The west-facing wall held a signed picture of my teacher’s teacher, Josef Gingold, who stood guard over the proceedings. He had a Dumbledore face (twinkly eyes), but the sepia grandeur of an old world artist. Occasionally you’d catch your reflection in the frame - a child’s crooked bow superimposed on one of the twentieth century’s greatest violinists. Jacques Israelovitch looked on, too, but he seemed less friendly.
To the north were shelves and shelves of sheet music, rummaged through whenever a student graduated to a new piece. The decayed items were the most exciting, I remember. A bundle of loose pages, corners frayed, was a Tzigane time capsule, holding not just Ravel’s arabesques but also the memory of my teacher’s lessons “at Indiana” (bubbly cursive in the margins). A manila folder contained the unruly mass of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto - an ancient Peters edition dignified with Mr. Gingold’s instructions. To a conservatory professor, I was not ready for these pieces - I hadn’t finished my Kreutzer sequence or mastered my martelé - but I was eager. On days when my teacher granted me a new assignment, I would walk out of my lesson with a thief’s smile - crumbling pages stuffed into the pocket of my oversized violin case.
Just overhead, a small constellation of chips and scratches: years’ worth of collisions between teenaged bows and beige paint. As a little kid, I looked forward to the day when I’d be tall enough to send an “up bow” careening into the ceiling. As a big kid, I would do a sort of dance to avoid cratering my first real bow - hazelnut brown with a dull mother of pearl slide, “Guy Jeandel” stamped above the frog (somewhere between a workshop in Japan and the dealer in Illinois, it acquired a French name).
* * *
For the first time in seven months, I am teaching in-person lessons. At the end of the night, I close the windows partway (gotta keep that airflow), break down the sanitizing station in our hallway, lock the doors, and walk home to JP. Usually, as I walk, I think back on the day's lessons: trying to keep track of who is owed a how-to video, who needs an updated practice sheet, who could use a new etude next week, and on and on. But after that first day of teaching, it was memories of my childhood teacher's basement studio that came flooding back - the sounds and sights described above.
It got me thinking: what lessons can we draw from the space where learning happens? What does our little corner of Roslindale mean to our musiConnects family? To our students in the Roslindale Community Program, to our students in the Residency Program, to our teachers, to our staff?
This new series, 20 Belgrade, will explore that idea, celebrating the return to our workplace while questioning what we've learned from its absence.