Eastman mourns an Emerita

Eastman School of Music reports that Professor Emerita of Violin Lynn Blakeslee passed away last evening in Germany. Professor Blakeslee joined the Eastman faculty in 1987 and retired in spring 2013. 

blakelee

Zeneba Bowers, of the Nashville Symphony, writes:

This morning I awoke to learn the news that my college violin professor and friend Lynn Blakeslee passed away yesterday in Germany. It’s impossible for me to overstate Lynn’s impact on my professional life. I got in to a lot of schools but I chose Eastman because I knew I needed to be a tiny fish in a big pond. When I got there I was definitely at the bottom of the pack, in terms of playing.

My freshman year, I broke the middle and ring fingers on my left hand, which didn’t help matters. Lynn still had me come to every lesson. We worked on my bow arm, with the violin being held up in the crook of my cast on the left hand. Lynn was hard on me — really hard. In the six years I studied with her, she never saw me cry — but I often cried the moment the door closed behind me. In my senior year, she tapped me to be her graduate assistant, a position I held for the next three years, as I chose to stay at Eastman so I could study with her for my Masters. I learned so much from her about teaching, and being her graduate assistant remains one of the most important things I’ve ever done.

I credit her with completely changing my technique, helping me diagnose technical problems in myself and others so I can solve problems on my own, and giving me the thick skin I needed to make it in this tough business. A compliment from her was something to treasure — you knew you earned it. Last year she came to visit me here in Nashville. She was headed out on a post-retirement tour of the US, something that was very unusual for her, as she rarely took time off. She had softened quite a bit, we shared a few great meals together, she saw a concert, and we spent time together drinking wine and reminiscing. Lynn was an excellent cook, and often opened her home to her students for big dinner parties. She was an extremely dedicated teacher who was in it for the long haul with her students. She was a fantastic violinist whose musicianship inspired me. She will be sorely missed. Godspeed, Lynn.

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  • Lynn was a wonderful teacher and real virtuoso violinist. I studied in Salzburg with her in the mid 1980s. She really rebuilt my technique from the ground up. As a performer, she could play anything in the standard repertoire with ease.

  • Just learning a few minutes ago from a colleague that Lynn Blakeslee passed only a couple of days ago in Germany is sad news. A dynamic artist whose knowledge, innate musicality and passion for teaching and performance, she will be sorely missed by so many of us. In the summer of 1998 I, a clarinetist, had the good fortune of performing the Beethoven Septet with her in a festival in Ouray, CO. From the very beginning of the piece, she inspired all of us to listen and play with more conversation, energy, and intimacy. We became good friends, and I’m very sorry I wasn’t able to see her in the past year and one half as our residences were not close. Having some of her performances on cd that she gave me are those I will treasure forever.

  • I never met Lynn. In the 1950s she was the star pupil of my great aunt and violin teacher, Jane Haffa, whom I believe was her very first violin teacher in Hollywood. My older sister recalled that as a 9 year old she accompanied my aunt to hear Lynn play in Santa Barbara, CA. Today, while talking about my aunt and her musical legacy to us, my sister and I recalled Lynn and wondered if we could find out what she was up to. It was with sadness that we learned of her passing last summer. It was amazing to read of her musical accomplishments and the inspiration she provided for many students and colleagues. Thank you for the wonderful website that pays tribute to her life and legacy in the music world.

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