Pamela Gearhart

Pamela Gearhart.jpeg
Pamela (Gerhart) Gearhart (1934–2014) studied violin at the Curtis Institute of Music, graduating in 1955. While at Curtis, she attended Tabuteau’s string classes taking detailed notes. She enjoyed a long career in music and music pedagogy. She taught at the University of Buffalo, conducted the Buffalo Community Music School Orchestra, and was influential in the founding of The Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra. She was Professor of Music at Ithaca College and founded the Ithaca Youth Orchestra. She also founded the Youth Makes Music String Workshop in Alabama. Her husband, Livingston Gearhart, was an oboe student of Marcel Tabuteau from 1935 to 1937.

Notes Taken During String Classes With Marcel Tabuteau

by Pamela Gearhart

I don’t know how you can collectively produce such a proletarian sound. Let the music get the best of you . . . by putting your best in the music. Don’t be so self-conscious in playing. Forget yourself. Let the music take the best from you. [This was one of Tabuteau’s common refrains.]

I don’t know how people can stand it if they don’t have that inward fun of doing things well and correctly. It is like a divine communion with truth. If I didn’t have so much fun from music, I would have quit long ago.

Stop thinking of the violin. You have all day to play the violin . . . play music now!

Don’t play everything like violin music . . . a la Pennsylvania, a la New Jersey, a la Connecticut . . . (Makes a sour face). When it is a la russe, then a la russe! Make up your playing [as with cosmetics]—Play like a Slav even if you come from New Jersey!

Don’t bow your notes—place the notes on the bow.

Teach yourself to think well. Playing is a reflection of your thoughts . . . Combine intelligence with humility and good thinking. The day of playing only with feeling is gone. What if you have a cold or a stomach ache? A fine performance you would give! But if you think well, you will have a chance.

We are here to establish an inward standard of beauty. [Tabuteau often used the term Inward Giving.] One person in a thousand will notice it [a musical pattern], but when you find one person that does . . . Ah, . . . That is basis for faith and this is truth.

All that I know is from seeing, hearing, and from others. Like the rolling of the waves . . . so beautiful. And if we would only look—but alas, it’s always there, so we never see it. We could learn so much by looking.

If we are willing, then we learn in spite of ourselves, but if you are indifferent, then—No!!

Don’t play notes—-play what is between the notes.

Bach is pure music—not violin music.

In music we have two important elements: mood and mode. The absence of both makes mud!

Don’t blow—play! We are here to play as well as anyone else.

If you don’t enjoy music—extract teeth.

From my education as a young man, I realize that the trouble is we do too many things imperfectly. Don’t be elated by what people think of you. Be polite—say “thank you,” but you are your best friend and you know when you play well. I’m like wine—right now I bore you—but in 20 years, you will begin to think these are good ideas.

That’s all right if you are playing for human beings, but you should play for that which you worship.

Music is like flying. Take-off and landing are the most difficult.

Music is like a horse or a bronco. It will throw you unless you learn these tricks to keep riding. Be your own judge.

You try to hide in your mediocrity. Don’t be afraid. Play out.

How can you play so . . . in this Temple of Art??

I am not nervous in front of you so why would you be nervous in front of me?

You zigged when you should have zagged.

There is nothing so correct as a metronome and yet nothing so stupid . . . We must be both correct and smart.

You know when people smile, they sometimes do it because they want something. …but when a child smiles, he smiles because he means it.—That’s what is so wonderful.

Make yourself distinguished . . . otherwise you will just be like everyone else and, after all, what is the use of being just like everyone else. Then anyone can take your place!

That’s the joy of being a conductor. You just need the idea. You don’t have to produce it.

It is a shame, a great calamity, when you are just as medioc (mediocre) as you were 15 minutes ago—-you should be better than you were then.

A diminuendo is ascending—ah—oh well, I don’t have to tell you about the cigar and the smoke which must go upwards. I’ve already said that.

If you think beautifully, you will play beautifully, but if you think medioc, you will play that way.

You play but you don’t go anywhere like the car when it’s not in gear.

Music is part of the universe—part of the system. If you are not part of the system… well, then you are out of luck.

After playing in an orchestra for many years you become like a horse . . . anyone who pays can ride you. I pay $3.00 so this horse is mine for one hour.

Take a pattern, even if you are wrong, for you have all your life to correct it, but do take a pattern.

The above is an extract from: Storch, Laila. Marcel Tabuteau: How Do You Expect to Play the Oboe If You Can’t Peel a Mushroom? Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.