Juilliard dean comes out in defence of Isaac Stern

Elijah Ho, in an interview with Ara Guzelimian, touched upon the recent controversy about the violinist Isaac Stern. Here’s what came back:

‘All I can say is that in my experience of him, Mr. Stern was the single most tireless advocate of music, in general, and young artists, specifically, that I’ve ever experienced. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for a young musician who asked his help or advice. I think you don’t have to look very far for an astonishing number of accomplished artists who he mentored and advocated for in his life.

‘I’ll tell you one little story that was not meant to have ever been witnessed. In a back hallway at Carnegie Hall, I chanced upon him in intense conversation with a young violinist at one of the chamber music workshops that he ran at Carnegie Hall. He was extremely frustrated that this young man was being held back in his potential by what he felt was a very poor instrument. Mr. Stern had brought one of his own violins to lend to the young man for the next six months, so that the young man could see what was possible with a much more responsive, higher-quality instrument.

‘The only reason I ever became aware of this incident was because I stumbled into it. It was completely out of sight. The young man was a good but not astoundingly great violinist, and he looked flabbergasted that Isaac Stern was handing him one of his own violins to live with for the next six months. Anybody in any profession who wields authority and power – and Mr. Stern certainly held both – can always be second-guessed. The measure of any of our lives is the good that we do. By any standard, the extraordinary good that Isaac Stern did is boundless.’


isaac stern frown

Read the full interview here.


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  • An interesting interview. I especially liked the references to Alice Hertz-Sommer. How many of us were not reduced to tears of joy watching that amazing woman as portrayed in the documentary “The Lady in No. 6: Music Saved My Life”? Music was the very essence of her being. For Herz-Sommer, musicians stirring controversy about Isaac Stern’s influence in the world of professional music would probably have come as quite a shock.

    But I would take issue with one comment of the Juilliard President. “The measure of any of our lives is the good that we do. By any standard, the extraordinary good that Isaac Stern did is boundless.” I do not doubt that Stern did a great number of good deeds; nor that he had a major influence on the world of music.” But there is good and bad in each of us and Mr. Guzelimian restricts his response to just one side of the coin. Need we wonder why he elected not to answer the implied question which was essentially about “abuse of power”?

    • Well, we’ve heard just about the bad for the past month about Isaac. What about that? In my opinion, only Mr. Rosand is responsible for his lack of recognition.

      • With respect, you clearly have not read almost all the posts on this subject. Clearly you do not believe what 95% or more of the respondents have stated. Do you therefore believe they are liars? Do you believe that artists like Earl Wild and the others quoted here were therefore lying?

  • I have doubts about what bad things people say about a person 15 years after he dies. 95% of the posts here ranting against Stern say more about the authors of those posts than about Stern. And they won’t change anything: He remains a major American violinist, and a great one.

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