It is clear that students in the B.M.E. program must be trained with particular clearsightedness, trained all-round, and trained with modern methods. B.M.E. graduates must know how to “set” the playing of their young students so that gifted pupils do not break down later in their development as a result of “unphysiological” playing that has been instilled in them, or during the inevitable corrections that will be necessary when they are in the hands of more experienced teachers. When a student for the B.M.E. arrives, we have four years to work with him. The starting point is relatively low, lower than that of B.M. students. Both the knowledge and the intuition of the professor are essential here, as well as appropriate teaching materials. Such materials, I contend, do not exist.
While the teaching materials available for training students in the B.M. and M.M. programs seem to me to be adequate, there is nothing at all with which to teach the students for the B.M.E. A regular student will practice isolated scales by Flesch or Ivan Galamian and various exercises by Ševčik, spend time on the collections of etudes by Dont or Gaviniés, and in later years possibly study the capriccios of Paganini or Wieniawski. He will work on progressively more difficult pieces and will, in the end, achieve professional competence on the violin. The B.M.E. student may, with great difficulty, make his way along the same road, but by playing too many etudes, he will waste time on works of limited musical value. The scales by Flesch and by Galamian are too complicated, and the jungle of Ševčik’s exercises is frightening, so at most we explore it only occasionally. Paganini’s and Wieniawski’s capriccios are too difficult, while those by Gaviniés are too one-sided. The preclassical sonatas are excellent for developing musicality but cannot be played to the exclusion of other works, for the student will not progress technically. There are no collections of exercises introducing the student gradually to the problem of double-stops (those by Goby Eberhardt are not available today). The only exercises we have for shifting are in Ševčik’s Op. 8; Treffsicherheit auf der Violine by Siegfried Eberhardt is a better collection for the same purpose, but it is not on the market. However, all these and the other exercises that we do have are intended for the development of the “general” student, the student who has time, who has a dozen or so years of work ahead. They are not suitable for the B.M.E. student, who:
is less talented than the B.M. student,
is less advanced,
has only four years for preparation,
has little time for practicing.
The materials we use to teach such students must be special ones; they must produce competence in playing in a way that is condensed, well thought out, and intensive. If these teaching materials are to include etudes, they should be selected ones. If they are to include scales, they should be simple and useful ones. If they are to include exercises, they ought to be only those that are proven and indispensable. Were we to have all this, such materials would still have to be provided with at least a brief systematic commentary and directions on how to practice them. Since they would be in a sense more intensive than “normal” exercises, it would be necessary to warn the student against forcing the hand and to provide simple instructions on averting this danger.
In order to create such materials, we need to familiarize ourselves with what has been done in other countries. There are, for example, the etudes by Joseph Kotek, of which Nos. 1 and 5 can be substituted for a hundred of Sevcik’s exercises on shifting, and No. 6 is the best etude on double-stops that I know. Kargujev’s exercises improve the strength of the hand with the utmost care. Siegfried Eberhardt’s exercises for shifting and Goby Eberhardt’s for double-stops are long out of print. The Urstudien by Flesch was conceived as exercise material for violinists who do not have a great deal of time for practicing. Another Flesch study, Problems of Tone Production in Violin Playing, treats exhaustively the problem of the so-called powerful tone on the violin. Maxim Jacobsen’s Paraphrases of the Kreutzer Etudes is a source of many very interesting ideas for developing the technique of playing, and for the Paganini capriccios there is a small work by G. Mostras that is intended as an aid to mastering their difficulties.
An invaluable didactic work for students of the B.M.E. can be the Telemann fantasias for solo violin. Unfortunately, in the United States we have only the original text edition, an edition so faithful that it reproduces all the errors of the manuscript, even the omission of whole measures! To bring these fantasias within the reach of the student would require hours of work on the part of the teacher to supply sensible fingering. A good, practical edition by Eugenia Umiriska has been published in Poland, but unfortunately it is very difficult to obtain in the United States. These fantasias are the natural step to the future study of the sonatas and partitas of Bach, but they are not used in the United States; thus B.M.E. students as well as B.M. students are forced to begin the study of the Bach sonatas and partitas from those works themselves. Pianists are better off, for a multitude of simpler Bach works are available to them before they begin work on Das wohltemperierte Klavier. We have only the fantasias of Telemann, and yet they are not available!
Besides the matter of availability, we face additional problems in the area of etudes. In the United States in particular, we generally use old, nineteenth-century editions, which contain antiquated fingering. We are always able to obtain the edition of the Bach sonatas done by Hellmesberger in 1865; and students generally play Bach in the Joachim edition dating from 1905. The 1924 Flesch edition is practically unused in the United States, and the most recent editions of the sonatas do not reach this country at all. This situation was at last rectified by the Galamian edition of 1971, but I suppose that it will take years before it replaces the less valuable, older editions on the market. The latter are much cheaper, for it is more profitable for publishers to reprint old editions than to set new ones by the leading modern specialists. Among the exceptions are the modern, well thought out editions by Josef Gingold and by Ivan Galamian, but they do not contain even a portion of the needed basic material. Another mistake on the part of publishing firms is the commissioning of new editions by famous soloists who are not teachers. The results of their work are interesting and give good insight intc their own craftsmanship, but they are too difficult and complex and, in the main, are not suitable for students. Good editions can be done only by an outstanding instrumentalist and teacher with many years' experience, one who has been able to verify how his ideas and instrumental concepts are accepted by the average student.
In the last twenty years we have observed an essentially healthy movement toward more reliance on the authentic text without the accretions introduced by later editors. The goal is admirable and basically sound. Many European firms specialize in the publication of Urtext editions, but we must realize that they are not pure! Often they are supplied with a primitive fingering done by the publisher, and the composer is sometimes “corrected” in the matter of trills, grace notes, slurs, dynamics marks, or even particular notes. Urtext editions are generally published without commentaries, but where they are given, for example, in the Hauswald edition of the Bach sonatas, they contain everything except what might interest the performer. In a few places the notes in the manuscript differ from those in the Urtext edition, and in other places the authentic Bach text surprises musicians and evokes controversy. The decisions of the Urtext publisher in the Hauswald editions are not explained in the commentary; instead, it contains tables of discrepancies and differences among the various manuscripts and copies of the sonatas and partitas. Such a study is extremely detailed and scientific, but in a certain sense is of no value for the performer.
In his introduction Hauswald writes that he has not included in the text any “aids for performance” (fingering, bowings, dynamics marks) because they are superfluous for advanced violinists, who alone will be playing these works. How mistaken an approach! No student will be able to solve such problems alone. If the teacher solves them for him, the teacher will be compelled to do an enormous amount of work on the fingering and bowing of the Urtext, a host of things in the end superficial and based only on the principle, “I played it with such-and-such bowing and fingering.” I worked for six years on my own edition of Bach’s sonatas and partitas. In the second edition, a few years later, I introduced dozens of corrections and improvements that had occurred to me while working with my students, corrections prompted by problems that my earlier treatment had caused them. I mention this fact as proof of the difficulty and responsibility of producing a practical edition, even one based on the Urtext. It is precisely the students in the B.M.E. program who need the best possible editions. Perhaps they might be less essential if the program leading to the B.M.E. (and other programs as well) included courses on fingering for the violin. At present, no program at any music school contains this subject.
Thus, on the American sheet music market we have access primarily to obsolete editions (i.e., the Urtext s, which are expensive and, practically speaking, very difficult to use) or to ultramodern ones. A very small percentage of publishers meet the needs of today’s music education. Contact with new publishers established since the war, for example, in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, or Bulgaria, does not exist. There—not to mention the interesting publications in the USSR—might be found many elements that ^ould greatly enrich the teaching of the violin in America, and be useful especially in the B.M.E. program.
Here we may summarize what seems to be needed when considering these problems:
1. creation of a basic collection or collections of exercises to develop violin technique;
2. translation and publication of basic works in the field of violin methodology;
3. reprinting of valuable violin exercises now out of print;
4. gradual publishing of preclassical works, and then others as well, complete with well thought out, contemporary fingerings and bowings;
5. publication of etudes and exercises from other countries, works that are unknown in the United States;
6. publication of a textbook that might be used as the basis of a future course, “Violin Fingering”;
7. publication of a textbook on the methodology of violin playing—for without such a text it would be difficult to introduce this subject into the program of studies;
8. a critical description of a modern course of study for beginners, utilizing everything from the past that is good and discarding whatever is doubtful or outmoded.
Some of these points might demand the creative and even the collective work of many teachers. Some could be accomplished through reprints, others through co-publication with foreign firms.
When I first came to Indiana University, I marveled above all at the standards and competence of my colleagues. I am full of admiration for what they accomplish, for their results with students who are often not overly gifted. I became acquainted with their ideas through their publications (as in the case of Janos Starker) and their editions of musical works (e.g., those of Josef Gingold). In addition, every examination and every performance by my colleagues' students was an opportunity for me to gain insight into their teaching methods. Let it remain my secret how many technical and interpretative ideas I “stole” from them! Furthermore, I saw as typical of the school in Bloomington the ideal interpersonal relations among the professors and their mutual respect. Thus it was all the more surprising to me that until now they have not cooperated with respect to any of the eight needs listed above. It is also surprising that there has not been sufficient desire on the part of the faculty to establish at Indiana University a center of creative thought that would influence both the nation and the whole world.
I might employ an analogy here from the field of chemistry: in a solution of different salts and other chemical bonds, a crystal may suddenly form, perhaps because the solution has been shaken or because it has passed through a certain level of saturation. Is this the moment when such a “crystal” might appear in our “solution”? I think that it is, and that maybe only one additional element is missing: the interest of other university authorities and departments. An encouraging factor for the development of this project might be that music publishing is a very remunerative field. It seldom happens that all the ingredients combine so propitiously: a real need, qualified participants, and a profit-making venture! If we could produce even a portion of the materials necessary for the proper training of B.M.E. students, our work could serve, in principle, all students in all programs and improve the fundamentals of teaching in general. By confining our considerations to the problems of the B.M.E., we could establish the project’s initial dimensions and determine our selection so that we might stick to what is essential. It would help us simplify the content, avoid diffuseness, and condense the material so that we eliminate subjects that might be interesting but not necessarily useful. We must not rule out what already exists, but in the case of the B.M.E. student, we must give him everything he needs, and for the B.M. or M.M. candidate we would provide the fastest possible access to those elements contained in already existing collections of exercises.
This goal in the education of string students must start somewhere and sometime. Perhaps it will be at Indiana University or one of the other fine music schools in the United States, but start it must. As a proud member of a great faculty I hope we will be one of the first schools to take these important steps.