Friday, May 11, 2012

Roman Totenberg - a Personal View...

On Tuesday of this week, a musical icon left us, surrounded, in his home, by family and a group of his students, some of whom came from considerable distances to be with him.
At the age of 101, Roman Totenberg was the center of the most uplifting and beautiful form of poesy that can be imagined - almost to the point of his final 'goodbye,' some of these students performed at his bedside, using the most important of the many languages this man could speak; the one language which does not require words. A more perfect coda to the composition this man's life-story represents could never be imagined.
For me, this marvelously accomplished musician created a plethora of memories. To begin with, Totenberg was the best boss I ever worked for, being the director of the school I happened to teach in. Countless times, he would invite me into his office simply to talk our trade, or to ask how things were, or to exchange many reminiscences of our respective experiences - all this when I KNEW that he HAD to have had many more important things to do, as director, than to sit and talk with me. He insisted, at times, that he hear at least a portion of a composition I was either writing at the time, or had recently completed.
To me, besides the obvious depth of his artistic core, the reality that struck me most was his Jeffersonian view of the student. He treated a twelve year old in the children's orchestra he worked with every week with the same love and zeal and genuineness as the college student who would be in his studio for his lesson, perhaps in the very next hour. I cannot think of any musician I have ever known who loved his fellow man more than did Roman Totenberg.
For a number of summers, he would send an occasional postcard to me from the summer music school he taught in, at Blue Hill, Maine - needless to say, these postcards are among my most valued possessions.
I could go on; however, just know that from the writer of this blog comes, in perpetuity, a loving nod and a bow to the Greater Man.

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