Dorothy DeLay, a Juilliard School violin teacher and musical powerhouse whose students over a half-century include such luminaries as Itzhak Perlman and Midori, died Sunday of cancer at her home in Up
Dorothy DeLay, a Juilliard School violin teacher and musical powerhouse whose students over a half-century include such luminaries as Itzhak Perlman and Midori, died Sunday of cancer at her home in Upper Nyack, N.Y. She was 84.
She "represented the highest level of violin teaching during the second half of the 20th century," Juilliard President Joseph Polisi said. "Her legacy is reflected in the thousands of violinists who currently are performing and teaching around the world."
DeLay began her teaching career at Juilliard in 1948, earning a reputation as the world's foremost violin teacher _ and a woman with the clout to boost young careers by calling an international network of managers and influential musicians. But it was in her studio that she reigned supreme, often juggling a roster of hundreds of students vying for her attention.
Her secrets included plain, common-sense rules about how to move a violin bow across the strings to produce a beautiful sound. But there was more. "DeLay is basically in the business of teaching her pupils how to think, and to trust their ability to do so effectively," wrote Barbara Lourie Sand in her 2000 biography, "Teaching Genius: Dorothy DeLay and the Making of a Musician."
"DeLay's lessons are punctuated with questions: What do you think Beethoven was trying to say in this passage?" Sand wrote. "DeLay may stand a problem on its head, turn it inside out, break it into tiny bits and lay out 10 different possibilities, but the final choice of a solution is left to the student." DeLay also added a humorous touch, addressing students with her pet phrases "sugar plum" and "sweetie."
Born in Medicine Lodge, Kan., DeLay attended Oberlin College and Michigan State University before studying at Juilliard and starting her own concert career. She traveled the world offering master classes from Korea and Israel to China and South Africa. Many sought her for career advice and even as concert stage fashion consultant.
To some students from far away, including Midori, she was a surrogate mother. Born in Japan in 1971, the child prodigy moved to New York when she was 10 along with her mother and studied at Juilliard with DeLay. She has been an international star since her early teens. DeLay also worked with Perlman when he was in his teens.
Among DeLay's other musical progeny on the international concert circuit are the American violinist Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg, the Israeli-born Shlomo Mintz and the British-born Nigel Kennedy.
Many musicians in top ensembles also studied with DeLay, including violinists in the Juilliard, Tokyo, Cleveland, American, and Vermeer quartets and the concertmasters of the Berlin Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Chicago Symphony. At Juilliard, 14 current faculty members were DeLay students. In 1994, she received the National Medal of Arts, presented to her by President Clinton.
DeLay is survived by her husband, Edward Newhouse, a longtime New Yorker writer; a daughter, Alison Dinsmore; a son, Jeffrey Newhouse; and four grandchildren. No funeral is planned, but a memorial service was to be scheduled later this spring.
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