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What did you do with your first Oberlin summer vacation?
I have my own master class in the Czech Republic, in Litomysl, the
birthplace of Smetana, for three weeks every summer. Last summer
three students from Oberlin participated along with students from
Denmark and Sweden. I limit the summer class to 12 students. They
have lessons every second day, and we have many concerts.
such an international roster of students, do you find differences
in students' early training? Do some countries do a better job of
preparing young violinists than others?
I don't think so. You can find good training and bad training in
you ever taught other string teachers?
In Gothenburg once a year they bring together string teachers from
Sweden for lectures and to play together. I worked with some of
them and conducted an orchestra made up of these teachers. The Royal
Academy of Music in Denmark started a similar project the last few
years I was there, inviting violin teachers and their students.
The professors at the academy taught the students in open sessions
while their teachers observed. Afterward, the academy professors
discussed different ideas about teaching with the violin teachers.
talk about your own teachers. You studied with Julius Remes at the
Brno Academy of Music and with Jaroslav Pekelsky at the Prague Academy.
Were there other teachers who were as influential?
Definitely. My first teacher, Josef Povysil, was a concertmaster
in the opera orchestra in the town where I was born, in Ostrava.
His lessons were quite unusual; he treated me as a friend in spite
of my age of 6. The lessons were longer than usual - two, three,
four hours at a time once a week - but full of fun and very
enjoyable. Because of that, my practicing time was also very playful
and fun, and I didn't have the feeling that I had to practice. I
looked forward to taking the violin and just enjoying it. I studied
with him for six or seven years. I think generally the first teachers
you have are the ones who have the most extreme influence on you.
They can give you so much or they can somehow discourage you. That
was an essential time for me.
was the most important thing that each of them taught you?
Povysil gave me the very good start. He and Remes were pupils of
a famous pedagogue, Otakar Sevcik, who wrote exercise books and
taught a number of world-famous violinists - Jan Kubelik was
one. By virtue of their having been Sevcik's pupils, Povysil and
Remes both gave me very solid technical teaching. Remes was very
good in analyzing technical difficulties students were having and
finding solutions that could help them.
Pekelsky taught me to be independent.
does independence mean to you, as a musician?
I try to teach students - all who make music, not just soloists
- to think for themselves. It can't be that interesting if
you have fought for independence since you were 13, 14, and then
go on the rest of your life taking lessons all the time. This doesn't
make any sense to me. I think it's good to discuss things but not
to be taught all the time. It's nice to exchange ideas, exchange
the experiences we have. We teachers need it too.
any of your Oberlin students inspired you to additional points of
view regarding a piece of music or a certain interpretation of that
Yes, definitely. We musicians have very strong ideas about how something
should be played, but there is no one way to play something, fortunately.
I think it would be very boring if everyone were to play the same
way. It's a question of being able to see the possibility in different
ideas and to accept them if they are good. It's a question of being
open to other ideas, the art of accepting the other's ideas.
inspired you to begin teaching?
MV: I started to teach when I was studying at the academy in Prague;
friends of mine who were teaching at the Prague Conservatory were
going on a concert tour and needed a replacement. I found the work
fascinating. It's new all the time, with new students who have so
much to learn; it's fascinating (and it can be frustrating) to see
their development under your tutelage.
the language barrier a difficulty when you went to Denmark, or were
you already speaking Danish?
No, I did not speak Danish at all then; I spoke German. As a matter
of fact, before I left Denmark to come to Oberlin, one of my colleagues
gave a speech for me, and he said, "It is such a pity that you are
leaving us now when we are just starting to understand what you
you have any opinions about the future of violin musicianship or
the art of training young violinists?
I feel confident. Teachers have to be aware that they have the future
and the livelihood of young people in their hands. It's necessary
for us to feel that responsibility and do the job well to help them
achieve their goals.
students study with you for years. They embark on their careers,
and some day look back and think of you as a prime influence. What
do you hope is the one piece of advice that will resonate with them?
Besides bringing them to a high level so they can make their living
later on, which I think is very important, I am most interested
in giving them some kind of endless interest in working to improve,
to keep the level of their playing as high as possible. To never
be satisfied with less than the best they can do. I want them to
believe in themselves and to be happy as musicians, because there
are too many musicians who are frustrated. I think after all this
it is a pity for them not to enjoy this beautiful music that they
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