Margaret Pardee, who died on Tuesday aged 95, taught violin and viola at the Juilliard School for 60 years until her retirement in 2008. She was a legend at the school, less formidable than Dorothy DeLay but no less devoted.
The pianist Karen Schwartz, a student at the school, served as accompanist at her classes from 1983 to 1988.
She contributes this personal memoir to Slipped Disc.
Everyone addressed her as Miss Pardee, the perfect name for a Southern lady. She had a lovely lilt of an accent.
Always seated at her desk, Miss Pardee focused intently on each and every student. She was present, diligent and prepared with index cards reminding her what pieces everybody was playing. Her demeanor could be serious. She was slightly taciturn.
The cat-eye glasses were a little unnerving.
Then as a smile emerged, her whole face would immediately light up. The environment in her studio was audition-like, focused, so professional. Yet there was always a warm feeling, because it was evident Miss Pardee truly loved her job.
Occasionally a student would saunter in, playing one scale for an entire hour. R E A L L Y S L O W L Y.
“No, honey, that’s just out of tune,” she’d say in a singsongy tone.
Other students would waltz in, bursting into song with an entire concerto from memory, a good 30 minutes worth.
“Do it again, but this time hold your instrument up higher,” she’d say in a soft voice. Another 30 minutes elapsed, barely a word said. Lesson over.
Clearly she was preparing her students for the real world, the one beyond the walls of the Juilliard School. Students practiced, perfected and polished their auditions, concert, and jury repertoire with the support of a woman who clearly believed in them.
Steadfast and always supportive, she was revered as a mentor, coach and friend. The ultimate teacher, Margaret Pardee was a pillar of strength to many.
(c) Karen Schwartz/Slipped Disc