Strings Of History by Benjamin Pomerance
“Now that you are here, what are you going to do?”
“I am going to become the greatest violin teacher in America.”
The year was 1937, and a man named Ivan Galamian was stepping off a ship in New York City. Already, his life had encompassed more experiences than people twice his age. He had seen the inside of a jail cell in Russia. He had played on some of the grandest concert stages in Paris. He had taught some of the most celebrated European violin-playing prodigies of his era. He had celebrated public praise of his own playing, reviews that contained seemingly every positive adjective known to humankind.
Still, the best was yet to come. Galamian was in America now. He was still a young man. He had a mission in mind, and a steely determination that would prevent anything from standing in his way.
Today, the greatest testimonial of that mission stands on a plateau amid the Adirondack Mountains. To the outsider, the place seems desolate. Located near the small community of Lewis, N.Y., this collection of wooden buildings is hardly a grandiose monument. Driving along County Route 10, an unapprised bystander could easily sail by without even a passing glance.
Yet inside those buildings, Ivan Galamian fulfilled his self-proclaimed prophecy. He never said so, of course. That would be boasting, and those who studied with him declare that arrogance was not one of the master teacher’s traits. Even in lessons, silence was his specialty.
Instead, the legacy of this remote spot is best told through the words of those people who grew up there. Listen to those individuals who were transformed from players into musicians within this crucible. Men and women whose names fill the encyclopedias — names like Perlman and Zukerman, Laredo and Rabin, Ma and Harrell, Bell and Ehnes and so many more — took their first steps toward brilliance here. Nobody passed through this place unchanged.
This is the story of the Meadowmount School of Music. It is a story that has lasted for 70 years, with new chapters emerging every summer. It is a story of some of the fiercest dedication imaginable, with teachers and students alike focusing their complete energies on a very specific goal. And it is the story of how that man stepping onto American soil in 1937 forged his lofty pronouncement into reality, a realization that returns to life over and over again at this place in the Adirondack wilderness.
I. The Beginnings
Ivan Galamian was not a man to talk about the past. Discipline and evolution were his goals, objectives that left little room for nostalgia. As a result, even those musicians who trained for years under Galamian wound up knowing precious little about the man’s rather tumultuous history.
Still, the few details that are known tell a remarkable story. Galamian was born in 1903, the child of a wealthy Armenian family living in Tabriz, Persia. At age two, his parents moved with him to Russia, finding a home in Moscow. In January of that same year, the streets of St. Petersburg flowed with blood when the czar’s Imperial Guard fired upon unarmed protestors. It was the start of a war-torn existence that would saturate Russia for all of Galamian’s formative years.
By 1916, Russia was mired in World War I. In the midst of the hardships imposed by this conflict, Galamian was trying to learn the violin, enrolled at the state-sponsored Moscow Philharmonia School. Apparently, even the outside distractions of combat did not hinder him. When he was still in his mid-teens, the revered Bolshoi Theater Orchestra permitted him to join their violin section, a post usually reserved for more experienced artists.
Unfortunately, political strife caught up with the Galamians in 1919. With Vladimir Lenin installed as Russia’s new leader, agents of the Communist government began confiscating property from aristocratic households — including the Galamian family. Members of Lenin’s police force invaded the Galamian home, seized everything of value, and arrested 16-year-old Ivan on some trumped-up charge.
There was no violin-playing in prison. Yet it was the violin that saved Galamian from incarceration. His post in the Bolshoi Orchestra proved to be a get-out-of-jail-free card. When leaders in the Bolshoi Theater insisted that Galamian was vital for the ensemble’s success, the prison officials released him.
Three years later, though, Galamian left Russia. Precisely how he escaped remains an unsolved mystery. Somehow, carrying very few possessions and only a little money with him, he passed through Germany and wound up in Paris. And somehow, he managed to impress the great Parisian pedagogue Lucien Capet enough that Capet adopted the 19-year-old Galamian as a student.
Galamian studied with Capet for two years. On Christmas Eve in 1924, the young violinist delivered his first formal recital, receiving stellar reviews. For the next four years, he performed throughout France, Germany, and Holland. As a concert artist, he was not ostentatious, but rather played with a purity that appealed to many critics. Praise in the newspapers seemed to follow him wherever he went.
It seems clear that Galamian could have enjoyed a good, if not great, career as a soloist. By 1930, however, he had all but dropped off the recital map. One journalist even devoted considerable space in his column to wondering why Galamian had “been silent for too long a time.” Yet the young violinist who had impressed Capet and the critics would never really return to the stage. Instead, he had found a new outlet for his musical abilities, one that would last for the rest of his life: the art of teaching.
II. First Lessons
Galamian’s earliest pupils were fellow students of Lucien Capet. While Galamian was studying with Capet, the teacher referred some of his students to the clearly advanced Galamian for extra coaching. Then, in 1924, the Conservatoire Russe de Paris opened its doors. Shortly thereafter, Galamian received an adjunct professorship on a faculty that included luminaries like composer and pianist Serge Rachmaninoff.
From the outset, he was strict, so exacting that some students at the Conservatoire Russe nicknamed him “Ivan the Terrible.” Yet he also found that he enjoyed working with the students, refining their techniques even as he sharpened his own theories about playing the violin. Plus, with the rigors of travel and the attacks of nerves that descended whenever he performed taking their toll, Galamian soon grew more attracted to teaching than concertizing.
Then Paul Makanowitzky appeared in his life, and everything changed forever. Makanowitzky was the first true prodigy to receive Galamian’s training, beginning lessons with Galamian at age four. When Makanowitzky presented a breathtaking debut recital at age eight, everyone in the Western European music world quickly learned his name — and, by extension, discovered the name of his teacher as well. Suddenly, other parents were showing up at Galamian’s doorstep with their own prodigious youngsters, wanting Galamian to work his magic on their kids, too.
Makanowitzky went on enjoy an excellent career. Had World War II not led him to volunteer for military service, his name likely would be far better known today. Yet his earliest impact sparked Galamian’s reputation as a sculptor of talented young violinists. Other prodigious youngsters — including Veda Reynolds, who went on to serve as the first female member of the Philadelphia Orchestra — followed Makanowitzky through the doors of Galamian’s burgeoning studio.
It wasn’t long before American musical institutions started calling. For a few years, Galamian tried teaching on both sides of the Atlantic, spending a half year on each continent. By 1937, however, the political situation in Europe had soured dramatically. War seemed imminent. To make matters worse, both of Galamian’s parents had passed away. He had no ties keeping him in Europe, and plenty of opportunities in the more politically stable country on the opposite side of the ocean.
Before the year was out, Galamian was arriving in New York City, telling a friend that he wanted to become America’s greatest violin teacher. A new era of string instrument pedagogy was about to begin.
PHOTO: VEDA REYNOLDS; ROLAND GUNDRY
III. Marriage And Meadowmount
In a way, it was the birch trees that brought Galamian to the Adirondacks. White birch trees are prevalent throughout Russia. That’s why, when the celebrated Russian cellist Gregor Piatigorsky wound up in Elizabethtown, N.Y., in 1939, the great artist quickly fell in love with the entire region. White birch trees sprinkled the area, allowing the wartime refugee to feel at least somewhat at home in these foreign mountains.
Back in Russia, Piatigorsky and Galamian had met one another as students. Both of them moved to Paris around the same time, became reacquainted with one another there, and soon were close friends. So when Piatigorsky purchased a large, castle-like house near Elizabethtown — in a hamlet that actually bore the name of “New Russia” — he soon extended an invitation for Galamian to come for a visit.
By this point, Galamian was establishing himself in New York City, giving lessons in his small apartment on West 54th Street. He had also landed a job at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Still, it seems that something deeply moved Galamian when he made his first trip to see Piatigorsky in the Adirondacks. History implies that it was the birch trees working their magic. Many years later, he would still admonish students not to peel the bark on the white birch trees throughout Elizabethtown and Lewis.
On one of his weekend trips northward, Galamian was invited to a birthday party in Elizabethtown. The subject of that party was Edward Lee Campe, a wealthy manufacturer of gentlemen’s clothing. During the celebration, somebody introduced Galamian to Judith Johnson, a sea captain’s daughter with a famously perceptive sense of humor.
At first, they were able to communicate only through a translator. Still, they managed to communicate something enduring to one another. That first meeting led to another, and then another, and then another. Specific anecdotes of their courtship are largely non-existent. The outcome, however, was a lasting one. In November 1941, Ivan and Judith were married.
Almost immediately, the newlyweds embarked on a seemingly hopeless quest. Galamian had confided to his bride that he wanted to start his own music school. Not just any run-of-the-mill academy, either, but an institution with a very precise purpose: total immersion in the study of string instruments.
Too often, Galamian felt, his students — even the pupils whom he was now teaching at prestigious conservatories like Juilliard and The Curtis Institute — would neglect their studies during the summer months. Galamian envisioned a school where the summer would serve as a time for more focused practice than ever before. He believed that dramatic improvements would arise from such a disciplined approach. All he needed now was the venue.
In the summers of 1942 and 1943, he experimented. Renting an apartment in Elizabethtown, Galamian found lodging for some of his students and tried to implement his course of study. Yet there was a problem. Too many students ignored their instruments, preferring to spend their time flirting and carousing. Staying in the center of town provided too many distractions. Greater isolation from such disturbances was vital.
Near the beginning of 1944, he found the perfect place. An inventor named John Milholland — creator of the pneumatic tube, much to the delight of the United States Postal Service — had built a lodge outside the nearby community of Lewis. One of his daughters, Inez, would go on to lead the American suffragette movement, campaigning for women to gain the right to vote.
By the time Ivan and Judith Galamian found the structure, however, the Milholland lodge had been empty for nearly eight years. Locals stayed away from it, largely because the spot reputedly was haunted by a ghost. Surrounded by pristine natural beauty, it was far enough from Elizabethtown, Lewis, and Westport to minimize diversions. It was perfect.
In the summer of 1944, the Galamians leased the Milholland property. Ivan invited approximately 30 students to come and study with him. That summer, the old lodge was filled with the sound of violin music. The Meadowmount School of Music had begun.
PHOTO: MAIN HOUSE 1940
PHOTO:JUDITH AND IVAN GALAMIAN 1945
PHOTO: GALAMIAN STUDIO 1944
IV. Early Years
Of course, the camp wasn’t really their own. Not yet, anyway. They were only tenants in the beginning, leasing the property. The owners were willing to sell, but the Galamians lacked enough money to purchase it.
Then Judith Galamian took matters into her own hands. In 1944, the same year of Meadowmount’s creation, Ivan received a professorship at the Curtis Institute. The increase in salary brought the dream of buying the lodge and the surrounding land ever so much closer to reality.
Yet it took Judith’s panache to actually close the deal. That summer, she spoke to Edward Lee Campe, the man whose birthday party resulted in her introduction to Ivan. She asked Campe to carry the mortgage on the property. When Campe asked why he should do such a thing, Judith’s answer apparently was swift: “Because you are responsible for (Ivan and I) meeting.”
Evidently, the manufacturing magnate was convinced. For the next 22 years, Campe held the mortgage on Meadowmount — and never charged the Galamians a penny of interest.
Even after striking this deal, though, other rough patches confronted them. The old Milholland lodge was not exactly a beacon of luxury anymore. To begin with, there was no electricity when the Galamians and the first collection of students moved in. The roof leaked. A careworn ice box was their only source of refrigeration. Judith did all of the cooking on a wood-burning stove that had seen better days.
Beverly McIntyre was 14 years old in 1944. That summer, she made $12 per week for working in Meadowmount’s rudimentary cafeteria. Along with another teenage girl, she helped Judith in the kitchen, washing the dishes and taking on whatever assorted jobs needed to be done.
Today, she still vividly remembers the setting of her first employment. “The dining room wasn’t very large,” she recalled in a September 2014 interview. “The kitchen wasn’t very large, either, and there wasn’t really much equipment to speak of. But Mrs. Galamian, who was the business manager, always got the food ready and on the table in time. And she was always very nice to the other girl and me. Once, I remember that she took me and the other girl to (the Windsor Inn in Elizabethtown) for a bingo party, and we thought that we were really a big deal.”
For the next five summers, McIntyre returned to work at the camp. Only after she had been in college for a few years did she lose touch with the Galamians. In the summer of 2013, though, she returned to Meadowmount for a visit. “I couldn’t believe it,” she declared in that September 2014 conversation. “Things looked so different there. The kitchen has all of that equipment now.” She laughed. “It didn’t look like that when I was there in the beginning.”
V. The Camp Grows Up
It wasn’t long, though, before things started picking up at Meadowmount. The earliest improvements focused on mending the roof and wiring the lodge for electricity. Next came a real refrigerator, and then, as the number of students swelled to 50 pupils, a commercial cook stove with double ovens. The place still wasn’t exactly the Waldorf-Astoria, but at least it now offered some of the basic comforts of home.
On the artistic side of things, Meadowmount rapidly became a haven for a “who’s who” of guest instructors. McIntyre remembers meeting Piatigorsky at the camp at least once. Revered violinist Isaac Stern was a frequent visitor. Joseph Szigeti, the Hungarian mastermind who had commissioned concertos by Bela Bartok and Ernest Bloch, had at least one extended stay at Meadowmount during the late 1940s. Another European virtuoso, Zino Francescatti, made a number of trips to Lewis during that same period.
What didn’t change, though, was the regimen. After eating breakfast at 7 a.m., the students all retreated to the practice rooms. Every pupil had to practice four hours in the morning. Each hour was divided into 50 minutes of playing, followed by 10 minutes of physical and mental rest. Then the students received a break for lunch, followed by another hour of practice in the afternoon, along with private lessons.
Today, the routine at Meadowmount is remarkably similar to the schedule for the camp’s earliest years. Galamian’s methods thrived on discipline and purposeful routine. A quote from the Roman philosopher Seneca hung on his studio door: “Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.” To him, carefully structured practice — good quality practicing, and lots of it — was the tool to transform raw talents into professional artists.
From its earliest years onward, Meadowmount — dubbed “Fiddler Hill” by the residents of Lewis — was clearly a breeding ground of greatness. Perhaps the first bona fide prodigy to appear at the camp, however, was a 12-year-old boy who showed up in the late 1940s. His name was Michael Rabin.
During his first summer at Meadowmount, with Francescatti sitting next to Galamian in the audience, that child calmly reeled off twelve of Paganini’s murderously challenging Caprices for Solo Violin. Everybody around him, including Galamian and Francescatti, was stunned. Before the year was out, he would play several of the Caprices for Columbia Records, an album made at the personal request of Francescatti himself.
Even though he didn’t stay at the camp, Rabin reportedly had many friends among the Meadowmount students. McIntyre remembers the prodigy arriving with his mother for his lessons, always materializing well before the session’s start time. “His mother would stand on the back porch with him,” McIntyre recalled, “and she would count, ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ (to keep time for him) while he was playing — and this was all before the lesson even began.” Reportedly, the boy would practice his violin for six hours every day, polishing even the subtlest details to perfection.
When Rabin was 15 years old, he presented a debut recital Carnegie Hall that left the critics speechless. A whirlwind career soon erupted for him, with booking after booking in Australia, Europe, and North America. For the next 20 years, he was arguably the most brightly burning classical music star in the world. During that intensive period, the New York Philharmonic alone welcomed him as their soloist on a stunning 87 occasions.
Then the star burned out. When he was just 35 years old, Rabin fell in his New York City apartment, fracturing his skull and dying from the injury. Some say that he had been taking sedatives. Some even speculate that the death was a suicide. Whatever the cause, it was a tragedy. To this day, people still morn Rabin’s passing. And to this day, Meadowmount still treasures his memory, his legacy still very much alive at the first place where he revealed his stunning talent and discipline to those who could appreciate it.
PHOTO: Rabin, Galamian & Szigeti
PHOTO: Meadowmount 1945
VI. Into The ‘50s
By 1950, Meadowmount’s enrollment had increased to 54 students. The camp had outgrown its existing facilities. Recognizing the need to expand, the Galamians purchased The Lilacs, a two-story home that the Milholland family once owned.
Around that same time period, members of the general public had started to realize that something special was happening at this Adirondack outpost. People started showing up in larger numbers to hear the students play their recital programs. A proper concert hall for those performances became imperative.
Ever the investigator, Galamian had a unique idea for Meadowmount’s performance space. He wanted to line the inner walls with spruce, the same high-quality wood used in constructing the top of a violin. Playing instruments containing white pine in a space surrounded by white pine would, he assumed, produce beautiful acoustic results.
Before the decade was out, the meticulous teacher got what he wanted. The present came from the same source as Meadowmount’s interest-free mortgage. Edward Lee Campe decided to sink more money into the summer program, funding construction of the concert hall as a gift to the school. To this day, the hall bears the name of Edward Lee and his wife, Jean, a lasting tribute to their longstanding contributions.
During the 1950s, Meadowmount’s faculty also increased in number and strength. Highly respected cellist Leonard Rose arrived near the beginning of the decade, returning for many years after that. A couple of Galamian’s prized assistants, Sally Thomas and Dorothy DeLay, started taking on greater levels of responsibility, the starting points of two extraordinary teaching careers.
And then there was Josef Gingold. Beginning in 1954, the Russian violinist became the primary chamber music instructor at Meadowmount, an effervescent leader who balanced Galamian’s outwardly taciturn nature. Even now, musicians from Itzhak Perlman to Joshua Bell describe in detail the impact of Gingold’s enthusiastic lessons on their careers.
Interestingly, Gingold arrived at Meadowmount with no intention of teaching there. Instead, he was merely checking up on his prize pupil at the time, a young teenager from Bolivia named Jaime Laredo. While Gingold was visiting with Laredo, Galamian engaged the man in a vigorous conversation about teaching theories, concluding with his offer of a teaching position. The next summer, Gingold was at Meadowmount, coaching close to 20 string quartets during that one season.
As for Laredo, the gifted boy shocked the world just a couple years later. At the age of 17, he captured top honors in the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium competition. Acclaimed solo recitals at Carnegie Hall and London’s Royal Albert Hall soon followed. Decades later, he’s still one of the most sought-after classical musicians in the world, prized not only as a violinist, but as a conductor and an educator as well.
Another Meadowmount student during the ‘50s found his musical match by learning from Gingold. Violinist Arnold Steinhardt came to the Adirondacks as an aspiring soloist. When he started studying string quartets with Gingold, however, the puzzle pieces began shifting, leaving him leaning toward chamber music for the first time.
To Steinhardt, the practice regime at Meadowmount was tiresome, turning the place into “a prison camp within a national park.” Gingold, however, was something else entirely. “Lessons with Gingold were like love-ins,” Steinhardt later wrote in his autobiography, Indivisible by Four. “He loved the music, he loved our playing, and he loved the stories connected with each piece and each performance he had heard . . . You could check your self-doubts at the door.”
After working with Gingold for a summer, Steinhardt started changing his artistic goals. He still enjoyed the challenge of virtuosic solo works. “But string quartets with Joe — that was pure nectar,” he stated in Indivisible by Four. “Something about that combination of instruments intrigued me.”
That combination of instruments would form the backbone of his career. In 1964, Steinhardt would join with violinist John Dalley, violist Michael Tree — another Meadowmount alumnus — and cellist David Soyer to form the Guarneri String Quartet. The group evolved into one of the finest quartets in history, playing together for 45 years. Some critics even call them the best string quartet of all time. And in no small measure, it all began in Gingold’s celebrated studio at Meadowmount, with Steinhardt realizing for the first time what he really wanted to do with his life.
Photo: Queen Elisabeth and Jaime Laredo
Photo: Queen Elisabeth and Ivan Galamian
Photo: Galamian and Rose
Photo: Mr. G and Gingold
Photo: Arnold Steinhardt
Photo: Rose Coaching
Photo: Gingold Chamber Music
VII. Those Fabulous Sixties
If one were to pick the greatest decade in the history of Meadowmount, the 1960s would probably capture the prize. This does not detract from the students who attended the school before or since. Instead, it merely speaks to the overwhelming number of future superstars who descended upon this secluded camp during a relatively short span of time.
During these years, one student string quartet featured the following membership: Itzhak Perlman and Young-Uck Kim on violin, Pinchas Zukerman on viola, and future contemporary music champion Paul Tobias on cello.
During those years, two pupils — Zukerman and Kyung-Wha Chung — faced off against one another in the Edgar Leventritt Competition finals. When the judges couldn’t pick a winner, they made the two teenagers play again. Afterward, still torn, they split the grand prize among the two Meadowmount students.
And during those years, beyond the names already mentioned, Meadowmount trained emerging soloists like Lynn Harrell, Ani and Ida Kavafian, James Buswell, and Miriam Fried, along with a small galaxy of future orchestral concertmasters. The talent pool just seemed to run incredibly deep for this entire period.
Yet beyond the artistic heights that they would eventually achieve, each of these students had their own set of unique experiences at Meadowmount. United in musical greatness, their strongest memories of the school are still varied and wide-ranging.
For Lynn Harrell, those memories involve a baseball game. In an August 2012 conversation, he fondly recreated one of the few moments when he wasn’t sequestered away in the practice room. During an impromptu game of baseball on the camp lawn, he picked up a ball hit to the outfield and fired a perfect strike to home. Decades later, he still proudly boasted about that athletic feat.
He also spoke of an environment that gave him something necessary and new. Both of his parents were musicians, devoted to their craft. At school, though, Harrell never found anyone with this level of commitment. Then, at Meadowmount, he found the degree of engagement that he needed. “It was a very special place for me in that regard,” the cellist said in 2012. “I had never been anyplace where there were so many extraordinarily talented people who were so dedicated to making music.”
For Itzhak and Toby Perlman, those memories involve a marriage proposal. It happened at the end of a student recital, a program at which 17-year-old Itzhak played Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane with a maturity far beyond his years. Suddenly, 20-year-old Toby Friedlander was backstage, proposing marriage to her Meadowmount classmate. The two had never spoken before. “And when I realized what she was asking,” Perlman remembered in a 2011 interview, talking as if the event had just happened yesterday, “I said, ‘Hmmmmmm?’”
Nearly four years later, he was saying “I do.” Itzhak and Toby were married on New Year’s Eve in 1966, the culmination of a four-year romance that started after that concert at Meadowmount. To this day, the camp remains in the forefront of their thoughts. Itzhak and Toby now run their own music program on Shelter Island, N.Y., and the operation’s guiding principles are all adaptations from their days in the Adirondacks.
“The practice regimen is the same as Meadowmount,” Perlman said in that 2011 dialogue. “Four hours of practice in the morning, four hours of 50-minute sets. And in a lot of ways, the idea is the same, too. We want to get young musicians excited about what they’re playing.”
For Pinchas Zukerman, those memories involve some pain. He hadn’t even reached his teenage years when he first arrived at Meadowmount, yet the prodigious violinist had already developed a fondness for New York City’s pool halls and gambling dens. The remoteness of Lewis did not please him at first. The rigid practice requirements made him dislike the place even more. Rules were made to be broken, like the night when he snuck away from the camp property and walked into Elizabethtown to buy cheeseburgers.
Every Thursday morning, though, Zukerman presented himself to Galamian for a lesson. At times, the sessions between the wild child and the mastermind were excruciating. In 2014, Zukerman bluntly admitted that he was not one of Galamian’s favorite students. “He would say, ‘You didn’t practice,’ Zukerman recalled. “And I would say, ‘No, I practiced.’ And he would say, ‘Not enough.’”
Today, though, Zukerman has only the highest praise for the school and its founder. He credits Meadowmount for everything from forcing him to play viola — an instrument on which he is now hailed as a virtuoso — to transforming his attitude about playing music. “There is an emotional side that is very wild when you are a teenager,” he explained. “Then there is the practical side, which is lagging behind. Well, Mr. Galamian understood the psychological behavior in a teenager’s life. He knew how to slow the entire process down. When you do that, your whole existence becomes clearer.”
Photo: Itzhak Perlman
Photo: Pinchas Zukerman
Photo: Kyung-Wha Chung
Photo: Miriam Fried
VIII. Onward And Upward
Photo:Yo Yo Ma
In 1971, Meadowmount welcomed a 15-year-old cellist. The boy’s name was Yo-Yo Ma. Despite his tender age, he had already graduated high school, lived in Paris and New York, and performed in front of the President of the United States.
Yet there was one thing that he had not done. “(Meadowmount) was my first summer camp experience,” Ma stated in 2011. “To be with so many people my own age, to see what they (were) up to — that was very important to me. And, of course, to be with so many wonderful older musicians was quite a heady experience for a 15-year-old kid.”
It was the first time in Ma’s life that he was away from his parents’ watchful eyes. The results were partly amusing, partly annoying, and partly bewildering. He seemed to enjoy playing Ping-Pong far more than practicing, which was understandable. He also painted graffiti on the camp walls and left his cello outside in the rain - pursuits for which the camp’s faculty had far less patience.
Still, Ma was a favorite among his classmates. Students were awed by his playing and enraptured by his enthusiasm. As for Ma, he now considers his Meadowmount summer to be a pivotal moment. “I just started playing my heart out,” he said. Today, with 15 Grammy Awards to his name, he continues to do precisely that.
Photo: Joshua Bell and Mr. Galamian
Eight years later, an even younger musician arrived at Meadowmount. This boy, however, was anything but outgoing. In fact, 11-year-old Joshua Bell was painfully shy. Growing up in Indiana, he frequently skipped his violin lessons in favor of trips to the video arcade. He had never practiced his instrument for more than an hour per day.
Then he came to the Adirondacks, and ran smack into three unexpected forces. Fear was the first one. Around 150 students were enrolled at Meadowmount in 1979, and Bell was the second-youngest student in the entire group. He was intimidated beyond belief. “I soon figured out that if I was practicing, I wouldn’t have to interact with other people,” he explained in a 2011 interview. “We were required to practice five hours a day, but eight hours a day was pretty normal for me.”
It was another person, however, who provided Bell with his first musical inspiration. For some reason, a classmate gave him a cassette tape showcasing superstar violinist Jascha Heifetz. After hearing it once, Bell was hooked. He started listening to it nightly, smuggling the tape player under his blankets so he could hear the magnetic music long after Galamian gave the order for “lights out.”
And when it came to expressing himself musically, Bell found a willing mentor in Gingold. During his second summer at Meadowmount, Bell began working closely with Gingold in lessons — a tight bond that would last until Gingold’s death in 1995.
Today, the man who now is one of the most beloved violinists in the world still lavishes praise on Gingold, and on Meadowmount as a whole. “Some of the most incredible musical moments of my life were right in your area,” Bell stated in 2011. “I can’t even imagine how many things that are a part of me now are things that all began at Meadowmount.”
IX. Meadowmount After Galamian
Early in the morning on April 14, 1981, Ivan Galamian was shaving in his New York City apartment. Suddenly, the 78-year-old teacher collapsed. Judith rushed to his side, but the master pedagogue had died almost instantly.
“If bells could have tolled at that moment, wherever his students existed,” wrote Elizabeth A.H. Green in her book Miraculous Teacher: Ivan Galamian and The Meadowmount Experience, “what a clamour would have resounded to the four corners of the earth!”
Just two months later, Judith Galamian welcomed 200 students to Meadowmount. It was the first time since the camp’s founding that Ivan was not present at the school. Still, it seems that Judith, while recovering from the shock of her husband’s sudden passing, knew what the devoted teacher would have wanted. The camp opened on time and filled to capacity that summer. Galamian’s message remained alive and well.
|Photo: Ivan & Judith Galamian NYC 1980
||Photo: Gingold & Ehnes