So, Itzhak Perlman, what kind of a teacher are you?

So, Itzhak Perlman, what kind of a teacher are you?


norman lebrecht

June 21, 2016

Anyone who has ever been interviewed by Israeli media will flinch at the directness of the question, Itzhak takes it with practised equanimity.

What kind of a teacher are you? “I think an okay one,” he laughed a sonorous, free laugh, and not for the last time in our conversation. “I’m not old fashioned; I don’t believe in forcing students, and I remember how much I hated practicing myself. My first teacher would blame my parents if I didn’t play well, ‘You don’t make him practice!’ Even today, I hate practicing, but at least I understand that it’s important.”

perlman juilliard



How do you identify talent? “Sometimes it’s enough to look them in the eye. Once a child understands what he’s playing, I can identify that in his playing. The really talented have special instincts and an ear that reacts in a way that others don’t.”


Can anybody learn to play? If I practice 12 hours a day, will my zero talent turn into something? “Maybe. They say that a good teacher is measured by what he manages to get out of average talent, not out of geniuses. Sometimes, you teach someone for two years, and suddenly, during a lesson, something happens, this thing that you’ve been waiting for breaks out. It can bring me to tears. But zero talent is maybe a bit of a problem,” he laughs aloud again.

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  • Bruce says:

    Good quote (talking about North Carolina):

    “I know from up-close what discrimination looks like; I’ve seen it my entire life as a person with disabilities. How would I live with myself if I didn’t say something? I’m not ready to be on the wrong side of history. I couldn’t allow myself. I have a special obligation to speak out against injustices.”

    Because you’re the most famous violinist in the world or because you’re a Jew?

    “Because I’m a human being.”