This week’s Utah Viola Society guest is Alan de Veritch himself! Mr. de Veritch is one of the world’s most respected violists and teachers. He has been a soloist, a chamber musician, a principal player in the LAPhil and New York Philharmonic, a Los Angeles studio musician, a teacher, a conductor, and that’s just his musical career! He has also had very successful careers in real estate, business, and has been a flight instructor for both commercial and private pilots.
Come meet Alan de Veritch this Saturday, have him autograph your copy of his recently released autobiography, “Malibu Man,” and view his amazing collection of memorabilia at the Primrose International Viola Archive. Attend the masterclass with James Dunham, Paul Neubauer, and Nokuthula Ngwenyama, and stay for the Panel Discussion with Alan. Don’t forget the excellent recital on Friday evening, and bring your viola for a viola choir performance of Alan’s arrangement of the Brahms songs! All events are at BYU, and are free and open to the public! Click here for a schedule of the events!
Mr. de Veritch joined the faculty of Indiana University in 1994, where I was a student at the time, and I was fortunate to take what I believe was his first Orchestral Repertoire class at IU. I have two distinct memories from that class. The first was being puzzled about how much time we spent on Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. I couldn’t understand why we worked on it every week even though it isn’t asked for on professional orchestra auditions. I wanted to spend time learning all the tricks to playing a great Don Juan! I recall Mr. de Veritch saying that we would all thank him later when we found ourselves with jobs or freelancing and would be performing it on one rehearsal. Fast forward several years to when I found myself sitting in rehearsal, with about 15 minutes left for rehearsing 1812, and Alan’s words came back to me. It dawned on me that indeed, Alan was right! Thank you, Alan! My favorite memory was the moment when Alan demonstrated Berlioz’s Harold in Italy in rep class. It was jaw-dropping, stunningly beautiful playing, and I’m certain that I’ve never heard a Harold so lovely since then.
If you want to learn more about Alan’s life, career(s), and some very entertaining stories, be sure to pick up his autobiography “Malibu Man,” copies of which will be available for purchase at the event. (You can even have him sign your copy at the de Veritch Tribute event this weekend!)
Alan On Utah: “You know, I have quite a deep connection to Utah that goes way back. I had the good fortune of knowing and working with Maestro Abravanel since my earliest days as a teenager back in California. Additionally, it was Maestro Abravanel who offered my sister and her husband their very first professional orchestra jobs in the 60s. Consequently, for a number of years, my sister Nina de Veritch Smith was Principal cello and her husband, H. Dennis Smith, was Principal Trombone of the Utah Symphony. In fact, [former Principal Trombone of the Utah Symphony] Larry Zalkind studied with Dennis Smith for quite some time and even performed at his funeral service.
My wife, Evelyn, and I always enjoy our time in Utah, and have the highest regard for BYU, PIVA, David Dalton, Claudine Bigelow, David Day, and Myrna Layton. Everyone here has been absolutely wonderful to work with and their handling of my collection has been superb.
On “inheriting” James Dunham: “Jim was already an adult when we met. When I joined the faculty at Cal Arts, I happily “inherited” him and he quickly became my teaching assistant. Extremely intelligent and possessing wonderful ideas of his own, James (as he is now known), has, since the first day we met, consistently remained one of the sweetest, most empathetic, and most gentle people I’ve known in my career. If I had anything critical to say of Jim, it’s that he’s too nice, which perhaps on occasion makes him a bit too forgiving! From the moment this event entered its planning phase, Jim has been totally supportive and enthusiastic. It has been wonderful to see him develop over the years. Everything he has accomplished reflects such constant growth.”
On working with a young Paul Neubauer: “By the time Paul and I first began our work together he had received some initial instrumental training and was beginning to exhibit signs of true musical talent…I was quite taken with him as a talented and precocious pre-teen…As I had predicted, accomplishing our goals did indeed require a great deal of work and perseverance on both our parts but ultimately the process proved to be an incredible learning experience for me and one of the most rewarding opportunities and journeys of my life.
For me, unquestionably, the most difficult element of our work together, was balancing the necessary discipline, structure and routine with Paul’s vivid imagination and innate sense of creativity. I cannot tell you how many times I would give him very specific technical and musical assignments for the following week only to have him return to his subsequent lesson having prepared, exclusively, thematic excerpts from popular Broadway shows…and all mostly by ear!! Somehow, we eventually managed to build an exceptionally strong technical foundation while keeping Paul’s creative spirit alive.”
—de Veritch, Alan, Malibu Man, 2017, p. 215- 216
On meeting Nokuthula Nwgenyama for the first time: “…one day in the late 1980’s I received a call from Dr. Joe Thayer, who, at the time, was the Dean and Executive Director of the Colburn School in Los Angeles. Apparently, one of the extremely precocious young violinists studying at the school had become enamored with the viola and was begging him to find an appropriate viola teacher for her…He assured me that this student was an amazing talent and that I would not be disappointed…Unable to refuse I accepted his invitation and scheduled an appointment to meet with his “wanna-be violist.”
Arriving a few days later at the school, Joe escorted me to a teaching studio where I found an energetic young lady enthusiastically playing up a storm on her viola. As we entered the room Joe interrupted her violistic pyrotechnics just long enough to introduce me to: Miss Nokuthula Ngwenyama. After a few minutes of chit-chat “Thula” began to play for me. It took only moments to see the extraordinary potential of this incredibly gifted natural musical artist and instrumentalist…Just twelve or thirteen at the time, I remember being as impressed with her intelligence and maturity as I was with her playing. No question about it. This girl had absolutely everything and I would be a complete idiot not to accept her as a student although experience had shown me that this much talent could, at times, present numerous challenges. However, I was never one to turn away from challenges, especially if I believed strongly in the ultimate potential. In the end, the only real requirement I insisted on prior to accepting her as a student was the assurance of her exclusive commitment to the viola, forsaking all temptations to play her violin, at least for the first couple of years of our work together. To this day she frequently reminds me of my request and her many subsequent years of violin abstinence!”
––de Veritch, Alan, Malibu Man, 2017, p. 323-324
On pedagogy: ““The System” that Thula refers to [in her UVS guest blogger post] is one of the most valuable things I truly believe I have done. It derived from a series I created called “Learn the Viola in a Day…8 hours, that is. No joke!” I can basically present the major elements of this program in eight 1-hour modules. In these eight hours, I can cover just about everything I think there is to know about playing the viola. It doesn’t mean that people that have completed the eight hours are masters of the instrument, but it means they’ve gone through an organized method and can quite logically understand how it’s done.
I arrived at this pedagogical approach as a result of teaching so many other fields of study other than music: flying, corporate, real estate, law, business, etc. In music, every teacher has their own way, usually made up of a compilation of all of their teacher’s methodologies. How you would apply your teacher’s information for the rest of your life could ultimately be quite fragmented. It seemed like the music world needed an actual curriculum for teaching instrumental performance. The most common problem I’ve observed throughout my years in the world of music performance is people making things way too complicated. One of the major premises of my “System” is learning to teach everything one needs to know in a simple, straightforward manner.
When I began my studies as a violist, there were literally no young people who really wanted to play the viola. However as time progressed, interest in the viola began to boom. Sadly, it quickly became obvious that there were not enough truly proficient teachers to keep up with the growing interest. Part of my “System” was therefore designed to help develop qualified young teachers to teach pre-college violists.
The System actually evolved into becoming the basis for the first seven or eight lessons of every student I ever taught. It was amazingly effective; by the end of the first semester, the student knew their basics extremely well, and as we moved into more difficult repertoire I could refer back to a specific lesson in the System which quickly facilitated their ability to eliminate the difficulties they were experiencing. The first seven hours are playing fundamentals, and the eighth hour is essentially what became “The Art of Sensuality and its Impact on Great String Playing.” The first seven hours are how to play the viola; the eighth hour is WHY you’re playing the viola. Performing repertoire should be similar to reading a finished novel; the grammar and spelling are the basic fundamentals.
The meat and potatoes of the System is Schradieck Books 1-3, Carl Flesch scales, and Kruetzer etudes. Once you understand the theories, they can be applied to student of any age or proficiency. My “System” is rigid, but very flexible! It is a simplistic approach to fundamentals presented in an extremely logical and organized curriculum.”
On his collection in the Primrose Archive: “The collection is “living,” and will be added to as time goes on. My collection has a wide variety, and at different points of my life I’ll release additional items as they become appropriate. The last category will most likely include the majority of my edited repertoire. For now, their inclusion will have to be delayed due to my current use!
When spending time working on my collection at the PIVA, the supervisors tell me, “It’s so cool to have you here. Most of our donors are dead!” I have to laugh, but in reality my collection really is somewhat different from other donated archives, due to my rather unique ability to personally participate in it’s development. We’ve been able to organize it together. One amazing thing BYU has done is take my reel to reel recordings and convert them to a digital format, going back as far as when I was 10 years old. They’ve taken 20 or so recordings, ranging from solo recitals, to chamber music performances, and put them on a listening station in the music library as part of the exhibit. These recordings include solo recitals, solos with orchestra, including a performance of mine with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and numerous chamber music performances with my own quartet, the Aldanya Quartet, and with such colleagues as Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman Sergiu Luca, Young Uck Kim, etc. while still all teenagers.
Some of my personal favorite items from the collection are
- My grandfather’s Graduation Diploma from the Prague Conservatory on 1903 which contains all the original signatures of most of his personal professors as well as one of the last professional original signatures of Dvorak, who not only happened to be Director of the Conservatory at the time, but was also my grandfather’s composition professor.
- My working copy of the Walton Concerto which contains a few hand-written words and signatures of Sir William Walton. (I was one of the only American violists to ever collaborate on this concerto with Walton personally.)
- Many photographs from my career as well as an amazing collection of photos bearing personalized greetings to my father from many of the most notable performing artists of the 1940’s. This collection includes photos of such artists as Horowitz, Rachmaninoff, Piatigorsky, Heifetz, and even the catalyst of Primrose’s career, Richard Crooks.
- My collection also contains a unique collection of original kiosk posters from my father’s European concert career from the 1930’s.”
Perhaps the thing I am looking forward to the most with regards to this weekend’s festivities is having this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity to share with many of the individuals who have impacted my life the most, my family, friends, colleagues, students, to name a few, this Joyous Celebration of My Life and Heritage!”
On what the future holds: “It’s fluid. I want to keep my audience hanging for the sequel!”